During its first virtual Zoom meeting of the new year on Thursday, Jan. 14, the Ozone Park Residents Block Association (OZPKRBA) highlighted concerns of increased COVID-19 positivity rates in the community, calls for accessible vaccination sites and the need for a permanent or temporary mobile testing site.
As the city continues to ramp up its COVID-19 testing efforts and rollout of vaccinations for eligible New Yorkers, Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. informed OZPKRBA that the state is on a cusp of opening a vaccination site on Monday, Jan. 18, at the Aqueduct Race Track, located at 110-100 Rockaway Boulevard.
However, the demand for the vaccine outweighs the supply and there might not be enough for people, Addabbo said.
“We are working with the governor and mayor’s office to make sure that the supply meets the demand,” Addabbo said. “They’re rolling out the plans, but they didn’t have the resources to actually handle the volume. Unfortunately, throughout COVID we’ve seen this, whether it be with testing or vaccinations.”
The COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in phases to groups of people at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure or severe illness, according to the NYC Health Department. Currently, people ages 65 and older, teachers and education workers, first responders, public safety workers and public transit workers are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Sam Esposito, president of OZPKRBA, said the civic association had filed a petition for the city to utilize the Deshi Senior Center at 83-10 Rockaway Blvd. as a vaccination site, to service the Bangladeshi community.
“If Aqueduct opens, it would help to get the community there to get their shots, but we would like to see the Deshi Center be a part of it because the Bangladeshi community is comfortable with that location,” Esposito said.
In response to the matter, Addabbo said he has made requests to the mayor’s office that residents residing in Community Boards 9 and 10 shouldn’t have to pay a toll to travel to Rockaway to get vaccinated.
“The mayor and the governor have to get on the same page because when they argue, we get hurt and that’s not right,” Addabbo said.
Kenichi Wilson, chair of CB 9, said the lack of COVID-19 testing sites has been an issue in the district that encompasses the neighborhoods of Howard Beach, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Tudor Village and Lindenwood.
“Within my entire district, we do not have one permanent testing site and this is something we’ve been arguing about with NYC Health+Hospitals,” said Kenichi, who is welcoming advocacy for bringing in temporary mobile testing. “I have a bad feeling that this is going to get worse before it gets better, even though the vaccine is rolling out.”
Betty Bratton, chair of CB 10, said hopefully the vaccination program’s function of supply and demand will improve by Jan. 20, as it has been difficult for people to register for an appointment. She is also encouraging residents to get tested on a regular basis.
“All of the community boards in Queens have been pushing the health department and everyone involved…there has to be more of a system where people are not hanging on a telephone for hours or knocked off of a website,” Bratton said. “I am urging people to keep trying, and to help those who are 65 years and older that are eligible to get the vaccine.”
Meanwhile, in regards to crime in the district, the NYPD’s 106th Precinct is imploring residents to not leave their cars unlocked with the key in the ignition due to a rise in grand larceny auto thefts.
Last year, there were 185 reports of grand larceny auto thefts, compared to 106 reports in 2019, according to NYPD 106th Precinct Commanding Officer, Captain John Costello.
“There’s predators out there. They drive around looking for these vehicles and steal them,” Costello said. “Now, in the cold weather, we see it more prevalent with people warming their car in the morning.”
Costello is urging residents to not start their vehicles in the driveway and leaving it unattended.
“Lock your vehicle, remove the key, and shut the car off,” Costello said.
As for grand larcenies, Costello warned residents of “porch pirates” who were stealing packages during the holiday season.
“Have someone home or a neighbor who can take the package inside,” Costello said.
Mohammad Khan, executive director of the Cityline Ozone Park (COPCP) Civilian Patrol, said their volunteers are patrolling the streets daily making sure the community is safe.
There is also an official complaint form open to the community that will remain confidential and taken to authorities.
According to COPCP, documenting these complaints will help to support their concerns to different city agencies. The organization will also be documenting all crimes reported to ‘unreported’ to help compare stats with the NYPD.