Thursday, October 15, 2009

This Week's Forum South and West

Candlelight Memorial Planned for Murder Victim

By Patricia Adams

The family of a slain Ozone Park man is reaching out for the community’s help in bringing his killer to justice. Gerardo “Jerry” Antoniello was murdered in his parent’s home during an attempted home inva- sion/robbery back on September 9. Now family and friends say they want to do something to avenge this “senseless death.” On Saturday, October 24 they will hold a candlelight memorial on Saturday at Romeo’s Pizzeria located at 134-24 Crossbay Blvd., Ozone Park.

Posters with Jerry’s photo have blanketed the surrounding communities lining store windows throughout Ozone Park and Howard Beach. The poster reads that all are welcome to attend and remember Jerry as a hero that lost his life protecting his parents. It goes on to say that Jerry’s life was taken away tragically and unnecessarily leaving a family with a hole in their hearts. As a strongly-knit community our voices and actions should be heard by all elected officials, so that a crime like this does not become just another statistic.

Jerry’s older brother, Angelo, 35, says that although the NYPD is doing a great job, his brother’s killers are still out there. “We are very thankful and appreciative to everyone who has come to the pizzeria and to the services to pay their respects. The community has been great.” But what Angelo Antoniello says will do the family the most good, is if his brother’s killers are found and brought to justice.

“We are doing the memorial to honor and remember my brother, but we also need the community to get out here with us. We need to know if anyone has information. We need to find who did this.” Antoniello explained to The Forum that his brother Carmine is an 18-year veteran of the NYPD and that officers working with him have been collecting money to establish a reward fund.

“We are not asking anyone for money but we are very thankful to those people who have made donations to the reward fund. But that is not what this is about. This is about justice for my brother’s death. It’s about getting the help of the people to find who did this.” Antoniello then described the experience for his parents, “They can never go home again. They lost their son. They lost their youngest child.” Now Romeo Antoniello and his wife Gaetana have put the family home, where Jerry was killed, up for sale.

The pain and tragedy of the Antoniello family has been felt throughout the community where they live and work. Since the shooting, steady streams of friends, new and old, and customers continue to stop by the pizze- ria and offer comfort. The Forum encourages all of our readers to attend the memorial service next Saturday evening to show support for the family in this most difficult time. If you have any information regarding this crime you are asked to please contact authorities. Anyone who wishes to contribute to the reward fund being created should inquire at the Memorial Service or at Romeo’s Pizzeria.

Residents Eye a Cleaner, Greener Glendale

Pushing for Upgrades to Rail Corridor

By Conor Greene

While they’re not exactly out to save the world, Glendale neighbors Mary Parisen and Mary Arnold have set forth on a wide ranging and ambitious plan to create a greener, cleaner neighborhood that provides a healthier and better quality of life for residents.

The women, who live in a well maintained block of 69th Street near Otto Road, presented their Glendale Green and Clean plan at last month’s Community Board 5 meeting. To outline their goals, they created a 60-page book highlighting areas in the community that need attention due to graffiti, illegal dumping or structural problems.

However, their main goal is to address issues in- volving the companies operating freight trains along the tracks running through Glendale, including CSX Transportation and New York and Atlantic Railway. “People come to us and ask what our real goal here is,” said Parisen, who has lived there for 23 years. “My main focus is the diesel emissions coming from the locomotives.” As a result of the companies’ operations, residents are subjected to choking fumes, deaf- ening noise and structural damage to their homes.

Parisen began addressing the issue five years ago and was able to push for city funds to create a vegetative barrier between the tracks and street. “It looks nice, but those same problems – noise, fumes – still exist,” she said. Now, the women have turned their attention to new technologies they say the rail companies should be implementing. “It’s a new day now,” said Arnold, noting that clean diesel technology is now available.

“This is the 21st century. When I first moved in here there wasn’t as much activity as there is today,” added Parisen, addressing critics who say she shouldn’t complain since the rail yard was there when she bought her house. Particularly frustrating, she said, was finding out that Anacostia and Pacific, which is New York and Atlantic’s parent company, provided $20 million for locomotive upgrades in California, while just $300,000 was provided to operations in New York.

“That was an eye-opener, seeing that it really is possible and that they’re doing this all over the country,” said Arnold, who moved to the block two years ago. “People around here take care of their property, yet they [the rail companies] are not good neighbors. It’s like they’re dumping on us. It’s disgusting.” She noted that the city is quick to ticket residents if trash blows onto their property, yet the companies seem operate freely. “If they kept their property the way we keep ours, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

Aside from the noise and pollution problems, one of their major complaints is that the prop- erty is not maintained, meaning it is often overgrown with weeds, which makes the area ripe for illegal dumping. Evidence of that can be seen along the entire stretch of Otto Road adjacent to the tracks from 69th Place to Cypress Hills Street, which is marked by bags of construction debris and discarded piles of trash including electronics and toilets. “The unkempt properties lead to the dumping. It almost encourages it,” said Parisen.

Since presenting the plan to the community board, Parisen and Arnold have made some progress in getting elected officials on board and beginning to clean the area up. “We definitely have seen improvements since bringing this up in September,” said Parisen. Recently, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Glendale) and other officials toured the area with the women and vowed to look into legislation gov- erning the emissions of fumes from locomotives.

Another suggestion came from City Council candidate Tom Ognibene (R-Middle Village), who promised to push the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct a study of operations in the corridor running through the area. “That’s the kind of big picture thinking that’s needed,” said Arnold. “It’s about awareness and engaging all the stakeholders, including those people who are using our neighborhood and not giving us anything back. The profits are pri- vate but the costs are public,” she added.

“This is a great neighborhood, but people realize they are not going to get anything unless they demand it and make their voices known,” said Arnold. “They are all very concerned about this. They know it’s a problem but they’ve been stonewalled... It isn’t just this neighborhood - they need to clean up the whole corridor. There is money for it, so why not get in line?”

“The most important thing for me, and it’s got to be done, is the locomotives need to be upgraded,” said Parisen. “To me, that is a quality of life issue, breathing in these fumes which have been proven to cause cancer... If you have people not saying anything, they will get away with it.”

Law Would Help Prevent Theft of Unattended Vehicles

Crowley Pushes Bill in Light of MV Tragedy

By Conor Greene

While motorists often don’t think twice about leaving their vehicle running while they run inside a store for a quick errand, doing so can have deadly consequences, as in incidents in Chinatown and Middle Village earlier this year that killed four people.

The City Council is currently considering a bill that would increase the fine for leaving a running vehicle unattended from $5 to $250. A hearing on the law, sponsored by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), was held in City Hall during last Thursday’s Transportation Committee meeting. The committee will likely vote on the bill at its next meeting and the full Council is expected to consider it by the end of the month.

Crowley is pushing the new legislation in the wake of several tragedies that resulted after drivers left their running vehicles unattended. In January, two children were killed and 11 others injured in Chinatown after a van slipped into reverse and drove onto a sidewalk after the driver had exited the vehicle.

Several weeks later, 18-year- old Robert Ogle, for whom the law is named, was killed along with 20-year-old Alex Paul of Brooklyn by a drunken driver who struck them while speeding along Eliot Avenue before fleeing the scene. The driver, Kenneth Guyear, had stolen the unattended vehicle just minutes earlier from outside a deli after the owner of the car went inside to buy cigarettes. He was arrested several minutes after the incident.

Robert Ogle’s parents, Brendan and Mei, attended last Thursday’s committee hearing in support of the law. Brendan Ogle testified on its behalf along with Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, which represents 1,600 families in the area. Also voicing support for the new law were Councilmembers John Liu (D-Flushing), who is chairman of the Transportation Committee, and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

“I’m here on behalf of Councilmember Crowley’s bill,” said Ogle. “I know too well that an unattended and running car can become a deadly weapon. It is necessary to increase the awareness and penalties for people who are careless with their personal property because money talks... This is necessary legislation that will avoid big problems for a lot of people because of someone else’s carelessness.”

In addition to the increased fines, a campaign to increase the public’s awareness over the dangers of leaving running vehicles unattended would be a centerpiece of the new law. Crowley noted that ten percent of all car thefts within the 104th Precinct are of unattended running vehicles.

“Sadly, the death of the two young men may have been avoided if a man had not left his car running while shopping in a store,” said Crowley. “Leaving your car running and unattended seems like a minor, careless mistake but all New Yorkers must understand that it is irresponsible, dangerous and potentially deadly... As a mother and a neighbor, I admire [the Ogle’s] strength and courage to be here with us to help prevent this from ever happening again.”

Holden said the death of Ogle represented a “tremendous loss” for the community and compared leaving a car unattended and running to “leaving a loaded gun laying around for anyone to take.” Despite the dangers, “too often the city overlooks these small crimes with fatal consequences.” He said the bill “is important to ensure these mistakes,” which he chalked up to “laziness and carelessness” do not happen again.

Susan Petito of the NYPD’s intergovernmental affairs unit weighed in on several aspects of the bill that might require wording changes. She said the NYPD supports the bill’s intention, but suggested that the law also include incidents where a driver turn off the engine but leave the key in the ignition of an unattended vehicle “so that the separate public safety interest in preventing vehicle theft continues to be addressed.” Not making this change could “unintentionally weaken the law,” she noted.

In addition, the NYPD has concerns as to how the new law would apply to bus drivers, including charter and passenger lines. “There may be particular situations in which a bus driver leaves the bus in order to help passengers or unload luggage, and it is unclear whether a driver in that circumstance would be leaving the bus unattended,” said Petito.

Ulrich, who represents the portion of Queens directly south of Crowley’s district, said the tragedy in Middle Village personally affected him because he knows the Ogle family. “What happened in Middle Village could happen anywhere in this city,” he said, adding that he strongly supports the new law.

Liu said that it appears the NYPD and Bloomberg administration is in favor of the bill overall, but would like some minor changes. “These are wording changes that can be reconciled quickly over the next couple of weeks and this bill will pass,” he said. “It crushes me to think that lives can be taken because of some- one’s careless mistake. The thought of those little kids being crushed against a wall because somebody was idiotic enough to leave the ve- hicle in reverse. That can’t happen in this city.”