The Ozone Park Civic Association, started in 1929, has seen its membership more than double in size during the past year, and along with that growth in numbers has come an increased sense of community among area residents, the organization's president said.
Ricky Pistone, who was elected to lead the civic group in January 2002, said the organization has taken to the streets going door-to-door to recruit members and let neighbors know they have a local resource capable of helping them solve problems.
"We're making people aware of the civic," said Pistone, 41, who was born in Ozone Park and lives with his wife, also an Ozone Park native, at 137-12 95th St. "People want to be part of this community."
The Ozone Park Civic Association represents residents in the area bordered by Rockaway Boulevard in the north, North Conduit Avenue in the south, Aqueduct Race Track to the east and Crossbay Boulevard to the west.
Pistone, along with the help of Vice President John Intrabartola, who lives across the street from Pistone, said the key to getting people involved in their neighborhood has been to listen to their complaints and then help them work to solve problems.
"We've gone out and done the legwork," he said. "Everything's a community issue, it's not just us."
The leadership within the civic has been responsible for taking up local problems such as excessive traffic accidents, street congestion, crime in nearby parks and the commercial development of Crossbay Boulevard.
Recently, the civic association has been working with Community Board 10 and the city Department of Transportation to perform a road survey in the area that would document commercial and industrial traffic patterns there, Pistone said. He said the community eventually wants to change certain two-way neighborhood streets into one-way streets, but not without a study that could tell them how to decrease the number of car accidents.
Pistone and Intrabartola, who have been in the civic group for more than 10 years, said balancing the needs of local residents with the surrounding borough communities has been particularly hard. Pistone said conflicts arise when local residents want to keep down traffic in the area but others in the surrounding communities in Richmond Hill and Howard Beach see a need for more commercial development.
Intrabartola, however, said community activism has brought Ozone Park residents together.
"In the past, this wasn't such a close-knit community," said the 39-year-old auto technician. "I wanted to be involved (in the civic) because I wanted a stronger voice."
Pistone, who is now retired, is responsible for the organization's monthly newsletter, which includes a section on community events, announcements and activities in which local residents can get involved. He said the publication serves to inform local residents and further the sense of community.
The Ozone Park Civic Association meets the third Tuesday of every month at the Ozone Howard Little League Hall at 97-14 135th Dr. There are 12 elected, unpaid officers in the group and elections are held every two years, Pistone said.
The group works with Community Board 10, City Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway) on its community issues, Pistone said.
One such project was locking up local parks during late summer hours to make sure local youth, who had a history of causing trouble after the parks were officially closed, could not commit crimes, Pistone said. The project, coordinated with the 106th Precinct, used only volunteers and was so successful that the group is planning to continue it every summer.
Along with these projects, Pistone said, comes a greater sense of community among local residents. He said people just want to be heard and helped out with their problems - something the group is doing to increase communication among Ozone Park residents.
"People want to get to know their neighbors," he said.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2003 Community News Group
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