Community Buzz

ozone park (3)

Ozone Park

BY DOMENICK RAFTER

The platform at the Rockaway Boulevard subway station – Ozone Park’s busiest transit hub – in 1982. 

Though it is 10 miles from the nearest ocean, the sea breeze is what brought people to Ozone Park – and it’s what the neighborhood is named for.

The history of Ozone Park dates back to 1882, when the neighborhood was founded in what was then a rural part of Queens County located on a plain sloping toward Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

The neighborhood was settled near the small hamlet of Centreville, near the current location of Centreville Street and Albert Road. Ozone Park got its name by the 19th Century term for ocean breezes – ozone – meant to attract urban dwellers from Manhattan and Brooklyn to the suburban-like atmosphere with sea breezes coming off the Atlantic.

The Long Island Rail Road came through two years after the neighborhood’s founding, with two stations, the Ozone Park station at 101st Avenue and 100th Street, and Aqueduct at the current Aqueduct-North Conduit Avenue subway station.
That triggered a population boom in the neighborhood and over the next century, In 1915, the subway came to the neighborhood when the elevated line over Liberty Avenue, which now carries the ‘A’ train, was constructed between Brooklyn and Lefferts Boulevard, allowing for quicker commutes to Manhattan.

By the mid-20th Century, the community became a destination for first- and second-generation Italian and Irish immigrants and grew to be one of the most prominent Italian-American communities in the country. Ozone Park became well known for being a working class community where faith and family reigned supreme.

 

With the Italian-Americans came what some argue is the best pizza in the United States, and some of the best Italian food this side of the Mediterranean Sea.

In the mid- to late-20th Century, Ozone Park became a hub of Mafia activities. It was here where large trucks stolen from JFK Airport during the Lufthansa heist were hidden on residential streets, and it was on 101st Avenue where Mafia don John Gotti set up shop at the Bergen Hunt and Fish Club. In 1984, Gotti’s reality show-star daughter Victoria was married at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Church, the gothic-style green spire-topped house of worship that dominates the neighborhood’s skyline and proudly states the neighborhood’s Roman Catholic heritage.

Indeed SMGH is one of several Catholic churches in the community, which include Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Elizabeth and St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr churches.

Since the late 1980s, the demographic of the neighborhood has changed dramatically. Though there is still a noticeable Italian-American presence, a growing population of Indo-Caribbeans – especially Guyanese and Trinidadian – and South Asians have made Ozone Park their home. Today, Ashrams, gurdwaras and mosques join the imposing Catholic churches, as Ozone Park becomes a center of faith and family for another generation of immigrants.

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For Ozone Park’s Barbara Bocklage, taking on a puppy from Canine Companions for Independence was a no-brainer.

Bockage worked with handicapped children before retirement. Searching for a sense of purpose, she stumbled upon Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit that trains assistance dogs to children, adults and veterans with disabilities at no cost to the recipient, after a conversation with her sister.

“My sister is a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. There’s a dog there that came from Canine Companions named Rico,” said Bocklage. “I’ve been wanting a dog, and after my sister spoke with Rico’s owner, she helped me get in contact with her to learn more about the program.”

Canine Companions for Independence places 8-week-old puppies into the homes of puppy raisers where they learn basic commands and socialization skills. Once the dogs are about 1 1/2 years old, they are returned to the Canine Companions for Independence regional headquarters in Medford, NY, where they begin six months of professional training with the organization’s nationally renowned instructors.

After they undergo training, the pups are then matched with a child, adult or veteran with disabilities, and spend two weeks at the facility with their recipients. The pups then attend a graduation ceremony where the volunteer puppy raiser is invited to ceremoniously pass the leash off to the new recipient.

“You can give money to any charity, but do you really know where it goes?” Bocklage said. “That’s the best part of Canine Companions. We carry the load and then we get to give the dog to the person who was matched with the dog.”

Bocklage started the application process to receive her puppy, a golden retriever named Kimber, back in September 2017. Once she brought Kimber home, Bocklage was ecstatic and knew that this was meant for her.

“Ever since I retired I was looking for a sense of purpose,” Bocklage said. “I’ve always had dogs and after not having one for 10 years, it was time. After finding Canine Companions, I knew it was right for me.”

“My husband didn’t want a dog, but he’s the one who gives her treats for her potty training,” Bocklage said, laughing. “My 23-year-old niece is ecstatic about Kimber. Even my sister, who is highly asthmatic, wants to come over all the time to see the dog.”

Kimber has become quite popular in the neighborhood as well.

“She’s the star of the block,” Bocklage said. “She’s also a man-magnet. I was walking her through the neighborhood once with her little yellow vest on and a man who was working on cement came running over and said, ‘I have to pet this dog!’ She’s the best little girl.”

In the next year or so, Kimber will return to the Canine Companions for Independence headquarters for additional training. Bocklage knows that returning Kimber will be hard, but acknowledges that she will light up the lives of the people she comes in contact with.

“She was the happiest hello and will be the hardest goodbye,” Bocklage said. “Everyone falls in love with her, and I think that has something to do with what her purpose is. It makes everyone light up.”

For more information about becoming a puppy raiser, visit cci.orghttp://qns.com/story/2018/03/14/ozone-park-woman-finds-purpose-joy-training-future-assistance-dog/

 

 
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A longtime Ozone Park pizzeria and restaurant has new owners, a new look and a new menu — but its identity remains the same.

Aldo’s Pizza & Restaurant held its grand re-opening on Feb. 19 under the leadership of Anthony and Joe Livreri, brothers raised in Glendale who also own Mr. Bruno’s Pizzeria in East Elmhurst. They brought with them a revamped menu with traditional Sicilian fare and more than 30 varieties of pizza, but upholding the Aldo’s name was also a priority.

 

“It’s been here for so long and it’s got such a good name,” Anthony Livreri said. “I just wanted to bring the place back up to what it was. It was in the wrong hands for a short period of time.”

When the pizzeria’s namesake owner, Aldo Calore, retired from the business in 2014, the new management made a mess of the place, he said. When he went to see what the Livreri brothers had done to renovate the space, Calore said that he knew it was in good hands once again.

“It’s beautiful. These guys know what they’re doing,” Calore said. “They do everything excellent and they go out of their way to buy good stuff, not cheap.”

Although the Livreri brothers have been running Aldo’s since Jan. 2, the dining room was under renovation and was opened for the first time at the re-opening party on Monday, Feb. 19. The room was filled with Italian cheer as friends and family members came to congratulate the brothers on their latest venture, eat from a buffet of fresh entrees and drinks from the updated bar.

The brothers describe their new menu as simple and traditional, with meals such as lamb chops, skirt steaks, rib-eye steaks, a variety of fish, pasta and a large selection of appetizers and salads. The pizza menu is anything but simple, however, with a brand-new, 26-foot showcase in the restaurant that is stocked with everything from buffalo chicken, Thai chicken, grandma, upside down, cheese steak and rigatoni vodka pies, to rice balls, paninis and potato croquettes.

Above all, with many years of experience and multiple successful restaurants, the Livreri brothers know that the people are the most important thing. They used to own a few places in New Jersey, but coming back home made Joe Levriri realize the biggest difference with their latest location.

“The people are different in New York,” said Joe Livreri. “New York is New York; you can’t change it no matter where you go. You could talk to one person and talk to another person and you feel like you’re at home, where you’re supposed to be.”

 

http://qns.com/story/2018/02/20/new-owners-hold-grand-re-opening-aldos-pizza-ozone-park-hope-revive-neighborhood-fixture/

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