PROFILE OF THE MONTH
By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
Sam Esposito is a veritable encyclopedia on his community. He could take you back to the old days when things were different in Ozone Park, and he could also map and comment on the changes over time.
Ozone Park is one of the oldest communities in Queens, apart from Flushing, and Sam knows his community well. He likes the fact that the community is working together. There is the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol in which Mohammad Khan is a livewire. Sam said that Khan volunteers on a daily basis. There can be no doubt that Sam brings credibility and respectability to the Block Association. Mohammad Khan says that Sam has a heart of gold and Sam in return says that it is Khan and members of the Bangladesh community that deserve the credit.
Sam was born and raised in Ozone Park. His family was in the area since 1924. Sam worked in the Police Department for over 20 years and was assigned to the 79th Precinct for most of those years. But Sam’s community involvement runs deep. He was a member of Community Board 9 for over 35 years and was able to see at first hand the problems of the District. One such problem was the allocation of a shelter in 101 Avenue in 2018. Sam was instrumental in the formation of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association. This brought him in contact with members of the Bangladesh community in March 2019. There were reports of Bangladeshis being harassed in the community. Sam spoke up against it and eventually members of the Bangladesh community got a seat at the table. He said there was a time when things were different, but now there is greater unity and that people are working together.
Sam’s leadership has resulted in a successful food pantry in Ozone Park. In this time of Covid 19, the pantry is welcomed in the area and hundreds benefit from it on a weekly basis. This is a time when all hands are needed, and one can find persons from all races helping out. Every Saturday, the space at Rockaway Boulevard is transformed into a little city in which more than 650 families benefit from the food pantry. According to Sam, ‘when Covid-19 happened, we saw a need in the community. We pooled our money and bought food. We stopped for a while but the need got greater and Assemblyman Mike Miller got us access to food. We were doing 120 boxes on a Saturday. All of a sudden, we were doing 300 families and Mr. Miller introduced us to Father Mike Lopez who helped us and then we got introduced to Mark Singh, another wonderful person, and he is supplying us in a big way, as well. Khan pointed out that the farmers from upstate were helpful too.
Sam is thankful to the many volunteers that are part of the pantry drive. He is grateful to Misba Abdin who has granted space for the pantry to take place and for the Block Association and Civilian Patrol to house their offices. As can be seen, Sam spends a considerable amount of his time on work that is related to the Block Association and the Cityline Patrol is out there every night. How does he see the pantry in the future? Sam says that, ‘the need will be there for a number of years. As long as we can pick up the food, we will continue to do our pantry. We have outgrown our premises, and hopefully, we will get more space.’
Recently, there was a pop-up pantry in which over 1,200 boxes of food were distributed. There are numerous persons to thank including Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, Assemblyman Mike Miller, Mark Singh of Singh Family Foundation, Patricia Raghunandan and Hemant Somai from the Queens Community Lions, Azeez Khan, Donna Mausere, Rohan Narine from the Office of the Mayor NYC, and countless others, including members of the Bangladeshi community. Mr. Iqbal Ali, President of the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol, is a selfless servant of the community.
It is clear that Sam has found his calling. He is working to break down the barriers and Ozone Park is much better for it. We wish Sam Esposito, and all that are associated with him, the best in the future.
The Block Association can be contacted at 929 233 8107 or at ozpkRBA@aol.com. Their Facebook link is Facebook.com. The location of the food pantry is at 83-10 Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park, New York, 11416 on Saturdays, starting at 11am. You can contact the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol at 1718 641 0405 or email at email@example.com.