Tucked into a hole no more than 12 x 8, behind the Marshalls Department store off Liberty Ave and Rockaway boulevards, a homeless man, who identifies himself only as Ronald C., has set up house–much to the disdain of at least one resident.
Bill Folz, Sr. contends that the situation is a serious quality of life issue. and is not one he and other, long time Ozone Park residents are going to willingly accept. “It’s an unpleasant sight to people living and walking along Liberty Avenue.”
He went on to recall a time when there was a problem with other homeless people settling down around the former Off-Track Betting parlor on Liberty Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard. That, he said, came to an end when OTB moved out and Payless SHoes opened in its place.
Folz, who lives one block away from the store , says that Ronald has brought a foul stench to the area. Having lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years he says it really affects him. ‘It just looks like crap,” a disgusted Folz said,“..it looks awful and it smells terrible.”
Behind Marshalls, 62-year-old Ronald climbs atop the stained mattress he’s been sleeping on for the last five months. The walls around him are covered with graffiti. He issurrounded by empty cereal boxes, crumpled up balls of aluminum foil and a garbage bag filled with empty plastic bottles of Georgi vodka.
During an interview Ronald described his lifeas fairly normal––in fact he claims he once had everything one might want in life: a stable job, healthy relationships with family, a significant other and a condo in southern Florida.
He said that he used to earn a considerable salary working as a transmission mechanic in New York City. He had a steady girlfriend, Nancy, and although their relationship was complicated by a number of factors, they intended to marry and start over in Florida. He bought a condo in Fort Lauderdale with the intentions of moving down there. “It was top-of-the-line,” Ronald said of the condo. “Pool, Barbeque, anytime you wanted.”
After moving down to Florida with Nancy, her sister was stricken with cancer and the couple had to return to New York to help care for her. They sold the condo in Florida and moved back up into an apartment in Woodhaven.
But after about 4-5 months of their return to New York, marital troubles began, the couple separated and he moved in with family in Howard Beach for a while.
After that, according to Ronald, he had lost his job and things just spiraled downhill. He wound up on the street where he has lived for nearly 5 months.
His main worries are mostly about where his next meal will come from and where he can use a bathroom.
“It’s rough,” says Ronald “You have to go out there and panhandle for a dollar– panhandle for a drink.”
No matter how it gets out on the street he says, “I’m not going to a shelter.” He says he has not spoken to his family since he left them months ago and doubts that he will moving forward.
But Ronald may have to move forward sooner than anticipated, as Folz says he want the homeless man to be moved out of the location. Folz contacted The Forum by email and telephone as well as Marshalls Department Store. He was told by the manager that they have been calling 311 and filing their complaints with that agency. He added that he hasn’t yet contacted 311 or the police himself regarding his concerns.
The Forum contacted store manager Mike Imerukha, who said that he has not heard any complaints about a homeless man living behind the store. “The store took complaints for a similar situation a few months ago, but that was resolved,” he said.
As for Folz, he wants something done. “You live there and you want it to try to stay nice,” he said.
By Luis Gronda