Photo Courtesy of CASE Systems, Inc.
An example of the solar-powered call boxes now found in parts of Forest Park.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Security in and around Forest Park is clearly a priority for elected officials and the City Police Department as the NYPD recently posted solar-powered emergency call boxes in parts of the massive borough green space, roughly a year after crews installed 14 long-delayed high-tech surveillance cameras at the park.
By the end of the month, 17 maize-colored call boxes, paid for by funds secured through the offices of Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), will dot the landscape of the 544-acre patch of central and southern Queens.
“These boxes were actually part of [City Council] Participatory Budgeting a couple of years ago,” noted Ed Wendell, Woodhaven resident, activist, and president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society. “It’s nice to know that they’re there, that people can pick up the phone and get help whenever they need it. To have that option, if you don’t have a cell phone available, is a very positive development.”
Following a string of sexual assaults in the popular park, State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Miller allocated $250,000 for the cameras in 2013. That same year, detectives released a sketch of the attacker, who they said has struck half a dozen times from March 2011 to August 2013 during daylight hours inside the expansive flagship green space:
On Aug. 26, 2013 he used a stun gun to subdue and rape a 69-year-old woman near Myrtle Avenue and Forest Park Road; on March 29, 2013, the suspect sexually assaulted a 23-year-old jogger; on Nov. 18, 2012 he assaulted a 40-year-old woman as she walked her dog; on Aug. 15, 2012, the man fondled a 34-year-old woman at Woodhaven Boulevard and Park Lane South; he struck and attempted to disrobe his youngest victim, a 13-year-old girl, on Sept. 7, 2011; and on March 25, 2011, in what cops believe was his initial attack, the man jumped a 54-year-old female jogger from behind on Park Lane South.
And in June 2015, a badly bludgeoned body was discovered in a remote part of the park. According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Zoltan Forai, 45, also known as Steven Forai, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter on June 30, 2016, for killing 23-year-old Diego Piedrahita. Forai was sentenced last August to a determinate term of 15 years in prison and five years’ post-release supervision.
Brown noted that Forai “admitted to having kicked and used a rock to brutally beat to death a 23-year-old acquaintance in Forest Park. By his actions, the defendant showed a total disregard for human life and the sentence meted out by the Court is justified to keep the public safe and to punish him for this senseless crime.”