Beggars in Howard Beach

Beggars in Howard Beach

A brother-sister duo ask for money near Cross Bay Boulevard's Waldbaum's last week.  Photo by Phil Corso

A brother-sister duo ask for money near Cross Bay Boulevard’s Waldbaum’s last week. Photo by Phil Corso

There are plenty of places to spend money along Cross Bay Boulevard, but one particular option has left residents weary with both public safety and quality of life concerns.

However it is referred to, whether it is begging or panhandling, soliciting money has become an ongoing issue for Howard Beach residents making their way up and down the commercial strip. Just last week, The Forum spotted a supposed brother-sister duo on both sides of Cross Bay Boulevard near Waldbaum’s holding up signs asking for help and flashing them at cars stopped at nearby red lights.

State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) said the nearby 106th Precinct has been keeping up the issue of panhandling along busy corridors like Cross Bay Boulevard and acknowledged the issue, but argued it was not severe.

“I know there have been a few particular panhandlers that have been in the neighborhood for a while, but I don’t think there’s too much of it going on,” he said. “The precinct has done a good job keeping our community safe.”

But Joann Ariola, president of the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association, said consistent money solicitation in her hometown was both an issue of public safety and quality of life. Not only is it disturbing and sometimes off-putting to be bombarded with requests for cash, Ariola said, but it is also dangerous for those asking for money to be navigating through traffic during the busiest hours along the boulevard.

Residents in Howard Beach say begging has become an annoyance along busy streets like Cross Bay Boulevard.  Photo by Phil Corso

Residents in Howard Beach say begging has become an annoyance along busy streets like Cross Bay Boulevard. Photo by Phil Corso

“I think that it is a huge problem along Cross Bay Boulevard,” she said. “It’s multi-faceted. It’s upsetting and sometimes, you feel threatened.”

The 106th Precinct did not respond to requests for comment.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said panhandlers were at the crux of countless constituent complaints coming through his office and recognized that community members needed to know the consequences of asking for cash on Cross Bay. The senator pointed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, which sought to reduce traffic-related fatalities, as a means of addressing the issue.

“I can see why residents get frustrated. Traffic is bad enough to begin with and now we have people, even kids, trying to collect money,” he said. “It’s a safety issue. I think the city needs to make a statement that it is not a condoned activity.”

And it is not only coming from the homeless or desperately cash-strapped, Ariola said. On any given day, particularly during the summer months, the civic president said she has seen young children asking for donations along Cross Bay with adult supervisors sitting nearby. Whether they are asking for money to help fund a sports team or another youth organization, Ariola said she and her civic members were unhappy with children being put in the middle of the street in the name of cash.

“The adults are putting children at risk by putting them at the height of traffic to bob and weave in and out of cars while the adults sit on coolers or hang onto signs,” she said. “It’s unfair to them and it’s unfair to business owners. When people are panhandling outside their establishments, customers might think twice before walking in.”

Ariola also said panhandling throughout Howard Beach has also led to issues of littering, which has become a priority issue for residents over recent weeks.

“When they are sitting there, say on the corner of Cross Bay Boulevard, that becomes a dumping ground,” she said. “And it is the business people who get the ticket.”


By Phil Corso


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