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.
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.
“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.