BY LUIS GRONDA
What was supposed to be a fundraiser to help a Howard Beach resident with repairs related to Sandy instead devolved into neighborhood drama.
Paul “PJ” Marcel, a Howard Beach resident who is best known for his heroic rescue work during Superstorm Sandy, was supposed to host a haunted house fundraiser for his friend Kimberly Engel at a residence on 100th Street.
The fundraiser, which was scheduled to take place last weekend, ended up having to be canceled after someone filed a complaint with the Buildings Dept. and the local police precinct about the event. Marcel was told the police would shut the event down if he went through with it because of the complaints and was forced to cancel the fundraiser. Marcel said he had to turn away at least 300 people that Friday who went to the house for the fundraiser.
According to the Buildings Dept. records, the complaint lodged against the house was “Illegal Commercial/Manufacturing Use in Residential Zone” and “Illegal Use: Residential Space-Used as Business.”
Marcel said he was “floored” when he heard of the complaint and was forced to cancel the event. He said it was promoted for weeks, in conjunction with the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol, and many people in the neighborhood did not have a problem with the fundraiser.
“I was so taken back. How could somebody want to stop it?” he said.
Marcel denied the claim that he was using a residential house as a business and he alleged that there are some in the neighborhood that have it out against HBCOP because that group was involved in trying to start a security firm in the neighborhood before the HBCOP was formed earlier this year.
Joseph Thompson, the head of HBCOP, said he has heard those rumblings and while most of the community has supported the observation patrol so far, there are those that are against it because they were trying to start the firm. Thompson describes those people as “leaders of the community” but declined to say who they were.
How HBCOP was involved in the fundraiser, according to Thompson, is they added the house to their liability policy that they have established for people who use space for a fundraising event. He said they have it so if somebody gets hurt at the event they can take it up with HBCOP about how to resolve a problem. Thompson said they had no role in organizing the event other than adding it to its policy.
Marcel said they are in the midst of resolving the complaint and once that is complete, he is open to organizing another fundraiser for his friend and former neighbor, Engel.
Engel did not return phone calls requesting comment for this story as of press time.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.