BY TRONE DOWD
For a neighborhood as small as South Ozone Park, many people probably wouldn’t associate the Southeast Queens town with bursting enthusiasm and being a bustling cornerstone of commerce and international transportation.
But in the last decade in particular, South Ozone Park has had arguably more eyes, and more patrons contributing to its economic growth than a majority of the other neighborhoods in the borough.
At the turn of the 20th century, South Ozone Park was a simple town with mostly farmers. In the 1920’s however, that all changed. Developer David P. Leahy pushed to make affordable housing for working class families which quickly brought Italian and Irish immigrants to the neighborhood. The Aqueduct Racetrack, built in 1894, was able to further proliferate the developing neighborhood in its early years.
Bordered by Richmond Hill, Howard Beach, Jamaica, and of course Ozone Park – which is west not north – South Ozone Park is a bit of a buffer between southeast and south Queens. As a result, the neighbor gets to enjoy the best of both worlds. It’s both parts suburban and residential, qualities that can best be used to describe southern Queens towns like Howard Beach and Ozone Park, while still having the urban, carnival-like, nightlife appeal of a Downtown Jamaica’s commercial strips and Richmond Hill’s Caribbean club scene.
Part of its robust culture comes from his diverse population. Once consisting of mostly Italian and Irish Americans as previously mentioned, South Ozone Park is now home to Asian, Latino and Caribbean Americans. Because of the diversity, the Queens Library reflects it by offering a wide variety of collected works relating to Haitian and Latin culture as well as works on the Black experience.
South Ozone Park is also the home of one of the biggest developments in the borough of the last few years: The Resorts World New York City Casino. Built in 2011, the casino and entertainment venue has brought some of the biggest names in show biz to Queens, as well as a slew of New Yorkers and tourists that otherwise wouldn’t have paid a visit to the World’s Borough. Since opening it’s doors, Resorts World has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. It also carries the distinction of being the first legal casino in the five boroughs.
South Ozone Park also has the Aqueduct Racetrack – which shares space with the casino. Every year, the track brings in hundreds of horse racing enthusiasts for the annual competitions and festivities.
And with JFK Airport in its borders, South Ozone Park is one of the first neighborhoods that many will see when arriving in New York City. In fact, many residents can attest to the amount of air traffic that occurs overhead as the nation’s busiest airport goes on about bringing in people from all over the world.
South Ozone Park has appeared in a number of films and television shows including, The Sopranos, A Bronx Tale, Goodfellas and sitcom The King of Queens. In 1995, Pope John Paul II visited Queens at the Aqueduct Racetrack where over 75,000 people came out to see him. In 2011, popular Italian eatery Don Peppe for well over 50 years made a prominent appearance in the HBO show “Entourage.”