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Breaking Bread, Building Bonds event strengthens community relations in Ozone Park

Aug. 29, 2023 By Anthony Medina

Among the more than 350 guests that packed the Majestic Marquise on Monday, Aug. 28, in Ozone Park Jasbir Bhatia sat with elected officials, local leaders and civic group members. 

A couple of years ago, Bhatia was battling COVID-19 and after connecting with Sam Esposito for much-needed help, she was able to obtain the essential supplies she desperately needed. Earlier this year Bhatia and her friend helped M.S.137 middle school students pay for graduation fees and more, in seeing the Lions Club of Ozone Park – Woodhaven, do the same. 

“Whenever they need something, I’m always there,” said Bhatia.

A nurse by profession and proud member of the Skih community, Bhatia understood the impact of the Monday night event inside 88-03 101st Ave.

A packed venue at the Majestic Marquise in Ozone Park seated many familiar and some new faces to the neighborhood as they talked amongst eachother and ate carefully curated food options provided by local restaurants. Photo by Anthony Medina

The Ozone Park Residents Block Association, with the help of the Lions Club of Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Woodhaven and the Kiwanis Club of Ozone Park – Woodhaven, brought civic leaders, elected officials, NYPD top brass and local religious leaders together to cultivate long lasting relationships throughout the community. 

As part of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Breaking Bread, Building Bonds initiative, these events are meant to bring neighbors together with city agencies in a casual setting to motivate conversations between diverse groups of people. 

“This is the first time we’ve ever done this in Ozone Park. We have never done this before so I always say thank you all for coming out and being part of this, especially to the Bengali/Muslim community because this is going to be their first time here,” said Sam Esposito, president of the OZPKRBA and Ozone Park Howard Beach Woodhaven Lions Club.

Sandra Datnarain (l.) Sam Esposito, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Jenifer Rajkumar and Patricia Raghunandan, champion the Mayor’s ‘Breaking Bread, Building Bonds’ initiative. 

Elected officials made their way into the event hall at the top of the night to join in the festivities, including in Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Jenifer Rajkumar and Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.

“Us elected officials only work best when we hear from our people. We thrive on our people, we thrive and work best when we work together. There could be no working together without breaking bread and having a dialogue,” said Addabbo. 

“I don’t really have to say much because this room says it all,” said Rajkumar. “This is Breaking Bread, Buildings Bonds, which we’re doing all around the city — but that’s what our community represents. So many of us have all different faiths and backgrounds every day, working together and living together — for us, we break bread and build bonds every day.”

Joined by the Queens legislators were the 102nd Precinct Commanding Officer, Captain Jeremy R. Kivlin, 106th Precinct Executive Officer, Captain Mario Deras, and 75th Precinct Inspector Rohan Griffith. 

“Its very important to bring the community together, not only between the police. A lot of the events I go to was focusing on the police talking to the community, but this event is really focused on the community talking to each other, finding out what unique problem their community faces, and what issues they’re facing and what their culture is about, talking to each other.” said Kivlin. “My precinct is one of the most culturally diverse precincts in the city and bringing these different communities together, It’s amazing.”

Among the many new and familiar community faces were those responsible for helping to put together the event in a little under a week’s time — a point made firm by Esposito throughout the night. The hall was blessed by the multiple religious leaders at the event, before everyone was welcome to grab food. 

Participants of the community-driven event were welcome to a wide selection of carefully curated food that was blessed by the various representatives of pentecostal/evangelical churches, mosques, temples, and more in attendance.Photo by Anthony Medina

Thanks were given to the owners of the Majestic Marquise, Sandra and Roj Datnarain, who made their event venue available for the breaking bread event free of charge. Approximately 750 cases of Snapple were donated for guests through one of Esposito’s connections and Roberto Collado from Enoz’s Pizza helped with the costs of the dinner. Free fast wall chargers were also placed at each seat in the venue.

Although Mayor Eric Adams was not in attendance during the event, Patricia Raghunandan, who spearheaded the new community driven initiative, made sure to recognize the unique opportunities for neighbors to come together in the Ozone Park area.

Sandra and Roj Datnarain, owners of the family run party and event hall, hosted the community event at their business free of charge. Roj said Community Board 9 would host their meetings at the space sometimes, but since the pandemic, they’ve stayed in Queens Borough Hall. He hopes they will return to the space soon. Photo by Anthony Medina

“We look around at our Muslim brothers and sisters, our Sikh communities here, there’s a lot of us. So let’s break bread and let’s build that bond,” Raghunadan said.  

More events as part of the ‘Breaking Bread, Building Bonds’ initiative will take place throughout the city, reflecting what took place in Ozone Park on Monday. 

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