A street in South Ozone, Queens, New York, was named last week at a special ceremony after a deceased Indo Caribbean woman who was killed in a hit and run in December 2020. The corner of 103rd Avenue and 92nd Street was dubbed Ritawantee “Auntie Rita” Persaud Way.
Thousands of Indian Guyanese and Trinidadians reside in the area in the greater Ozone Park, aligned with Richmond Hill, where Ritwantee Persaud was killed in a hit and run almost two years ago. Well known as Aunty Rita’s vehicle was totaled by a vehicle that ran the red light killing the woman. Persaud emigrated from Guyana in 1999. She was an accountant. She was 54-year-old’s. A Lamborghini struck the Uber vehicle she was in. The killer went into hiding.
Aunty Rita was very popular among Guyanese and Trini Hindus serving several mandirs and volunteering her time at public events. She was also an outstanding singer of Hindu bhajans patronizing religious events.
After months of investigation, New York City Police detectives were able to trace and find the driver and made an arrest in September 2021. In honor of her memory, community advocates, led by Romeo Hitlall, lobbied New York City Council to co-name the street where she was killed off Rockaway Blvd, not far from Liberty Avenue and Woodhaven Blvd.
Community Advocate Romeo Hitlall, a Guyanese, spearheaded the effort to co-name the street and was ably assisted by several other Guyanese.
The elected City Council member of the area, Joann Ariola, made the case to the council to co-name the street. It was approved without dissent. Council member Ariola said “Whether it was through her work at the Shanti Bhavan Mandir, or through her day-to-day interactions with her friends and neighbors, Rita’s life was a bright light for all who encountered her”.
Present at the street co-naming ceremony were Hitlall, community leaders, elected politicians, police officers, pandits, and members of the Lions Club.
Hitlall told the gathering: “The manner in which Auntie Rita was killed caused much outrage within the Queens community, and brought several community leaders together to press the NYPD for a swift and detailed investigation”.