Residents of Ozone Park and Howard Beach tend to be familiar with one of the area’s most conspicuous oddities, the greaser on the clock.
Hoisted up on an office building along Cross Bay Boulevard, a statue of a ’50s greaser clad in blue jeans — hands thrust into the pockets of a black leather jacket — leans back on the brick facade of a law office at 109th Avenue.
What they might not know is that the figure was put there by George Schneider, the longstanding member of the business community in charge of Schneider Real Estate.
Schneider died on May 2 at 87 years old. He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, his daughters Linda Schneider Bancalari and Debbie Ann Schneider, stepson Raymond Simpson and seven grandchildren.
The real estate entrepreneur was born and raised in Richmond Hill and lived in Howard Beach and Ozone Park for most of his adult life, before moving to Long Island in his old age. He began his Ozone Park-based business in 1955.
Schneider Real Estate turned into a recognizable name in South Queens, and even extended into a mini-business empire in the neighborhood. Its original quarters were located around 107th and Cross Bay Boulevard, where Schneider had set up a number of different businesses in his namesake: Schneider Travel and Schneider Insurance, in addition to a building that morphed over time from ice cream stand to consignment store among other businesses.
His daughter Debbie Ann Schneider still lives in a Schneider Real Estate home that she inherited from her dad.
“The people that are on my block, they’re like, ‘Your dad sold this one to that person and that one to this other person.’ But everybody comes back to the man on the building,” she said, referring to the greaser statue.
Next to Schneider Insurance, Debbie Ann said that her father used to put out dune buggies and hot rod cars to attract attention.
For the real estate company he wanted to get a statue of a burglar. “Like a robber — stealing — like we’ll steal a house for you, it’ll be so cheap,” Debbie Ann said. But when he couldn’t find a statue of a cat burglar, he went with another symbol of a lawless antihero: a member of the greaser gang subculture that gained prominence in the ’50s.
Many call it the James Dean statue, after the “Rebel Without a Cause” star.
“His main objective was so that people would stop and look at it, you know? And it worked,” Debbie Ann said.
Debbie Ann remembered her father as someone who always saw the shiny side of the coin, and who gained a reputation in the neighborhood for his bright outlook on life and giving people advice. He had his quirks in addition to his optimism. Everyone in the Schneider orbit had a nickname: Proud Mary, Dean the Dream, Dr. Good Looking and the Main Man were a few recalled by Debbie Ann, who was herself nicknamed the Shooter.
At his funeral service, around 100 people came to pay their respects — many who got to know him through his businesses.
“If you were stressed out over something, he would say, ‘You know, are you going to worry about that in 10 years?’ And then I’d say, ‘No, dad, I’m not going to worry.’ He goes, ‘Don’t worry about it now.’”