On the side of an office building in Ozone Park in Queens is a peculiar bright yellow clock with a statue depicting a stereotypical image of a ’50s-era greaser. The mysterious rebel is wearing blue jeans, a black leather jacket, and a greased pompadour. While locals enjoy the kitsch appeal of the statue, most will admit they have no clue why it is there or who it represents.
Throughout the 1950s and into the early ’60s, greaser gangs operated out of Ozone Park with names like the Sutter Lords, Black Angels, and the Breakers. Teenagers from the largely Italian working class demographic of the neighborhood would make up the ranks of these gangs. The statue may be a marker of that era.
Some locals refer to the statue as the James Dean statue. The actor’s breakthrough role in Rebel Without a Cause showed Hollywood romanticizing the greaser. The success of that film would lead to more juvenile delinquent movies, often with a rock-‘n-roll soundtrack. Movie buffs will note that James Dean wore a red windbreaker, not a black leather jacket in the film.
Another possible inspiration is Beat writer Jack Kerouac, who actually resided in Ozone Park. His seminal novel, On the Road, was written not too far from where the greaser statue and clock is. His novel helped define what “cool” was in the 1950s.
Other names have been attached to the statue by curious observers, including Marlon Brando, due to his performance as the biker Johnny in The Wild One, Elvis Presley, and “The Fonz” from Happy Days. No concrete evidence exists to link any of them to the statue.
The clock no longer tells time since the arms have long gone. It’s fitting since the greaser himself is timeless. As the neighborhood around him changes, he remains locked in an eternal retro hipness.