In the final State of the Borough address of her administration, Borough President Helen Marshall focused on the continued recovery of south Queens nearly three months after Sandy — honoring one first responder in particular for his valiant efforts during the storm.
“Let’s reflect together now,” she said on Tuesday, January 22, “on the devastation Sandy caused. The relief, from across the street and across the country, and the rebuilding, now underway, inspired by hope and the promise of tomorrow.”
Marshall honored the memory of Dylan Smith — the Belle Harbor surfer who tragically died in Puerto Rico last month — for his heroic efforts to help neighbors during the storm. With Smith’s parents in attendance, Marshall announced her office would give a $10,000 grant to the Swim Strong Foundation, which teaches a healthy lifestyle through swimming, in Smith’s memory.
Swim Strong founder Shawn Slevin said the grant in Smith’s name would continue to help the program, which has taught more than 2,000 people water safety and granted nearly 700 scholarships.
“This will mean so much for our scholarship funds,” Slevin said. “The borough president and her staff have always been very supportive of us.”
Michael McDonald, who helped rescue Belle Harbor residents alongside Smith, recalled the late surfer was modest to the attention he received after the storm. Before the audience at Queens College’s Colden Theater, McDonald gave a heartfelt recollection of the late October night and referred to Smith as “a guardian angel in a wetsuit.”
“The idea that his name will be mentioned in what he loved to do, which was not only swim and surf, but look out for the safety of others [is wonderful],” he said.
Marshall, covering several other items on her 2013 agenda, called for continued legislation at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence. Marshall applauded the anti-gun work of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and announced she plans to sponsor a gun buy back program sometime this spring.
“While Thanksgiving was muted by Sandy and the holiday season was saddened by the horrific violence in Newtown, let’s all agree that 2013 must be a year of hope,” Marshall said. “Our hope for getting guns off the street is gaining momentum. Here in our city, we have a long-standing and tireless leader in this effort: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have seen the lowest number of murders in the past 40 years.”