Jackson Heights park renamed after young advocate gone too soon

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Although he was taken at a young age, Rory Staunton’s dedication, integrity and innocence will continue to live on through a park he fought to save.

Family, friends, students, local elected officials and Parks Department representatives gathered on Monday in Jackson Heights to unveil the renaming of the acquired Parks Department athletic field at the Garden School as “Rory Staunton Field.”

“This is a special day for us because we see Rory’s dream come true,” said Ciaran Staunton, Rory’s father.

“We as a family believe that the Jackson Heights community deserved this field as an open space. Rory was keenly aware of his civic responsibility. He was a true leader. Rory’s favorite poem was a poem by Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ The road not taken, this was the life that Rory lived. True leadership demands inspiration, and in Rory many people found inspiration to do good things.”

The 12-year-old lost his life last April due to sepsis poisoning after falling while playing basketball in his school’s gym. What doctors initially believed to be a minor wound became infected and ultimately led to his death.

Rory was a student at the Garden School, located at 33-16 79th Street. Although he lived in Sunnyside with his father, mother Orlaith and sister Kathleen, he loved to help out in the Jackson Heights community. He enjoyed working side-by-side with his dad, a board member of the Garden School who was one of the main individuals who pushed for the field to be used as a park instead of developing it into a 10-story apartment building.

“After every board meeting I would come home and there would be a question-and-answer,” said Staunton. “And Rory would say ‘you cannot let it go dad, you gotta stick with it.’”

Rory Staunton (File photo)

In February, NYC Parks and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Service completed the $6 million acquisition of the 24,600-square-foot asphalt play yard owned by the Garden School.

The proposal of the property’s renaming was inspired by the hard work Rory and his father did to help save the greenspace for future generations.

“They [the Stauntons] were involved with this from the start, all of them, pushing to make it a reality,” said Dudley Stewart, president of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. “Even when things looked most bleak, they were insistent that it could happen, that it would happen and it did happen. This is why we requested the new park be named after Rory, there could not be a more fitting memorial for him and today we have insured that his name will never be forgotten.”

Rory Staunton Field and Travers Park, located across the street, will undergo a $3.7 million renovation through funding from Councilmember Daniel Dromm and Borough President Helen Marshall.

Since their son’s passing, the Staunton family has worked hard to raise awareness of sepsis. Governor Andrew Cuomo dubbed legislation to fight sepsis, “Rory’s Regulations.” On Tuesday, September 24, the family also testified against sepsis in the Senate.

“Rory was a passionate advocate of truth, justice and fairness,” said Staunton. “He was and always will be an inspiration to us all. The name of Rory Staunton will shine and the spirit will be over this park, and this park will be one of everyone enjoying themselves, free of all kinds of bullying and all kinds of whatever else happens because his spirit will see to it.”



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