Honoring Two Local Heroes

Rename Roads For B’wick Firefighter, Elm. Cop

Two public servants in Bushwick and Elmhurst who made the ultimate sacrifice, a Woodside musician whose wrongful arrest inspired a classic film and a noted Cold War-era writer from Forest Hills will soon have streets ceremonially renamed in their honor.

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed last Wednesday, July 9, Intro. No. 388, which renames 63 streets and public places across the five boroughs for individuals and groups that, as he described, “helped make our city a stronger, safer place for all of us” and “embody the perseverance and drive that make New Yorkers great.”

One of the renamings will take place along the block of Morgan Avenue between Grattan and Thames streets in Bushwick, which will be called Lt. Richard A. Nappi Way, honoring a 17-year FDNY veteran assigned to Engine Co. 237 who died in the line of duty in April 2012.

Nappi worked with Engine 237, with its headquarters based on the Morgan Avenue block, for nearly five years. Prior to his assignment there, he served out of Engine Co. 7 in Manhattan and Engine Co. 302 in Rochdale Village; he was also a member of the Farmingville Volunteer Fire Department in Suffolk County.

He succumbed to cardiac arrest on Apr. 16, 2012, while responding to a three-alarm blaze at a Bushwick factory.

City Council Member Antonio Reynoso sponsored the street renaming.

The intersection of 95th Street and 43rd Avenue, just down the block from the 110th Precinct’s stationhouse, will be renamed P.O. Robert M. Ehmer Place, honoring a late member of the command who died in 2010 from illnesses related to his work during the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

“Police Officer Robert Ehmer spent nearly 20 years with the NYPD, working for the community of the 110th Precinct while simultaneously working part-time as an EMT at St. John’s Hospital,” said City Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who sponsored the street renaming. “While Officer Ehmer’s notable service received recognition and medals of honor for excellent police duty, it was his selflessness that led to the ultimate sacrifice, when he heroically served as a first responder in the 9/11 attacks.”

Ferreras also sponsored the renaming of the intersection of 104th Street and 35th Avenue in corona as Professor William H. Pease Jr. Way. The renaming recognizes a teacher, former engineer and advocate for African-American historical studies.

Pease also served on the board of the Langston Hughes Library during the 1970s and was the first African- American president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

Throughout his career, he received awards from a host of organizations including the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the New York University Weekend Tutorial Project, and the Brownsville Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

In Woodside, the block of 73rd Street between 41st and Woodside avenues will be renamed Manny “The Wrong Man” Balestrero Way, honoring a jazz musician arrested and jailed during the 1950s for two robberies he didn’t commit.

Balestrero went on trial for the charges, but it ended in a mistrial due after one of the jurors made an outburst during the proceedings. While awaiting retrial, the real culprit came forward and confessed not only to the crimes of which Balestrero was initially blamed, but also 38 other robberies.

Balestrero’s story inspired a biography and an Alfred Hitchcock film, The Wrong Man. Scenes from the 1956 classic starring Henry Fonda and Vera Miles were shot in the area.

City Council Member Daniel Dromm sponsored the renaming.

Finally, the intersection of 63rd Drive and 108th Street in Forest Hills will be renamed Sergei Dovlatov Way, honoring a Russian journalist and author who emigrated to the U.S. in 1979 to escape Soviet Union authorities who harassed him for his attempts to publish stories.

After arriving in the U.S., Dovlatov managed to have several of his works published, including “The Invisible Book,” “The Compromise” and “The Suitcase.” A number of his short stories were also featured in The New Yorker magazine.

Dovlatov worked for a time as an editor for The New American magazine and was a script writer for Radio Liberty, which broadcasts information to nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia where free and open communications are banned.

Dovlatov’s work became popular in his native land during the glasnost period of the 1980s, when the Soviet government eased censorship. However, he would not live long enough to see the Soviet Union collapse in 1991; he died of heart failure in August 1990 at the age of 48.

City Council Member Karen Koslowitz sponsored the street renaming.