Far Rockaway street renamed for midshipman who died in Amtrak crash

Far Rockaway street renamed for midshipman who died in Amtrak crash
Seaside Avenue and Beach Channel Drive was re-named to honor Justin Zemser, who died in the May 2015 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.
By Gina Martinez

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) announced the renaming of the corner of Seaside Avenue and Beach Channel Drive in Far Rockaway as “Midshipman Justin Zemser Way” for the late Queens resident who died in the 2015 Amtrak crash while on his way to visit family in the Rockaways. The City Council passed legislation to approve several renamings in the five boroughs.

The train was en route from Washington, D.C to Penn Station and crashed in Port Richmond, Pa., near the Philadelphia train station. The derailment killed eight passengers and injured 200. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board determined it was caused by the engineer, who became distracted and lost control of the train. He lived in Forest Hills.

Zemser, 20, was remembered as a bright young man with a great future ahead of him. He graduated from Channel View School for Research as valedictorian in 2013 and was in his second year at the U.S. Naval Academy at the time of his death. During high school he kept busy by serving in student government, volunteering and was captain of his schools varsity football team, according to Ulrich.

Ulrich has a special motivation for honoring Zemser, who was one of his interns.

“Midshipman Justin Zemser embodied the very best our nation has to offer,” Ulrich said “He was a born leader, a gifted student and a tireless servant. We can all learn from the example he set every day and from his commitment to both country and community. I’m thankful to my colleagues in the City Council for passing this legislation, and I’m looking forward to putting up the new street sign, so we can continue to honor Midshipman Justin Zemser’s life.”

Howard Zemser, Justin’s father, praised Ulrich and his team for their efforts.

“We thank Council member Ulrich and his staff for getting this done and fighting to honor Justin,” he said “We’re looking forward to putting up the new sign and inviting the community to join us.”

Zemser was an active member of the Rockaway community. He would often visit and give motivational speeches to high schoolers while in his midshipman’s uniform. Joseph Featherston, assistant principal of Channel View School for Research, believes the street renaming is the perfect way to honor Zemser.

“The signpost bearing his name will be a constant reminder to Channel View’s students that they should live their lives following the ‘Zemser Way’ — patriotism, service, academic success, honesty, friendship, and leadership,” he said “

U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs Officer CommanderJohn Schofield also believes the street renaming is a great way to honor the serviceman.

“Justin Zemser was and will always be a member of the Naval Academy family,” he said “Any effort to keep his memory alive is certainly an appropriate way to remember who he was and the excellence he embodied as a U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman.”

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