By Naeisha Rose
The 103rd Precinct came out in full force Monday for the official renaming of 91st Avenue to Police Officer Eddie Byrne Avenue, on the 30th anniversary of the young patrolman’s murder.
In attendance was Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and the Byrne family, including older brother Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Larry Byrne.
The dedication ceremony was outside the precinct, located at 168-02 91st Ave. in Jamaica, and kicked off with the marching of the police color guard and the “Star-Spangled Banner” sung by Officer Makiah Brown.
Later the guests remarked on the officer’s bravery before the unveiled the blue sign, which had his name on it along with the NYPD police shield logo.
Days after his 22nd birthday, Byrne was assassinated at the intersection of 107th Avenue and Inwood Street in South Jamaica while in his patrol car trying to protect a Guyanese-American who had reported criminal activity in his neighborhood.
“In 1988, the 103rd was one of the busiest precincts in the city,” said Byrne’s older brother. “The residents and business owners here were terrorized by violence and gangs who tried to control whole parts of the neighborhood.”
Despite how crime-ridden the area surrounding the 103rd Precinct was, Byrne chose to work in that department after finishing his time in the police academy in 1987.
Byrne was shot five times after notorious drug kingpin Howard “Pappy” Mason ordered a hit on a police officer as a way to send a message to the NYPD.
“He did not die in vain,” O’Neill said. “That was the beginning. That was a wake up call for the whole city.”
Mason’s actions instead resulted in the nation rallying against the crime wave of the 1970s and ‘80s and the formation of the Tactical Narcotics Task Force a month later.
He is also serving life in prison at a maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.
“I want everyone to remember that in that painful time, and it was such a difficult (time) in the city’s history, Eddie was there to protect someone who was doing what we would want them to do, who came forward to testify against a criminal gang,” de Blasio said.
As of 2017, crime in Queens and throughout the city has been at the lowest point since the 1950s, the mayor told a press conference in November.
“Because of the tens of thousands that came after him, this is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city,” said Larry Byrne. “This is a great community of hardworking people who support Eddie and their police officers.”
James remembered Byrne’s death because her mother lived two blocks from the killing on Inwood Street and was one of the many community members who went to the site of the assassination and prayed for his family.
“Now that she and Eddie have transitioned,” James said, “they are praying that each and every officer returns home safely.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose