Community petitions to name Sunnyside’s Phipps Playground after FDNY hero

An effort is underway to rename a Sunnyside playground after a fallen firefighter native to the community.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Mark Hallum

As the former Phipps Playground — located at 39th Avenue and 50th Street in Sunnyside — undergoes the transition to being a city-owned greenspace, a petition has been making the rounds to rename it after a fallen firefighter from the community who played there as a child.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) began promoting the petition — started by Friends Of Michael Davidson Park — in honor of the FDNY firefighter who was killed in March while attempting to extinguish a blaze that had broken out in a basement converted into a film studio in Harlem.

The petition had reach 2,600 signatures of its goal of 3,000 as of press time.

“FDNY Lt. Michael Davidson was born and raised in this community and lost his life serving our city. Restoring the former Phipps Playground, where Davidson played as a boy, and renaming it in his honor would be a fitting tribute to his beloved family and his legacy of bravery,” Van Bramer said. “This is a perfect opportunity to memorialize a local hero and to create something beautiful out of tragedy.”

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan was filled with mourners in March as FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro and Mayor Bill de Blasio extolled Davidson’s natural leadership abilities and talents as a firefighter with Engine Co. 69.

“Many nights, Mike led his company into a fire toward the danger, using his remarkable abilities and talents to extinguish the fire. On one occasion, in particular, very early in his career, with only two years on the job, he showed the incredible tenacity he possessed battling a growing third-alarm fire on multiple floors. Mike pushed forward, crawling and inching room by room to knock down the fire on the third floor,” Nigro said at the memorial service for the Floral Park resident. “It was clear from the very beginning of his career that he was special. He showed it that night. He showed it every day of his 15 years of brave service.

Davidson, 37, was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He had passed the exam to qualify for the promotion in 2015 and was still awaiting an open position when he instead became the 1,150th FDNY member to have died on the job.

Davidson served as “nozzle man” and was first into the building that was ablaze in Harlem. The medical examiner determined he died of smoke inhalation. He left behind his wife Eileen and four children.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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