Sunnyside residents’ petition to rename playground for fallen firefighter gains thousands of signatures

Photo via Google Maps, inset via FDNY

Just days after its inception, a local petition to name a formerly private playground after a Sunnyside firefighter has gained over 2,200 signatures.

Residents, with the support of local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer have put forth a proposal to name the former Phipps Playground and nursery (50-02 39th Ave.) after local FDNY Lieutenant Michael Davidson, who died while putting out a five-alarm fire back in March.

The Friends of Michael Davidson Park petition was spearheaded by Sunnyside resident Eileen Connolly and written up by another resident Jamie McShane. The petition when live on Aug. 23 and had an initial goal of 1,000 signatures, which Connolly said was reached in 22 hours.

The petition will be submitted to Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver and Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski for their consideration.

Connolly told QNS that she lived next door to Davidson and his family when she was a resident of the Phipps Houses in the 1980s. She said that before Phipps was in talks to become public parkland in March, it was privately owned property where her two children and Davidson would often play. The firefighter died a few days after the city bought the property for $3 million.

“The coincidence was so overwhelming,” Connolly said.

In March, Connolly spoke with Councilman Van Bramer about naming the parkland — which the Parks Department anticipates to acquire by the end of the year — after Davidson, and started persuading friends and residents in the area to name the playground in “honor of our local hero.”

She added that the idea to name the playground after Davidson was inspired by other public spaces named after fallen heroes such as the Lawrence Virgilio Playground in Woodside. Virgilio was a local resident and firefighter who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

“I can’t imagine anyone more deserving,” she said of Davidson.

Over the weekend, a team of 15 to 20 volunteers — including members from the Friends of Michael Davidson Park, Davidson’s three young children, Engine 69 Firefighters who worked with him and Councilman Van Bramer — banded together for a cleanup effort of the playground.

Photo courtesy of Friends of Michael Davidson Park
Photo courtesy of Friends of Michael Davidson Park

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