Hundreds of firefighters, elected officials, neighbors, friends and family gathered at Beach 129th Street and Newport Avenue in the Belle Harbor section of the Rockaways on Wednesday, Aug. 23, for a street co-naming ceremony to honor the life and legacy of the late FDNY Firefighter Timothy Klein.
Klein, a 31-year-old who called Rockaway home, lost his life on April 24, 2022 in a three-alarm fire in Brooklyn. A six-year FDNY veteran for Engine 257/Ladder 170/Battalion 58, Klein dreamed of becoming a firefighter at a young age, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncles and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
“Today, we’re here to honor a hero not for how he left this world but for how he lived every day,” South Queens Councilwoman Joann Ariola said in opening remarks. “Timothy Klein was more than just a firefighter.”
Born in 1990, Klein grew up on Beach 137th Street and graduated from St. Francis De Sales School on Beach 129th Street before heading to Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood for his high school years. After graduating in 2008, Klein pursued a sports management degree at York College of Pennsylvania.
When not responding to fires, Klein spent time working with the Fight For Firefighters Foundation to help build wheelchair ramps for retired FDNY firefighters and veterans. In Rockaway, Klein remained a friendly face as a frequent patron of the neighborhood’s many local businesses and an active participant in the annual St. Francis Summer Classic Men’s Open Division basketball tournament, which was renamed after him last summer.
Since his passing, Klein’s memory has also lived on through the Timothy P. Klein Memorial Foundation, which hosts an annual volleyball tournament and country fest in his name.
During the ceremony, New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh honored Klein by praising both his family and the firefighters who served alongside him.
“From knowing all of you, it is no surprise that Tim was who he was,” Kavanagh said. “He was the type of person that, in every part of his life, did everything he could to make other people’s lives better. He sacrificed everything for the city he loved.”
U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell echoed this sentiment, pointing to Klein’s willingness to serve those around him both as a firefighter and a neighbor. Acknowledging the tragedy of Klein’s passing, Moore-Merrell added that his life is an inspiration to everyone to serve others as he did.
“As I look around here today, I see the faces of servants,” Moore-Merrell said. “And they all want to respond in a way, just like Timothy Klein, to fix whatever the emergency is. They want to help and not every time can they fix it but…what they can do every time is bring hope.”
FDNY Chief of Department John J. Hodgens agreed with Moore-Merrell, praising the Rockaway community’s constant support and expressing how Klein has inspired him.
“The way Tim lived his life inspires all of us to be better,” Hodgens said. “I want to be better when I hear Tim Klein’s stories…He was a very special person that we will never forget.”
While much of the event focused on Klein’s heroism and selflessness as an individual, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz distinguished Klein as a reflection of the bravery of all first responders.
“This is a man, who we always say, runs into burning buildings when other people are running out,” Katz said. “After decades of service, it still amazes me that all of you here do that. [This] is a man who gave his life to the city of New York for other people so that they could be safe.”
Rockaway native and Ladder 170 Firefighter Vincent Geary, a close friend of Klein, shared with the crowd how Klein’s absence is still felt in the firehouse and throughout the community over a year later. Geary added that the street co-naming is a great way to keep Klein’s memory alive.
“Fittingly 129th Street, which is the core of Rockaway, will forever proudly display Timmy’s name, someone we all keep at the center of our hearts,” Geary said. “We won’t just remember the heroic firefighter, but we will always remember Timmy Klein as the considerate, genuine, sincere person that he was.”
On behalf of the entire family, Erin Klein, his youngest sister, addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for their support and reflecting on what Beach 129th Street meant to her brother. Aside from his support of the block’s local businesses, Klein purchased a home on Beach 129th Street and lived there during his final years.
“This block held a special place in Tim’s heart,” Erin said. “He grew up on it and for it to now bear his name is an honor.”
After addressing the crowd, Erin ended her speech by directly addressing her brother, saying “Free and easy, Timmy. We love and miss you forever.” Her words were met with a standing ovation from the crowd that continued as the family unveiled the new street sign, which reads “Firefighter Timothy Klein Way.”
“For generations to come, people will look up and see his name, look up who he was if they don’t know him already and find out that Timothy was a brave, wonderful soul,” Ariola said. “He was devoted and he was loved.”
“These days are so hard, but they are so special,” Kavanagh added. “Tim is impossible to forget.”