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From rock stars to basketball players to citizens who gave their lives, the names of 15 community leaders will live on through street renamings or co-namings in Queens.

One Rockaway Beach street will be renamed to honor Midshipman Justin Zemser, who died in 2015 at the age of 20.

Councilman Eric Ulrich announced Thursday that the City Council has approved legislation to rename the northwest corner of Seaside Avenue and Beach Channel Drive to Midshipman Justin Zemser Way.

“Midshipman Justin Zemser embodied the very best our nation has to offer. He was a born leader, a gifted student and a tireless servant,” Ulrich said. “We can all learn from the example he set every day and from his commitment to both country and community.”

The class of 2013 valedictorian at Channel View School for Research was in his second year at the United States Naval Academy. He was one of eight killed in the 2015 Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia. He was returning home to Rockaway for the weekend.

Zemser was actively engaged in the local community. He was a member of the student government and interned for Councilman Ulrich his senior year. He was the captain of the Channel View School for Research varsity football team and volunteered at a local soup kitchen. After being accepted into the Naval Academy, he visited his former high school to given inspirational speeches to students.

“He returned often, in his midshipman’s uniform, to deliver motivational speeches to the students,” Assistant Principal of Channel View Research Joseph Featherston said. “In addition, Justin was active in the Rockaway community, especially as a volunteer with Saint Camillus Special Olympics. 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.”

Fourteen other streets will be renamed around Queens. Take a look at a list of the renamed streets below to see who will be honored:

Lieutenant Theodore Leoutsakos Way: 9/11 first responder and Medal of Valor recipient

Emma Brandt Way: Former Queens Woman of the Year and healthcare advocate

Detective Joseph A. Picciano Way: 10-year NYPD veteran who was killed in the line of duty

Easter Rising Stair Way: Co-naming will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising against Britain’s rule over Ireland

Dorothy Neary Way: Former director of the United Forties Civic Association and former mentor to the Saint Teresa’s Rosary Society and Girl Scouts

Mary Vavruska Way: Served the Queens community for more than 50 years and was and was instrumental in the construction of Louis Armstrong I.S. 227

The Ramones Way: Co-naming to honor the iconic punk rock band

Malik ‘Phife Dawg’ Taylor Way: Former member of “A Tribe Called Quest” hip-hop group

Charles ‘Chuck’ Granby Way: Renowned NYC basketball coach who had 722 victories over 45 years at the same high school. He helped mentor a number of future NBA players.

Melvin Harris Way: A union representative, community leader and a former aide to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano

Reverend Dr. James C. Kelly Sr. Way: Well-respected leader of the clergy of Jamaica

Coach Stephen Piorkowski Way: A physical education teacher at Bayside High School since 1991. He turned the Bayside High School Lady Commodores into a city dynasty for softball and a powerhouse for girls basketball.

D’Aja Naquai Robinson Way: A  14-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet while riding a Q6 bus on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. She was the unintended victim of a gang dispute. This crime served as the impetus for the launch of the city’s Gun Violence Crisis Management System (also known as “CMS”) the following year.

Anthony Mason Way: Former NBA 6th Man of the Year and New York Knicks player.

For more information about the streets around Queens being renamed, click here.


Join The Discussion

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joe July 19, 2016 / 06:19PM
THIS IS WHAT CITY COUNCIL DOES WITH A 32% RAISE – RENAME F**KING STREETS IN QUEENS – FORGET ABOUT DEALING WITH QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES Really, 15 streets in Queens will be renamed, like there are NO quality of life issues that this inept city council should be focusing on. Instead of the Jamaica crew dealing with the years and decades of decay and not having proper services in the community or cleaning up, which all contributed to the violence in the area which killed 14 year old D’Aja Naquai Robinson a few years back by a stray bullet while riding the Q6 bus, well just name a street after her, because of course that shows you care and also you do not have to do any hard work on the big issues in the community. In the meantime, the Jamaica area is a big disgusting ghetto mess, but hey, just re-name a street, that seems to be the solution. How about re-doing the elected officials, but then in this community, the folks will either put the same useless folks in office (which they do) or just put in another do-nothing a-hole. Either way it is a lose-lose situation for the community and a big F**K YOU. And I love this one: Reverend Dr. James C. Kelly Sr. Way: Well-respected leader of the clergy of Jamaica I mean is there such thing as a “well-respected leader of clergy in Jamaica”. Well in the minds of the Jamaica zombies, I guess so. By the way Courier, you think you could have stated what streets these new names will be replacing. So frustrating with the lame elected officials and their bulls**t.
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Charlie Perry July 20, 2016 / 09:46AM
Hey Joe, I can understand your frustration. In regards to the street locations that are being renamed, the city hasn't decided as of yet on exactly which ones are going to be renamed. We will update that when it becomes available. If you have any tips on stories for us to cover please feel free to shoot us an email at We welcome any suggestions and will work hard to report on those issues. Best wishes to you and yours, -Charlie. (Beat Writer for Jamaica Queens)

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