Push underway to co-name Bay Ridge corner in memory of fallen 68th Precinct officer David Guttenberg

With the goal of memorializing a hero, one local panel is now considering a request to rename a busy Bay Ridge street corner in memory of the 68th Precinct officer who died protecting it.

Chair of Community Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee Jayne Capetanakis informed board members at the panel’s March general meeting that an application has been submitted asking that the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 86th Street be co-named “Patrolman David Guttenberg Way.”

“After high school graduation, service in the Army and time as a U.S. postal officer, in 1961, David Guttenberg was called to enter the Police Academy,” Capetanakis told the board, recalling a “heartfelt and moving tribute” presented to the committee earlier in the month by Auxiliary Officer Christian Durante. “Eventually that tour of duty brought him to our own 68th Precinct.”

His “end of watch,” Capetanakis said, came on December 28, 1978, when, “with the intention of avoiding giving a ticket to a double-parked car during the holidays, he entered an auto parts store and walked into a robbery in progress.”

As soon as he entered what was then the Dyker Auto Supply Shop, near the corner of Seventh Avenue and 86th Street, Guttenberg was shot three times in the chest and heart.

He died just a couple of blocks away from the crime scene, at the old Victory Memorial Hospital, in the arms of his wife, Barbara. The shooter and his look-out were both convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, with the gunman eventually dying in confinement and his partner being paroled in July of 2014.

Guttenberg was just 49 years old – 18 of those spent serving the New York City Police Department – and left behind four children. According to Durante, the family man was just about one year from retirement.

The decision to advocate for a memorial, Durante said, was an easy one.

“Every December, I put a bouquet of flowers in front of the current memorial [a plaque located within the 68th Precinct building], and this year, I thought it would be a good time to reach out the family and try to pay tribute to David on a larger scale,” said Durante, who, with the fallen officer’s family’s approval, went ahead and submitted the application the board.

Durante, 27, who was born long after Guttenberg’s death, told this paper that, seeing the memorial “day in and day out,” he has lived each day inspired by the officer’s legacy.

“I just felt an instant connection to him,” said the auxiliary officer, stressing that, in researching the incident, he was able to uncover “the officer outside the uniform,” and really understand Guttenberg as a man of love and, similar to the neighborhood he died serving, “that sense of community that brings people together.”

Guttenberg is the only officer from the 68th Precinct – first established in 1973 – to have died in the line of duty. He is the third officer to have died patrolling Bay Ridge, as two prior were killed serving the neighborhood’s former 64th Precinct. Guttenberg died just three years after becoming a member of the 68 in 1975.

“He always put in more work around Christmastime, because he was Jewish, and he wanted his fellow officers to enjoy spending time with their families,” Durante told this paper. “That day, he saw a double-parked car, and he didn’t think of it as a ticket. He saw it as an opportunity to do some good, so he went door-to-door asking for the owner, in hopes that he could get him to move. That was when he walked into the auto shop. He died because of his good heart.”

Durante also recalled a community in mourning following Guttenberg’s death.

“You could see that, when this happened, it affected the entire community,” he said, noting also that now-passed neighborhood bigwig Larry Morrish was at the scene that fateful day, and was a part of the “superhuman effort” to save Guttenberg’s life. “The 86th Street Merchants Association, as it was called at that time, raised money for his family. Everybody wanted to help.”

Photo courtesy of Christian Durante
Photo courtesy of Christian Durante

After the initial traffic and transportation committee meeting, Durante and the Guttenberg family (whom he was finally able to meet in person that evening), paid a visit to the 68th Precinct, where Captain Joseph Hayward joined all in observing the memorial, as well as the fallen officer’s old locker.

“Through the detailed documentation in their application and the tributes by [Guttenberg’s] family and police family, members in attendance [at the committee meeting] heard about a life of service, of honor and ultimately, of sacrifice,” Capetanakis told a crowded room at the Norwegian Christian Home, at which time she also noted board member Larry Stelter’s recommendation to include the fallen officer’s shield number on any naming that may come to fruition.

As per CB 10’s procedural rules, the committee will vote on the application next month, and the item will be brought to the full board for a final vote at its April meeting, to be held on Monday, April 24 at the Knights of Columbus (1305 86th Street) at 7:15 p.m.

2018 will mark the 40th anniversary of the officer’s death.

“He died for the people of Bay Ridge,” said Durante. “This would be a wonderful tribute to the life that he led, and to what this neighborhood stands for. A true community effort.”

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