A busy Bay Ridge street corner is one step closer to being renamed in memory of the 68th Precinct officer who died protecting it.
Community Board 10 voted unanimously at its Monday, April 24 full board meeting, held at the Dyker Heights Knights of Columbus, to support a street renaming application 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,” Chair of Community Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee Jayne Capetanakis told board members when the renaming was first brought to the board in March, recalling a “heartfelt and moving tribute” presented to the committee earlier in the month by Auxiliary Police Officer Christian Durante, who submitted the application with support from the fallen officer’s family. “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.
“Through the detailed documentation in the application, we learned about a life of service, of honor and ultimately of sacrifice,” said Capetanakis.
That touching tribute – coupled with his decorated dedication to the community – also landed Durante, 27, the honor of the pledge that evening.
“He was the motivating force behind [this street naming],” CB 10 Chair Doris Cruz told board members, “and when he spoke at the March meeting, he spoke so caringly and so poignantly that we were all so moved.”
Durante, 27, who was born long after Guttenberg’s death, told this paper that, since first seeing the memorial for Guttenberg that hangs inside the 68th Precinct, he has lived each day inspired by the officer’s legacy.
“I just felt an instant connection to him,” he told this paper, 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.
Durante called the board’s approval an honor, as well as proof that both Bay Ridge and the NYPD never forget their own.
“I’m very elated,” he said. “I’m very happy that it passed because, finally, he’s going to be honored by the same community that he died protecting.
“It’s just a beautiful thing because now his children and his grandchildren have a place to go to remember David, and also passersby that don’t know him,” he went on. “That, in turn, will further cement his legacy and it’s a very wonderful, wonderful feeling.”
Board members shared that sense of thanks.
“When we have a street signing, it’s easy to say, ‘This is named after a police officer who passed away,’ but, for me, it was a privilege to read [those letters] and I appreciate the fact that somebody kept that memory alive and going,” remarked board member Carmen Feliciano. “It’s not just a street naming. To me, I was introduced to a person that, I think, if he was around today, I’d be honored to know.”
Members of Guttenberg’s family – all of them now residing in New Jersey – were also on hand to see the board officially grant its support.
“We would just like to take the time to thank Christian and the community board and the 68th Precinct for keeping my grandfather’s legacy alive,” said Guttenberg’s grandson David, “and bestowing the honor of having that street named after him.”
“We often hear of heroes; we see them; we read about them; we honor them and we live among them. Patrolman Guttenberg was and still is a hero,” said Durante. “Time may pass, but his memory lives on.
“It really shows that, even 38 years later, it’s not forgotten and that he is still the hero of this community,” he said.
From here, the renaming must be approved by the City Council at which point it would then be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio.