Coney Island landmark lights blue for autism awareness

For the fourth year in a row, the Coney Island Parachute Jump was lit blue in honor of Autism Awareness Month.

The lighting was hosted by Councilmember Mark Treyger in conjunction with the Coney Island Autism Angels on Sunday, April 2 as part of Light it Up Blue — a nationally observed campaign started by Autism Speaks in 2010.

“It was an important and beautiful event because this is a prevalent issue, not just in our neighborhood, but really globally,” said Treyger, citing recent numbers that claim, today, one in approximately 69 children is diagnosed with autism. “And those numbers are only growing.”

The lighting, he said, is about showing solidarity.

“I think that, from a community standpoint, we have to do everything that we can to build that network of support for those families affected, and let them know that they’re not alone,” he said.

Treyger also credited Veronica Droz, a local parent of a daughter with autism and co-founder of the Coney Island Autism Angels, for all of her hard work, not just in this month’s lighting, but in raising awareness altogether for autism.

“She has become an advocate not just for her family, but for all children with autism,” Treyger said, noting also that this year’s lighting could not have been the success that it was without the help of Luna Park, the local police and Community Board 13. “We appreciate both the incredible partnerships and the incredible turnout.”

The event, which took place at West 19th Street on the Riegelmann Boardwalk at 7 p.m., also paid tribute to four 60th Precinct police officers who, just last year, rescued a young autistic boy who had gone missing and wandered into the waters off of Coney Island Beach.

The boy, 14, had run off from a weekend program at a nearby Gravesend school.

“The boy was non-verbal, so he really wasn’t asking for help,” stressed Treyger. “He ended up in the water in Coney Island and these officers went into the ocean and saved this child’s life.”

The officers, Treyger said, contended that it was just another day on the job.

“They were saying, ‘It’s all in a day’s work,’ but we wanted them to know that what they did was no ordinary task, it was extraordinary,” Treyger told this paper. “We appreciate their bravery in saving this child’s life.”

Presented with plaques at the lighting were Police Officers John Dean, Brian Muldowney and Johnathan McKiski. Sergeant Christopher Vincenti, who could not attend the event, was also recognized for his work in saving the child.

“The message [of this lighting] was that we’re in this together, and we have to support these families that are going through some challenging times,” Treyger said. “We also have to send a message that, even though sometimes society likes to define people by what they can’t do, these individuals who may be different but have extraordinary talents and abilities, I believe that we should be defining them by what they can do.”

This was the second time this year that the local landmark beamed blue. The Jump was also illuminated the shade earlier this year to mark the passing of beloved NYPD Detective Steven McDonald.

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