Community Board Approves Renaming Street for Hurricane Sandy Hero

By Katie Honan on June 11, 2014 10:38am 

 Dylan's mom Mary took this photo before he paddled out to save his neighbors on Beach 130th Street during Hurricane Sandy.
Dylan's mom Mary took this photo before he paddled out to save his neighbors on Beach 130th Street during Hurricane Sandy.
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Mary Smith

BELLE HARBOR — He heard his neighbors' screams when their homes caught fire the night of Hurricane Sandy, so Dylan Smith put on a wetsuit, jumped out the window with his surfboard and paddled towards them to help.

By the end of the night he had helped save more than a dozen people.

Now those neighbors hope to honor him by renaming the corner where he first jumped into the 8-foot-deep water, Beach 130th Street and Newport Avenue, "Dylan Smith's Way."

The renaming was unanimously approved Tuesday night by Community Board 14 after moving testimony from his mom, Mary, and a family friend who made a documentary about Smith's heroics after he died Dec. 23, 2012 while surfing in Puerto Rico — some two months after the storm. 

"We're so honored, and it would be a beautiful way to keep his memory alive," his mom said at Tuesday's meeting. The street renaming now needs approval from the City Council. 

Smith was a graduate of SUNY Albany, a surfer and a city lifeguard. He worked at the Harbor Light restaurant across the street from his home, which was destroyed the night of the hurricane.

On Oct. 29, 2012, he paddled up his block and helped everyone he could  an elderly woman with a heart condition, a 12-year-old girl with a broken arm.

Mary didn't want him to go, but Dylan mentioned his dad, Timmy, a New York City firefighter who was working that night, she said.

"What would dad do?" he asked her.

"I knew right then and there, there was no stopping him," she said. She made sure he wore a wetsuit, both to keep him warm and also protect him from the fireballs that rolled down their street. 

"He was going to go no matter what I said." 

Smith made multiple trips out into the water, which was rushing down the block carrying with it debris from homes.

He teamed up with a neighbor, Michael McDonnell, and they tied together everything they could to create a safety rope to help shuttle people from one side of the street to the other.

It was so hectic that night that Mary said she didn't get to ask her son about what happened.

"I never even got a chance to ask him what went on out there, and he never said anything," she said.

"I had no idea of all the people that he saved and helped until the next few days when people started coming up to me and said, 'Your son saved my life.'"

Dylan, who was interviewed on TV and honored by People magazine as one of their heroes of the year, didn't like all the attention, his mom said.

But his heroics, and bravery, are worth remembering, according to family friend and retired police officer John Sica.

Sica interviewed many of the people saved by the Smith for a documentary, "Seven Miles to Shore," which he made as a tribute to Smith's life. 

That night, the humble hero seemed to appear out of nowhere, like magic, neighbors said.

“Out of the black, with embers pouring down, across the torrent came Dylan," said Kathy Cregg, who was saved during the storm.

"I made my documentary so Dylan would not be forgotten," Sica said.

"Naming the street that burned on the night of Sandy...will keep his heroic acts and memory alive — hopefully inspiring future generations to be a selfless neighbor like he was."

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