WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Friends and colleagues of a police officer killed in the 9/11 attacks and a firefighter who died of health issues related his work at Ground Zero want the community to honor them with a pair of street renamings.
Bruce Reynolds, an Inwood resident and Port Authority police officer who worked at the George Washington Bridge, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, while trying to help people escape from the World Trade Center's South Tower.
Firefighter John P. Sullivan, who worked at Engine 84/Ladder 34 in Washington Heights for 27 years, died in 2010 just two months after retiring at the age of 52. He had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer related to the months he spent working at Ground Zero after the attacks.
On Monday, both men's friends and coworkers appeared at Community Board 12's Transportation Committee meeting to advocate for the street co-namings.
Reynolds’ family and friends would like to see a portion of Park Terrace East near West 215th Street co-named in Reynolds’ honor. The street leads to a community garden that is already named for the fallen officer.
Reynolds, who grew up in Inwood from the age of 5, was an avid gardener and naturalist, according to colleagues and biograhpical information submitted to the board. As a teen, he spent hours volunteering in local parks through a nonprofit organization created by his parents. Before joining the Port Authority Police Department, Reynolds also worked as an Urban Park Ranger in New York City.
“If we were driving down the highway in his truck and he saw somebody pulled over with their hazards on, he would always pull over to help no matter what,” said Reynolds' childhood friend, Edward Mercado. “That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Reynolds evinced the same spirit on 9/11, when his supervisors advised him not to enter the World Trade Center because of a pre-existing respiratory condition, according to colleagues and his bio information. Reynolds went in anyway to help evacuate people from the South Tower and was killed when the building collapsed.
“You know, from riding his bike up and down it to driving it as a teen to working in the parks nearby as a ranger, everyone around here knew him,” Mercado said. “It’s his legacy.”
Dozens of firefighters from Ladder 34 were also on hand at the meeting to ask that a public square at 161st Street and Amsterdam Avenue be named in honor of Sullivan. The small plaza is located only a few hundred feet from the firehouse where Sullivan served for almost three decades.
Matt Delaney, a firefighter who also worked at Ladder 34, described Sullivan as a natural leader.
“He always knew the right thing to do and say,” Delaney said. “Even years after he’s died, when we have a difficult situation, we say, ‘What would Sully do?’”
Sullivan came to the Washington Heights firehouse in 1983 after watching his father work there during his childhood, according to colleagues and his bio. In addition to his skills as a firefighter, his friends said his kindness was what set him apart. He would often rally his fellow firemen to help out at a community garden or organize a holiday meal for elderly residents.
Delaney said Sullivan would likely be embarrassed by the recent attention.
“He would hate that we were doing this for him,” he laughed. “He was never looking for recognition, the medal on his chest or even a pat on the back.”
But the co-naming would mean a lot to those Sullivan left behind.
“He was such a part of this neighborhood,” Delaney said. “We would all be thrilled if we could come in everyday and pass the John Sullivan Square on the way to calls.”
The committee voted in favor of both proposals, which will go before the full board at the end of April.