PARK SLOPE — The handmade memorial that was a heartbreaking reminder of 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein's death has been removed and will be replaced by a plaque on a nearby bench, his mother told DNAinfo New York.
Amy Cohen said her family took down the collection of faded drawings, handwritten messages and stuffed animals that had been tied to a metal traffic barrier for the past 18 months at the request of park officials.
"For us the pain never goes away. It still seems like it happened yesterday," Cohen said. "It was very painful to take down, but I guess we realized it was time."
The memorial was created by neighbors and friends of Sammy shortly after he was hit by a car and killed on Oct. 8, 2013 on Prospect Park West and Third Street.
Cohen said her family was "very touched" to see the spontaneous tribute appear and they still feel "incredibly grateful for everyone's support." Cohen saved all of the items from the memorial, which grew and changed over time to mark occasions such as Sammy's birthday.
Passers-by often paused at the spot to look at photos of a beaming Sammy, a soccer player and M.S. 51 student who was month shy of his bar mitzvah when he was killed.
After several requests from park officials, the family took the memorial down on Wednesday evening and moved a few items to a tree that was planted in Sammy's honor, Cohen said.
A spokeswoman said the Parks Department and Prospect Park Alliance "worked closely with the family to determine a more permanent way of memorializing their son. As a result, in the coming weeks there will be a plaque on a bench near the site."
The bench will be installed to the right of the park's Third Street entrance. The plaque will have a quote from Harry Potter and a snippet from The Grateful Dead's "Box of Rain," a favorite family song: "Such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.”
Though the memorial was temporary, it played a small role in making a permanent improvement to the city's street safety.
The Department of Transportation used a photo of Sammy's family in front of the memorial for a campaign reminding drivers that the speed limit was lowered to 25 mph in 2014 — a change that Cohen lobbied for along with other families who've lost loved ones to pedestrian fatalities.
Cohen and her family continue to work on the city's Vision Zero initiative and she's now focused on the city's new Right of Way law, which holds drivers accountable for failing to yield to pedestrians.
“We've now been fighting to make sure the law is not watered down and is implemented widely,” Cohen said.
"Everybody knows what it means when people say, ‘You drive like a New Yorker.' It means you're reckless, and most wear it as a badge of honor. We want it to be a badge of shame. That behavior needs to change."