BUSHWICK — Friends of the cyclist who was killed riding in the bike lane this week remembered her as a deeply religious artist with a creative spirit and a contagious laugh.
“She was like a spiritual warrior," said Dimitri Brown, 28, who met Sylvain three years ago at Hillsong Church where they both attended.
Brown said whenever he needed some guidance, Sylvain was there for him. He broke up with his girlfriend a few weeks back and Sylvain had consoled him with scriptures and other insight.
"She was telling me... how [I have to] to keep my head up and keep fighting," he said.
Sylvain moved to the city after graduating from University of Connecticut in 2013 where she studied puppetry and fine arts, according to her online obituary.
She helped design the set for a live television performance of Peter Pan, worked in the costume department at Metropolitan Opera House and refurbished Rockette costumes at Radio City Music Hall.
"She was very focused, great attention to detail, very natural sense of color [and a] great eye for blending," said a former co-worker Bartley Stevens, a project manager at Tom Carrol Scenery, where Sylvain worked as a freelance scenic painter for about a year and a half before she got a full-time position at Scenicorp.
While art was her passion and livelihood, Sylvain always managed to fuse her deeply-held religious beliefs with her artwork.
She'd be the first to volunteer her puppet making skills for a kid-friendly production like Noah's Ark and she spent months meticulously painting a mural for a church that she also helped start in her hometown of Newtingon, said Denis Peloquin, 61, one of the pastors there.
"It's beautiful, it will always be something we can remember her by," Peloquin, of Mill Pond Church, who said the mural depicts a tree, birds and different scriptures.
Religion continued to play an important role in her life, and she soon became a member of Hillsong Church in Manhattan, where she quickly made friends with other members, they said.
"Her laugh was very intoxicating, infectious," said Brown. Brown had been with Sylvain the day she went to buy her bike off Craigslist last summer, he said. The same bike she died on.
“The last time I saw her I was pretty broken,” Brown said, who several weeks before her death had asked Sylvain to come to Starbucks on Bedford Avenue where he worked. He'd just broken up with his girlfriend and needed some advice.
Sylvain waited two hours for him to get off his shift so they could talk.
They talked for hours and lost track of time. Brown ended up being late meeting up with another friend, he said. Finally they decided to call it a day.
“I walked her outside to her bike, gave her a big hug, I said we got to meet up more often, she agreed. We were pretty lazy about it, so occupied with work…I just kind of forgot."
“Then my friend called me the other day [and now] she’s gone,” he said.
About 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, Sylvain was cycling north Evergreen when tanker truck driver Joseph Cherry, 52, turned left onto Hart Street and rammed into her, police said. Sylvain suffered severe head trauma in collision and was pronounced dead at Woodhull Hospital shortly after.
Police arrested Cherry at the scene and charged with failure to yield, police said. He was given a desk appearance ticket and released, according to city regulations, police and the district attorney's office.
Co-workers from Scenicorp, where she'd worked for just over a year, planned to install a ghost bike, according to a post on Facebook, though the company declined to comment further on Sylvain's death.
Soon after Sylvain's death, friends took to social media in droves to remember her.
Rest in peace. May your soul fly in the Heavens - be at one with God. I love you more than words can ever describe. You were my best friend, counselor, confidant - everything. You gone from this world is like a big missing important essential part of this planet. You kind beyond and beautiful beyond beautiful. I miss us hanging out and the deep wonderful conversations we had from talking about life, careers, relationships, silly stuff and most important about God. You will.never be forgotten and you had such a huge impact on many. I'll miss you incredibly more than any words can be assembled and combined. You cared for me and always carried a huge heart. Spoke life into me when I was feeling sad and depressed and can at the same time point out something ridiculous and humorous so we can share a laugh and moment together. You were my best friend and I'm going to miss you. I will honor in any way I can. Show your love. Love you and miss you Leah. My best friend, my friend, my confidant, my sisterinchrist.. my everything - Dimitri-Alexander #GoneTooSoon #ChillingWithOurHeavenlyFather #KnowYourInaBetterPlace #LeahSylvain #BeatifulBeyondBeautiful #GreatFriend #EvenBetterPerson #AlwaysOnlyJesus #AlwaysOnlyHim #God #Jesus #Love #LifeIsTemporary #EternityIsWhatReallyMatters #HereTodayGoneTomorrow #PreparingOurselvesForHeaven #ToMeetTheMaker #GodIsLove #OnlyLove
Sylvain's family members declined to comment for this story.
A memorial service is being held June 14, 2016, at 12:00 PM at Duksa Family Funeral Homes at Newington Memorial, 20 Bonair Ave, Newington, Connecticut, according to her obituary.