Sunnyside Seeks a Park for Davidson

Queens Chronicle - October 12, 2018

by Michael Gannon, Editor

Hero firefighter, brother enjoyed the Phipps playground as toddlers.

An entire city mourned last March upon learning that Queens native Michael Davidson of the FDNY had been killed in the line of duty in Harlem.

But the effort to rename the one-time playground where he spent many hours as a small child is picking up momentum.

The city is negotiating to acquire the old Phipps playground at 39th Street and 50th Avenue across the street from the Phipps Houses.

At the monthly meeting of Community Board 2 on Thursday night, Jamie McShane and Eileen Connolly of Sunnyside were asking for the board’s support to push the measure across the finish line.

McShane said the petition to rename the future playground or park — nothing yet has been decided on that front — now has 3,350 signatures.

“My children played with Michael and his brother, Eric,” Connolly said.

Although the Davidson family moved when the boys were still young, Connolly has been in touch with the decorated firefighter’s parents, Paula and Bobby, who she said are fully on board with the effort.

Connolly wore a blue T-shirt honoring Davidson at the meeting.

So too did FDNY Firefighter Tom Newbert, who is stationed at Engine Co.69 in Harlem and worked there with Davidson.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) told the board the city is in negotiations for the property, and that he could not think of a finer tribute to Sunnyside’s fallen son.

“This is going to happen,” he said.

Phipps Houses sold the playground land to DBH Associates in 2007.

A residential development plan was proposed for the site but was denied after complaints from the community.

Davidson, 37, died after a fire broke out in a Harlem building where the movie “Motherless Brooklyn” with Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin was being filmed.

He had been with the FDNY for 15 years, and lived in Floral Park, LI with his wife and four young children, all under age 8 at the time of his death.

He was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

Davidson’s brother works at Engine Co. 88 in the Bronx.

Their father was a member of the FDNY for 26 years.

Fire marshals determined that heat from a boiler ventilation pipe ignited nearby combustible materials and caused the fire in the basement of the building on St. Nicholas Avenue.

He became separated from the group, and was unconscious by the time a search team found him.

He was transported to Harlem Hospital, where he died.

Davidson was a graduate of St. Sebastian’s Catholic Academy in Woodside and Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood.