Bellerose park restored in time for spring

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The playground attached to PS 18 at Hillside...

By Adam Kramer

On an unseasonably warm spring afternoon, family, friends and fellow police officers cut the ribbon Tuesday and officially opened the reconstructed Detective William T. Gunn Jr. playground in Bellerose.

The playground attached to PS 18 at Hillside Avenue and 235th Court was named in honor of Gunn two years after he was shot in 1989 in the line of duty. He later died in 1992.

“This is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me in many years,” said Marie Gunn, the detective’s mother who lives in Bellerose and works as a crossing guard at PS 18. “It brings back my Billy. I know he is up there laughing.”

On Jan. 20, 1989 Gunn was shot by a fugitive after coming to the aid of a fellow officer. The Bellerose native fell into a coma and died almost four years later on Nov. 27, 1992.

Gunn joined the force in 1982 and during his seven years as an NYPD officer, largely spent in the borough, he received nine commendations for his service, including an award for meritorious police duty. Gunn was working at the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn when he was shot.

Marie Gunn thanked the more then 60 police officers who attended the event and told them to be careful out on the street. She said Gunn and his two brothers attended PS 18 in Bellerose and always played in the park when they were children.

“He loved the swing,” Gunn said. “He would be ecstatic if he could see this park. When I see the children playing here, I see my kids all over again.”

In addition to the NYPD officers, more then 80 people, including about 15 crossing guards and 30 children from the Cross Island YMCA, checked out the new park and honored Gunn. The park, which was reconstructed thanks to $650,000 secured by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former City Councilman Sheldon Leffler, sits on 2.7 acres and has swings, jungle gyms, handball courts, basketball courts and a fitness area.

“We will depend on police officers to keep this park clean and safe,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “For the children, may the playground bring smiles to their faces and for the family, when they pass by, remember their son.”

They did a great job, said William Gunn Sr., who also works in the area as a crossing guard, adding that he would have loved the park. All three of his sons, he said, loved to play in this park.

“It brings back memories of playing football and growing up with my brother,” said Thomas Gunn. “Even though he was 8 years older, he would take me places.”

He said his brother paid for his football equipment and never missed one of his games. “We all went to school here,” Gunn said, “and that makes it much better.”

Jennifer Gunn, 14, William Gunn’s daughter, said she was 2 years old when her father was shot and does not have many memories of him. But, she said, she has seen him in home videos and remembers him in the hospital.

She was 6 years old when he died. The event and naming the park after her father, she said, “definitely” brings him closer. She thought it was great that he was being memorialized for all his accomplishments after so many years.

“It is really important for them,” she said pointing to her grandparents, “to know that he is still being remembered after all these years.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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