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Friends & Family Honor the Life of Harvey Trachtenberg

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A standing-room-only crowd of cops, community activists and politicians gathered together Friday to remember Harvey Trachtenberg, a neighborhood shutterbug who snapped photos and touched lives with equal amounts of precision and charisma. Trachtenberg died following a fire at his Ocean Parkway apartment on April 10. Stunned by the impressive turnout at the Kehila Chapel on Brighton 11th Street for her father, Lisa Trachtenberg looked up to the heavens and commented, “You were right, you do have a lot of friends.” “He’s smiling down right now on us… saying ‘See…I told you,’” Lisa told the gathering as she and her sister Melinda Jean brought a close to the service, officiated by Rabbi Eli Greenblatt, a longtime friend of Trachtenberg’s. In between the Shiva calls that followed, Trachtenberg’s daughters would go to Jacobi Hospital to visit their mother Rochelle, who was seriously injured in the fire. As of Friday, Rochelle had not been told that her husband had died, friends said. Fire officials said the cause of the Sunday night fire was electrical in nature. Sources said that the fire might have started from an extension cord in Trachtenberg’s bedroom. There is evidence that Trachtenberg, who was battling colon cancer and Parkinson’s disease and had to walk with a cane, tried to put out the fire, to no avail. Firefighters found Trachtenberg and his wife unconscious inside the doorway of their apartment. Trachtenberg, suffering from some burns and smoke inhalation, was brought across the street to Coney Island Hospital, where he remained in extremely critical condition on Monday, breathing with the help of a respirator. He died of his injuries Tuesday morning, officials said. Rochelle was taken to Jacobi Hospital for treatment for burns. She was listed as critical, but her condition soon improved, officials said. A handful of firefighters were also injured as they battled the blaze, officials said. Friends and community activists said that despite his ailments, Trachtenberg, who once owned a camera store on Avenue Z in Sheepshead Bay and worked as a photographer for the Bay News at one time, never stopped taking pictures at neighborhood meetings such as the 60th Precinct Community Council and Community Board 13. Over the last few years, he was snapping photographs for Our News, a community newspaper owned by Community Board 15 member Joel Garson. Assistant Chief Joseph Fox, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, said that Trachtenberg would never miss a community council meeting or police event. “He was always there to support us and take pictures,” said Fox. “People thought that he was an official NYPD photographer.” Other dignitaries attending the service were Deputy Inspector Robert Johnsen, the commanding officer of the 60th Precinct, who said, that Harvey was the “first person to greet me at the precinct,” State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblymembers Bill Colton and Clarence Norman, president of the Kings County Democratic Party. “We know he’s in heaven now, taking pictures of angels,” Greenblatt said. Garson said his newspaper was accepting contributions to assist the family with expenses. Donations may be sent to Our News, 2728 Gerritsen Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11229.

Updated 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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Reader feedback

melindajean trachtenberg from currently Suffolk county says:
I just found this,I hope nobody gave any money,because when I was at the red cross,who were helpful and supportive,the news papers called asking for money,they wanted the red cross to pay them for their expenses,I was at the desk when they called so I know this is true,the newspaper never ever contacted me to discuss or see how I was after,also the rabbi was not a long time friend of the family,when a man of god lies,and he did constantly,he is no friend
Melindajean Trachtenberg
April 4, 2015, 1:17 pm

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