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Sunnyside to honor Newtown victim

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Although he only spent a small part of his much-too-short life in Queens, Benjamin Wheeler will soon become a permanent part of Sunnyside after a street is co-named to honor the 6-year-old Newtown, Conn. shooting victim.

The ceremony, which takes place this Saturday at noon, will rename the south side of 41st Street and Queens Boulevard as Benjamin Wheeler Place.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) sponsored the name change.

“By working with the Wheeler family and with Congressman Joe Crowley we were able to come up with a wonderful way to forever remember Benjamin,” said Jason Banrey, Van Bramer’s deputy chief of staff.

Benjamin’s father, David Wheeler, believes the location at the end of the street where he and his family lived is the perfect choice.

“This is where Ben got his first look at the world and where the world got its first look at him,” David Wheeler said in a statement.

The Wheelers, David, his wife Francine, his older son Nate, and Benjamin left Sunnyside in 2007 and resettled in Newtown. Before leaving Queens, the Wheelers were active members of the community volunteering at Sunnyside Gardens Park. Francine had also started the Sunnyside Moms Yahoo group.

Benjamin and 19 other first-graders were murdered in a mass shooting by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. Six adult staff members of the school were also killed.

In late December, more than 200 residents gathered at Sunnyside Reformed Church on Skillman Avenue for a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of the massacre.

Updated 1:20 am, September 6, 2013
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