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Dyker street co-named for fallen police officer nearly 40 years after death

Never forget: The corner of 86th Street and Seventh Avenue in Dyker Heights was co-named to honor Patrolman David Guttenberg who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1978.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

It’s a corner of remembrance.

A Bay Ridge police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty when he interrupted a robbery in 1978 was honored on Saturday when the city officially co-named the corner of 86th Street and Seventh Avenue in Dyker Heights in his honor. The ceremony was an emotional moment, according to one of his four children who attended, adding that the renaming would ensure her father’s legacy and sacrifice are not forgotten.

“It’s an incredible feeling to know that after 39 years, people still remember his sacrifice,” said Helaine Guttenberg-Ginsberg, who was 18-years-old when her father was killed. “It was just a tremendous honor.”

Guttenberg was fatally shot three times in the chest on December 29, 1978, when he unintentionally interrupted a robbery in progress at the Dyker Auto Supply Shop on 88th Street and Seventh Avenue when he went inside to inquire about a double-parked car. He died less than an hour after he was shot, at Victory Memorial Hospital in Bay Ridge, after serving on the force for 18 years. His wife, Barbara — who passed away in 2011 — later led the charge in conjunction with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for the city to issue all officers bulletproof vests, which Guttenberg’s family believes would have saved his life.

The co-naming came nearly ten years after an auxiliary police officer at the 68th Precinct, where Guttenberg was based, became fascinated with the fallen hero when he began patrolling the same area Guttenberg did, eventually leading the effort to rename a street after him.

“In addition to passing his memorial plaque every time I left the precinct, I also patrolled the same street he did,” said Auxiliary Police Sergeant Christian Durante.

Durante said he began doing more research on Guttenberg and his case in 2011, when he made a memorial book on his own to honor Guttenberg and two other local fallen police officers so that newer and younger officers at the precinct would remember their sacrifices. Later that year, he began pushing for a street co-naming to honor Guttenberg, and finally reached out to Guttenberg-Ginsberg when he found her on Facebook last year to secure the family’s permission to move forward with the co-naming, an honor he felt was an important one.

“I felt that David gave his life for Bay Ridge,” said Durante “This was important to recognize his sacrifice.”

Retired police officers, local elected officials, and Guttenberg’s family and friends attended the Oct. 21 co-naming. Durante said the sign will help Guttenberg’s memory live on in the area that he worked to protect and ultimately gave his life for.

“Finally, his sacrifice will be remembered for all time,” Durante said. “People will see the sign and they will ask, ‘who was Patrolman Guttenberg and what did he do?’ That’s how his legacy continues, people passing by that sign and asking about him. It’s so gratifying to see that he will be remembered for all time.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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