Good Samaritans refurbish Marine Park memorial to fallen local

Before and after shots of a memorial bench defaced in Marine Park that locals repaired earlier this month.
Photo by Michael Carlin

Community members donated time and resources to refurbish a memorial bench in Marine Park honoring a young man who died there following a desperate search in 2015.

Vandals had defaced the tribute to late Marine Park resident Brian Gewirtz, scrawling “penis” and other slogans across the memorial bench, while the Parks Department failed to live up to promises to maintain the bench, leaving it up to kind-hearted locals to clean the mess, according to Gewirtz’s mother.

“We put $2,500 into his memorial bench and Parks was supposed to keep up with it, but it was the community who got together and helped clean it up,” said Kathleen Lunz-Gewirtz.

Kathleen Lunz-Gewirtz and her husband Steven Gewirtz worked with local elected officials and the city to install the bench near the park’s Salt Marsh Nature Center off Avenue U in tribute to their 20-year-old son — an Eagle Scout, who suffered autism and schizophrenia. Brian Gewirtz vanished into the park in 2015, only to be found dead in the Marine Park Golf Course following a harrowing 44-day search that February.

To honor Gewirtz, along with the park he cherished, his parents purchased the bench shortly after the discovery of his body, and Parks workers installed it that summer on the promise that the agency would maintain the memorial for the next decade.

However, Lunz-Gewirtz was devastated to discover the city failed to live up to its obligation, after locals posted images on Facebook of the desecrated bench earlier this month.

“I was hysterically crying,” said Lunz-Gewirtz. “It brought me right back to his death. It was like him dying all over again.”

But the Facebook post didn’t merely rile the Gewirtz family, and locals including Michael Carlin, Vincent Pietrafesa, and Lauren Belen met Steven Gewirtz the following day, when they repainted the bench, trimmed the overgrown hedges surrounding it, and placed pumpkins as decoration around the memorial.

“We were going to contact the Parks Department, but before we had a chance the neighborhood stepped up,” said Lunz-Gewirtz. “It’s good we come from a good community that cares about these things.”

The Parks Department praised the do-gooders for rehabilitating the bench, but declined to comment regarding why the agency didn’t fix it.

“We always welcome community support in keeping our green spaces beautiful. We sincerely thank the community members who rallied together to repaint the bench dedicated in honor to Brian Gewirtz,” said Anessa Hodgson, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department.

In addition to the memorial bench and his loving family, Gewirtz’s memory lives on in the Brian Gewirtz Memorial Foundation, which celebrates the late Brooklynite’s life and helps support causes he was passionate about in life, including the Boy Scouts of America and funding camping trips for children with disabilities.

Community members donated time and resources to refurbish a memorial bench in Marine Park honoring a young man who died there following a desperate search in 2015.

Reach reporter Chandler Kidd at ckidd@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–2525. Follow her at twitter.com/ChanAnnKidd.

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