Michael Sandy’s joyful smile and peaceful demeanor will always be immortalized in his friends’ and family’s memories.
Now, even though they never had the opportunity to meet him, thousands of others will know a little about Michael, and how he died.
Community Board 15 last week overwhelmingly endorsed a push to put a small memorial near the Plumb Beach rest stop where a crew of biased muggers — who saw the East Williamsburg resident as an easy mark because he was gay — chased him into traffic.
The decision was applauded by the Michael J. Sandy Foundation, who said that a memorial could be put in place by October, when family members mark the fourth anniversary of Sandy’s death.
“The Michael Sandy Foundation and Michael’s parents, Denise and Ezekiel Sandy, would like to express their appreciation to Councilman Lewis A. Fidler and the Community Board 15 for passing the resolution to allow a memorial stone in tribute to Michael Sandy at Plumb Beach,” foundation executive director Tony Bruce said in a statement, claiming that the board’s vote was “a needed and positive step to create a permanent memorial for Michael at the site of his tragic death, as well as bring quiet comfort to other families who have lost loved ones to hate violence.”
Bruce said that the marker “will also inform unaware park patrons of this senseless tragedy.”
“In addition, this stone will serve as a symbol to promote tolerance and acceptance in the Sheepshead Bay community and all of greater New York,” he said.
Community Board 15 President Teresa Scavo said Sandy’s parents approached both the community board and Fidler about the marker and possibly coming up with money for it.
“However, Fidler had no (discretionary) money for it and our money is only allowed to be spent on office supplies,” said Scavo.
Scavo said the parents, Bellport Long Island residents, set up the not-for-profit Michael J. Sandy Foundation and proceeded to raise the money. Bruce said that the Foundation raised most of the money through Sandy’s friends, general fund-raisers “and art sales.”
“We’re overjoyed that we have the opportunity to take what we have been given and give it back to the community that’s been left scarred by [Sandy’s killers],” said Bruce. “This incident really put a damper on the area, but the people of this community have come back and made it a better place where people can reflect and are given an opportunity to think differently about violence and hate.”
Sandy, 28, died from a massive head injury he received from being hit by a car as he fled from four young men who had lured him to Sheepshead Bay with the promise of sex.
The four suspects – who were all convicted of hate-crime charges – sweet-talked Sandy into joining them for a rendezvous at the rest stop, but then tried to rob him. When he approached, they grabbed him, but he managed to break free. His only means of escape was the nearby Belt Parkway.
Suspect Anthony Fortunato, who allegedly orchestrated the robbery and attack, was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime and sentenced to 21 years even though at trial he admitted that he, himself, was gay, officials said.
Now that the board has approved the request for the Marker, Fidler will be taking the plans to the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation for consideration.
A spokesman for Parks said that they have yet to receive the request but “look forward to reviewing one in consideration of this matter.”
Any proposal to construct a memorial, he added, will also have to be approved by the city’s Public Design Commission.
–with Stephen Witt