Dozens gathered for a ceremony outside Boulevard Gardens to co-name 31st Avenue and 54th Street in honor of Jimmy Lanza, including firefighters, community groups, family members and friends.
Councilman Costa Constantinides, Assemblyman Brian Barnwell and Congressman Joseph Crowley led the ceremonial street renaming.
Lanza, a Vietnam War veteran and FDNY firefighter of28 years, died of 9/11-related cancer in April after assisting in rescue efforts 16 years ago.
“He defined what the word service means,” Constantinides said. “He continued to give of himself, time after time, not thinking of his own personal safety and always putting others – his neighbors, his community, his country – before himself.”
Lanza, who grew up in Woodside and lived in the Boulevard Gardens housing complex, joined the Navy in his youth and served in Vietnam. He joined the FDNY in 1979 and worked as a firefighter at Engine 53/Ladder 43 for the majority of his career.
On September 11, 2001, he reported to the World Trade Center to assist with rescue efforts. He pulled 16 survivors out of what would become known as “the miracle stairwell.”
He continued to assist search and recovery efforts at the site for several months. He retired in 2007.
Despite his retirement, he remained active in his community and had a long list of charitable work. He was a board member of the Fire Family Transport Foundation and also worked with the Wounded Warrior Project, where he helped take care of the widows and children of fallen FDNY comrades.
In addition, he served as the commander of American Legion Post 1836 in Boulevard Gardens, and also went to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“Jimmy had a way of not only doing more than was expected of the average human being, he would make you do more than you thought you were capable of,” said Kurt Lester, a friend and retired firefighter who served with Lanza at Engine 53/Ladder 43.
Stephanie Pennachio, Lanza’s niece, said her uncle’s most amazing quality was his ability to be there for his family while also serving others throughout his life.
“There was nothing that Jimmy couldn't do,” she said.