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Full Speed Ahead for O’Keefe Tribute

Rosemarie O’Keefe loved Bay Ridge, and it’s clear that Bay Ridge loved her, too.

Just a few months after her untimely death from cancer, the residents of the neighborhood that O’Keefe called home want to make sure that O’Keefe’s name and efforts are immortalized so that future Ridgites will know about her contributions to a community that in its grace and ineffable spirit reflects O’Keefe’s own indomitable character.

To that end, an effort is now in full swing to name the corner of Bay Ridge Parkway and Fifth Avenue in her memory.

At its October meeting, Community Board 10 voted to rename the intersection’s southwest corner “Rosemarie O’Keefe Way.”

“She dedicated her life to protectingand improving our community through her leadership of the Alliance of Bay Ridge Block Associations, in the Bay Ridge Community Council, and as a liaison for Congressmember Susan Molinari and Senator Chris Mega,” noted Brian Kieran, the chairperson of CB 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, who presented the renaming to board members gathered in the Knights of Columbus hall, 13th Avenue and 86th Street.

In addition, Kieran reminded his listeners that O’Keefe had gone above and beyond as a public servant, She served as assistant commissioner of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, he said, and later as the commissioner of the Community Assistance Unit. In that position, Kieran said, O’Keefe had “coordinated efforts to survivors of large tragic events that affected New Yorkers including the TWA Flight 800 and the Swissair Flight 111 crashes.”

Subsequently, Kieran went on, O”Keefe had served as the director of the September 11th Family Relief Center. “She performed all her duties with grace, zeal and good humor,” he stressed.

The area’s elected officials are fully in support of the renaming. In a letter to the board, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile noted that O’Keefe’s “work after 9/11 showed our entire city what a superwoman our community had in Rosemarie O’Keefe.

“We all miss Rosemarie O’Keefe deeply,” Gentile went on. “Although she and I became political rivals for a short time, we both maintained a deep respect for each other personally and professionally.”

State Senator Marty Golden concurred. In his letter to board Chairperson Dean Rasinya, Golden wrote, “Rosemarie made this community proud through her steadfast commitment and involvement in so many local causes.She always wanted to help and make things better, and went on to serve our community and our city well for so long.

“I ask that you consider this tribute so that Rosemarie’s legacy and all that she did will never be forgotten here in our neighborhood and in New York City,” Golden concluded.

Assemblymember Janele Hyer-Spencer agreed. In a letter to the board in support of the street renaming, she recalled O’Keefe’s contributions in her varied roles. “An active member in the Bay Ridge civic and political communities, Rosemarie helped to create what is now the Alliance of Bay Ridge Block Associations when she organized a block association on the 400 block of Bay Ridge Parkway to fight a proposal to install parking meters on her street,” Hyer-Spencer wrote. “Some of the early Nights Out Against Crime in the 1980s and 1990s were also held on this block thanks to Rosemarie.The naming of this street in her name is a fitting tribute for a woman who dedicated her life to fighting for the good of our community.”

O’Keefe’s friend Teresa Miccio added her voice to the chorus of support. “She is a person who did and does matter,” Miccio told board members. “She was Bay Ridge’s best fan. In life, there are leaders and followers. Rosemarie was a leader and she had many followers. Bay Ridge is a great place to live, and Rosemarie O’Keefe should be remembered for her part in making it so.”

Not only is the renaming appropriate, but it would have pleased O’Keefe, remarked board member Joanne Seminara. “I know this is a way of honoring her that she would have appreciated,” Seminara remarked before the vote.

The renaming must be approved by the City Council, which hears such items on a quarterly basis, said Josephine Beckmann, the board’s district manager. It is likely to be voted upon before the end of the year, she noted, meaning a renaming in O’Keefe’s memory could occur next spring.

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