More than three years after the fatal beating of a gay man at Plumb Beach, the victim’s family members, friends, and advocates are one-step closer to securing a memorial in his honor.
Community Board 15 voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow the erection of a memorial stone for Michael Sandy near the Plumb Beach parking lot.
Sandy was killed after a botched robbery-turned-hate crime in October 2006. His murder led friends of Sandy to form the Michael Sandy Foundation, which along with the his parents began seeking a tribute to victims of hate crimes everywhere.
“I would like to thank everyone involved who has had the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to putting this memorial up,” said Tony Bruce, the executive director of the Michael Sandy Foundation, during an interview with Sheepshead Bites. “In some part, by saying ‘yes’ to this they’ll be doing something small that may change someone’s mind about hate violence.”
Since its establishment shortly after Sandy’s death, the Michael Sandy Foundation serves to identify and support tolerance education, raise awareness of hate crimes, and provide emotional and other assistance to victims and their families. They hope an engraved stone will give potential perpetrators of hate crimes reason to ponder the consequences of their actions.
“Putting a memorial out there and letting people know what happened there and giving people a chance to reflect … will be a positive thing for us and Plumb Beach” said Bruce.
The group ramped up its efforts, spurred on by Sandy’s parents, about six months ago. Both the community board and Councilman Lew Fidler told the group they’d need to raise the funds themselves, as such memorials can be difficult to accomplish on taxpayer dollars. Months later, the foundation returned with $5,000 and plans for the memorial.
According to Bruce, the stone itself will resemble a tombstone. It will be made out of granite or similar polished stone, and will carry an inscription to Michael Sandy and all the victims that have lost their lives to hate violence. [Read the full inscription]
With the community board’s backing, Fidler is now taking the proposal to the commissioner of the Parks Department.
“This was a truly horrible hate crime and I think unfortunately New Yorkers need to be reminded from time to time about crimes of hate, whether it’s about race or religion or sexual orientation,” Fidler told Sheepshead Bites. “This is a fitting place, it’s a tasteful monument and hopefully it will help educate people and keep them from falling into this kind of trap again.”
As chairman of the Youth Services Committee, Fidler is frequently faced with the concerns of runaway homeless youth, many of whom have experienced LGBTQ discrimination and have been brutalized in their home environment.
Fidler will begin working immediately with the Parks Department to find a suitable location near the Plumb Beach parking lot but on city property – not the federally-managed Gateway Reserve.
The unveiling ceremony is expected to happen on or near the October 8 anniversary of the incident.
On that date in 2006, John Fox and Anthony Fortunato, along with Ilya Shurov and Gary Timmons, reportedly used websites to lure Michael Sandy to Plumb Beach, supposedly for anonymous sex. But when Sandy arrived the four men began rummaging through his car. According to witnesses, Shurov dragged Sandy out of the car and began hitting him. When Sandy attempted to escape, he ran onto the Belt Parkway. His pursuers caught him in the left lane and hit him again, knocking him into the center lane where he was struck by a car. They allegedly dragged him from the road and searched his pockets.
Sandy remained in a vegetative state for five days before his family removed life support. He died on October 13, 2006. [Read more about the case]
“It was a vicious crime and it was a horrible thing, and as a parent I would think maybe this is going to help [Sandy’s parents] find solace,” said CB15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo about the proposed monument. “They’ll have a place to go” to honor and remember their son, she added.
Sandy’s parents could not be reached for comment.