The city block where a blood-soaked Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz tried to run from a deadly gang attack to a hospital emergency room in a failed attempt to save his own life is on its way to honoring the 15-year-old victim permanently, in a somewhat unorthodox name-changing.
"I have directed the staff of the New York City Council to begin the process of renaming 183rd (Street) and Bathgate (Avenue) in honor of 'Junior' Guzman," Councilmember Ritchie Torres said at an event Monday morning.
The corner is the location of the Cruz and Chiky Bodega where, according to NYPD detectives, a group of at least a dozen gang members attacked the high school student, slashing and stabbing him to death.
Mockups of the new street name sign have been made, and whichever is adopted will be certain to stand out from most street signage.
"It would be unique in the Bronx," said David Estrella, of the Justice for Junior Foundation.
He said that the sign would be "the first of its kind with a picture" of the honoree on the sign.
One of the other mockups has a blue background with white lettering, rather than the New York City boilerplate green background with white lettering. The blue and white mockup is designed to mirror the colors of the NYPD because Guzman-Feliz was a member of the Explorers, a training and social group for youth interested in law enforcement careers. He had dreams of becoming a detective.
The renaming still has to go through an established City Council and mayoral review process that is not expected to be difficult. Assuming it's not, Torres said, the official unveiling of Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz Way should take place sometime in January.
As pleased as the organizers of the street renaming are with its fast-track progression, they also said that it's not enough. The most eloquent voice bearing that message was that of Junior's mother, Leandra Feliz.
"Thank you so much for the honor," she said at the street renaming announcement. "But I want more. I want the justice for my son."
She and other members of her family are working with the Justice for Junior Foundation, a grassroots community group, to get anti-gang legislation sponsored in the state legislature passed in the next session in Albany.
Dubbed the Junior Justice Act, the bill, if it becomes law, would automatically increase the category of felony for gang-related crimes.
"If that gang violence is committed by an adult, it will yield a higher penalty," Estrella said.
The family and the foundation also support at least two other protective measures that have been introduced in the legislature in the weeks since the June 20 killing of Guzman-Feliz.
His family is using some of the more than $330,000 that has been raised for them online to help endow the Justice for Junior Foundation. That, along with the street renaming effort happening far faster than any such measure in memory, had Junior's mother giving thanks on Monday.
"This obviously is God," Leandra Feliz told PIX11 News. "It's not me. It's God. In the name of Jesus."
PIX11 News has learned that the foundation is looking into trying to convert the bodega where Guzman-Feliz was killed into a conflict resolution and community center. The prospect of that happening is, at this point, only speculation.
It's worth noting, however, that as recently as a week ago, the prospect of the block where Guzman-Feliz died being officially renamed in his honor was also speculation. Now, it's on course to become reality.
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