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Sunnyside Street to be Co-Named in Honor of Sandy Hook School Shooting Victim

Aug. 27, 2013 By Christian Murray

The Sunnyside community will be coming together on September 7 to co-name 41st Street and Queens Blvd after one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

The street will be co-named Benjamin Wheeler Way, after a child who was born in Sunnyside but later moved with his family to Newtown, Conn. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer passed legislation earlier this year in order to make this happen.

Ben, aged 6 at the time, was one of 20 children who was gunned down at the local elementary last December.

Ben was the son of former Sunnyside residents David and Francine Wheeler, who were active members in the community through the Sunnyside Reformed Church, Sunnyside Gardens Park and many local activities. Ben’s older brother, Nate, played with many neighborhood children.

The family lived on the Queens Blvd at 41st Street (on the south side). It will be here where the street co-naming will take place.

Francine Wheeler was an instrumental part of the formation of Sunnymoms, which is comprised of a large group of mothers who organize play dates and events for their children.

The Wheelers left Sunnyside when Ben was very young but remained in close touch with many residents.

Hundreds of Sunnysiders took part in a tearful candlelight vigil shortly after the massacre in honor of Ben’s life. Small children, accompanied by their parents, were out in big numbers that night, carrying photos of Ben and the Wheeler family. The event was quickly organized by Van Bramer’s office at the time.

The Sunnyside community then raised more than $10,000 for the family when a fundraiser was held at the Sunnyside Community Services Center in February that was sponsored by bars and restaurants—such as The Dog and the Duck, Bar 43 & Grill, Murphy’s Bar and Claret. More than 300 people attended.

David and Francis Wheeler have spent several months since the tragedy discussing gun control issues in Washington and around the nation.

“David, Francine and Nate are wonderful people, a really giving, lovely family who have been dealt the worst kind of hand … any of us could imagine,” said Roger Hitts, a friend of the family.

The family will be at the event.


Saturday, Sept. 7

Time: 12:00 pm

Location: Queens Blvd/41st Street (south side)


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Those of us who have lived here for decades are sick of being used by politicians. A poor Phillipino woman was murdered by her husband a year ago in the neighborhood. And then the husband killed himself so the daughter is left with no parents. How about naming a street after the dead woman? Is the suffering of her daughter meaningless to you, superwittysmarty? As for Roe, it was a terrible decision that violated states rights. Our Founding Fathers are turning in their graves. Sorry: I object to this street naming.


Reading this story again, I don’t know how people can be so against this gesture. Just because someone moves away does not mean they are no longer part of the community. I’m glad that peple make connections that are not so easily broken. Are people really so cynical that they attribute this purely to politics? It’s not the impression I get.


Roe v Wade is centered arounbd a woman’s right to due process, guaranteed under the 14th amendment.


Super witty: where does it say in the Constitution that you can kill your kids? Is that the “Infanticide Amendment”? Getting back to the issue at hand, I feel terrible for the family but I don’t think it is appropriate to name a street after him in Sunnyside. This is turning into emotional exploitation. Do we have a street named yet after the late Thomas Manton, our former congressman?


Sws is snarky . I want street named for the poor Brooklyn baby (black)who was shot in the head.oh but he is black and poor so he does not count in van Bramer or liberal land

sunnyside whines


So is the right to bear arms, will you shut up about that too?


@ sws please stop posting

This and the rispolo street are laughable because everyone knew where this was heading with this jvb clown. It marginalizes those locals honored for real accomplishments like influential urban planning or, you know, dying for their country in a world war.

“Ben’s older brother, Nate, played with many neighborhood children” – what a humanitarian. Guess he’s up for a street name next. Whatever.


Playing the abortion card here is really inappropriate- go ahead and have your opinion, and have all the babies you want, but I respectfully disagree with your opinion. It’s a legal and constitutionally protected issue.

If you do not respect the law and feel your religious beliefs are more important; fine, but keep it to your self.


I also object. I feel terrible for the parents, but what does this accomplish?

sunnyside whines

I believe it would have been more appropriate to name a street for this child in the town where he actually lived, not where his family used. they are really stretching it here. This smacks of a politician and a neighborhood desperate to grab some of the spotlight from what is a major, national news story and debate.


Political correctness and “do good” mentality run wild. And in the long run, I don’t think it helps the victims or their families. Since the Sandy Hook victim lived in Sandy Hook, are streets being renamed there? Or do Jimmy and the Community Board go through their “victim list” to find people?


The Sunnyside murder victim who died the most horrific, terrifying death by getting pushed in front of an oncoming subway train gets no street named for him. Even after we know 100% for a fact that he was murdered in a hate crime. Yet the only hate crime victim who gets a street renaming is Lou Rispoli, despite the fact we actually have no idea if he was in fact killed as part of a hate crime.


The more I think about it. the more I object to this “feel good” street naming. I think we should hold an alternative street naming: we can call it the “Sunnyside/Woodside Crime Victims Street Naming and for the Kids who did not Get into the News and whom Van Bramer and the Community Board do not Deem Important enough to be Remembered”.


69 Mets is correct. Millions of babies have been lost to abortion. I am getting tired of streets being renamed. I feel sorry for the Wheelers whose lives have been torn apart by this tragedy. But a street naming? Of course, Jimmy Van B. will make sure the press is there. The Wheelers did a talk for Obama on gun control. Sorry, but I think an armed guard could have stopped that punk. If they want to stick their necks out and do political ads, we have the right to respond in kind. Please read the book “More Guns, Less Crime”.


Ann, they’re human beings at the earliest stages of their development with their own unique DNA, the same DNA they will have if they live to be 100.

But if de-humanizing them helps you rationalize or relieve your conscience, that’s your business.

43rd & 43rd

Raising money for victims I understand after things like 9/11, and I definitely understand after natural disasters and in impoverished areas. But in the Sandy Hook shooting the financial impact was not so large, and it’s such a wealthy town . . . it did strike me the wrong way too. We’re so willing to pour out our money and sympathy for some victims, but not at all for other victims. It gets ugly. You know we don’t name streets after kids who lived and died in Sunnyside, minority kids, kids killed one or two at a time. Their families are in no less pain and need.

My condolences to the Wheelers. This comment isn’t about them and their awful loss, it’s about how the rest of us react.


When are we getting a street named in honor of all the children we’ve lost to abortion?


I didn’t realize he was up for re-election. Is he running without opposition?

I just don’t think this memorializing is strictly for political gain. I’m not sure it’s such a great idea, but it doesn’t really hurt anyone. My initial response was to the big laugh and cynical retort that someone saw as an appropriate response to the idea in the first place.


This isn’t about the kid. It’s a chance to push the gun control issue. If this unfortunate child had died in some other manner, he wouldn’t be getting a street name. The political cause that his death represents is what is really getting the spotlight.


Resident brings up the same point I brought up a while back. What was the money being raised for? If my kid dies, I am opening my hand out for Funeral funds only. All the extra I would pay it forward to the OTHER victims for THEIR funerals. IF theres extra then put it toward the schools, fund some safety concerns , etc.

But hey whatever, people want to give money only when its too late. PS 150 could benefit a lot by some of the funds you people are so eager to share.

as for naming the street. How many kids who actually LIVED in Sunnyside and died got street names?

I can name a few from Sunnyside South.


When your child is brutally slain, $$ is no consolation. The focus should not have been on raising $$, LetLive and Danielle. We have done nothing to stop this from happening to other children. We think that we open our wallets and the problem goes away. Naming a street is not going to help, either. Wake up to what this country has become.


Whatever, at least there’s only a few more streets available for this misguided posturing


No, I don’t think JVB is up for re-election. The only proper response is one of empathy for the family that lost this child- everything else is trivial. I can’t imagine what they went through, and in spite of all of that bloodshed, people still want guns to be accessible to all citizens, whether they’re trained or qualified. That distorted view of the 2nd amendment seems to trump all common sense for so many people.

south side

There are so many “co named” streets around here, it’s not such a big deal anymore. The more there is of something, the more common and less prestigious it becomes. Face it, these are photo-opps for politicians.


I can’t even begin to comment on how wrong-headed and cruel the comments by “resident” are. This family was thrown into absolute financial chaos as well as the emotional grieving as the result of this massacre. The funds were vitally needed to help keep a family afloat during the most turbulent time imaginable. To sit on a throne and take potshots at this event is just the lowest form of humanity. You should be ashamed.


Resident: therapy isn’t free. Lost wages isn’t free. A funeral isn’t free. You are ignorant to think that these are not issues for a grieving family. Not everyone is well-off enough that they can bounce back and be unconcerned about financial ramifications. No one ever said the money replaces the child. No one said it will actually FIX anything or heal them faster. But maybe it gives them just one or two less stressful things to weigh on them. How is it your concern? I am pretty sure no one required you to dole out money. Live and let live.


I still don’t understand why they raised $$ for this family. Was the $$ supposed to ease their loss? It’s actually pretty disgusting. As a nation, all we do is open our wallets, that’s the easiest form of helping people. We did nothing to pass new gun control laws, (how many Sunnsyide residents lobbied our local entrenched Congressman to pass new laws in the wake of Sandy Hook?) but we gave $$ to the family. How is $$ supposed to ease their pain? Of course, it eases our collective guilt about this tragedy. That’s all it does.

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