By Jessica Meditz
Family, friends and the community at large gathered in Richmond Hill on Saturday to honor the life and career of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen.
A brand new street sign that reads, “Detective Brian Simonsen Way” was unveiled at the intersection of 118th Street and Jamaica Avenue, in the heart of the 102nd Precinct — where he served his entire career for 19 years.
In 2019, Simonsen was killed in the line of duty while responding to an armed robbery in-progress at a T-Mobile store in Richmond Hill.
Although his life was cut short at 42 years old, he continues to be loved and admired by many for his devotion to the precinct and the people he served.
“We ask so much from our officers; we ask them to unflinchingly put themselves between the threat and the threatened. Brian answered that call,” said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell.
“Co-naming this street is a small gesture for a great man that offered his life for New York City. We owe a debt we can never repay,” she continued. “Still, this ensures that future generations will forever know the legacy of a man who dutifully served his city. They will see the name of a courageous officer and learn the story of how he lived, remember the life of his service and know the will of a protector of this city.”
Upholding his well-known, passionate work ethic was Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo, who pointed out that Simonsen wasn’t even assigned to work at the time of the incident, but went into work anyway because of his “dedication, knowledge and experience.”
“He went back to work to serve the people of his city, and that cost him his life. He will always be a legacy in the New York City Police Department and in the DEA,” DiGiacomo said. “He was a true hero, a true mentor to many and he’s dearly missed by the DEA and his family.”
District 29 Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, who represents the Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill neighborhoods, saw the street co-naming in Simonsen’s honor as a long-awaited achievement, as her predecessor, Karen Koslowitz, put in the legislation for it, and her own office brought it over the finish line.
She commended his loyalty to the 102nd Precinct and the courageous work he did for the community.
“[Simonsen] rose through the ranks from uniformed patrol to detective and was loved by everyone in the precinct and the community. Detective Simonsen represented the best of the NYPD,” Schulman said. “The street sign…will forever remind people of the hero he was, and let everyone know he will never be forgotten.”
Known for his positivity and cheerful personality, Simonsen was nicknamed “Smiles” by his loved ones.
He also had a great love of animals, which led the NYPD to name a K9 officer serving in counterterrorism after him, by the name of Simo.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz commended Simonsen’s wife, Leanne Simonsen for her strength and leadership when it came to starting a foundation in her husband’s name.
The Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Memorial Foundation continues to keep his legacy alive by giving scholarships to students and financial assistance to families and businesses in the Riverhead community, where the Simonsen family resides.
The foundation has “also assisted in vesting Police K9 dogs and are expanding in assisting animal rescues,” according to its website.
Leanne Simonsen expressed her gratitude to various members of the Queens community, as well as her NYPD family for always being there for her.
“We’re all going through the same thing, and we lift one another up when we’re at our lowest,” she said. “I can call them any time I need. This is so special to me, the family, friends of Brian and the 102.”
“The 102 Precinct are family — old, new, I love them all. Today is for us and to always remember Brian and keep his name alive.”