A portion of Nicolls Road could be renamed in honor of fallen firefighter Joseph DiBernardo Jr., of Miller Place, thanks to a new initiative introduced at the county level by Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn, D-Port Jefferson.
Under her proposal, the stretch of Nicolls Road extending from Route 347 north to Fox Hunt Lane in Setauket would be rededicated as "Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Road."
DiBernardo, a former New York City Firefighter who was known in the community as Joey D, died at the age of 40 in November from an accidental overdose of medications he was prescribed as a result of the life-threatening injuries he sustained during the fatal "Black Sunday" fire in the Bronx in 2005.
According to a memorial written by his Setauket colleagues, Joey D was one of six firefighters trapped between illegal partitions inside a fourth-floor apartment during that blaze. He held a rope as another firefighter rappeled down the building, but after he tried securing the rope for his own climb down, it gave out and he fell about four stories. He landed on his feet but shattered every bone below his waist, spending 18 days in a coma and requiring 20 hours of surgery on his legs – injuries which still caused him pain. Two other firefighters died in the fire.
Before his death, Joey D, who grew up in Stony Brook and later lived in Miller Place, was a dedicated volunteer of the Setauket Fire Department.
"Renaming the road that passes the development where he lived as a child, and the Setauket Fire House where he spent many happy hours volunteering to assist his neighbors in times of need, is a fitting tribute to Lt. DiBernardo’s memory,” Hahn said in a statement. “Not only will this rededication of Nicolls Road help remind everyone of this one man’s selflessness, but it will also serve to honor all volunteers who put themselves at risk to help safeguard our communities."
Joey D's death was which means his name will be on the FDNY's Wall of Honor and a plaque will be installed at Rescue 3, his former company.
His parents, Barbara and Joseph DiBernardo Sr., said "it would mean so much to us" to have a part of Nicolls Road renamed in Joey D's honor.
"Joey did so much as a volunteer for the Setauket Fire Department on Nicolls Road over the years, the Town of Brookhaven and the County of Suffolk," they said in a statement. "... We would like the residents of Suffolk County who pass or go up Nicolls Road to be reminded of Joey's dedication to the fire service, his bravery and his heroism.”