Hugs were exchanged, there were moments of laughter, and some people got teary-eyed during a ceremony at The Bridge Church in Malverne on Feb. 9. State officials, local residents, village leaders from surrounding communities and police officers from the Malverne Police Department and the NYPD joined to honor NYPD Detective Steven McDonald. A portion of the Southern State Parkway — from the Cross Island Parkway to the exit for the Meadowbrook State Parkway — was renamed the Steven McDonald Memorial Highway.
The parkway designation recognizes the life, service, sacrifice and family of McDonald, who was shot in 1986 in Central Park and left paralyzed until his death nearly 31 years later in January 2017. He was 59.
“He did not just endure it; he conquered those difficulties,” said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky. “He truly showed what the human spirit could do because his heart was bigger than anyone can imagine.”
McDonald’s family sat in the front row as many elected officials and police officers shared memories of the Malvernite, and how he inspired them. Many of the speakers said the new signs offered another opportunity for people to share McDonald’s story.
“For everything that he did for the NYPD and New York City alone, we could dedicate hundreds of streets and hang many, many signs in his honor,” said New York City First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin B. Tucker. “While today’s dedication — and other ceremonies like it — are painful reminders of his passing, I think it’s fitting that we honor the life he lived and to fully appreciate how he made our lives better.”
Malverne Mayor Patti Ann McDonald, who married Steven just months before he was shot, thanked residents comforting her family over the last year.
“Your love and support that you’ve given Conor and I, and our family, is tremendous,” McDonald said, holding back tears. “I am so lucky and so proud to be the mayor of this phenomenal village.”
McDonald’s son, police Sgt. Conor McDonald, said that living without his father was challenging and that he did a lot of “soul searching.” What got him through the year, he said, was remembering the lessons McDonald shared with him.
“When we leave here, and we see the highway signs in my dad’s name, we should understand the importance of his life of love and forgiveness, and try to make this world a better place,” Conor said. “That’s what he said to me every day.”
“There is power in forgiveness, there is power in serving your community, and that’s what Steven did,” said the Rev. Dan Quagliata of The Bridge Church. “He served this community selflessly.”
Roger Parrino, the commissioner for the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said that whether you pass McDonald’s home village or pass Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre — where McDonald started his public service career as a U.S. Navy corpsman — driving along the Steven McDonald Memorial Highway will present many chances to remember his legacy.
“[McDonald] demonstrated bravery and compassion that exemplified the very best of New York,” he said, reading a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed legislation in August to approve the highway renaming. “This honor will ensure that his sacrifice and service will never be forgotten.”
Students from Grace Lutheran School in Malverne sang “America the Beautiful” to close the ceremony.