A large green sign at Terrell Avenue Park in Oceanside bears the name of late former NYPD Bomb Squad Det. Luis Alvarez, ensuring that those who enter the grounds will not forget his contributions during and long after 9/11.
On May 25, dozens of Alvarez’s friends and family gathered at the park for the ceremony, at which it was renamed Detective Luis G. Alvarez Memorial Park in his honor.
“For those of you who knew him, he would say, ‘Stop it. Remember my brothers and sisters that were there with me just as much as you remember me,’” Luis’s brother, Phil Alvarez, said during the ceremony, noting that the family hoped the spot would enable people to meditate and reflect.
Alvarez is remembered nationally for his pleas beside activist and comedian Jon Stewart before a congressional committee in June 2019, urging them to continue to finance the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. His and Stewart’s testimonies were instrumental in pressuring Congress to extend the fund indefinitely to continue to provide relief to families of those who died from 9/11-related illness after working at ground zero in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Lou stepped forward to bring a face to all of those who have suffered and continue to suffer from the attacks of Sept. 11,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Employee Relations Robert Ganley said. “That’s really an incredible legacy for an incredible man who stepped forward because it was the right thing to do.”
Fifteen years after he finished working at the World Trade Center site in 2001, Luis was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer related to that work. He died of the illness nearly two years ago, on June 29 at age 53, after a three-year battle. Phil has continued his fight by helping others dealing with 9/11-related illnesses to sign up for the VCF.
Luis’s wife, Lainie Alvarez, thanked Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Deputy County Executive Brian Schneider and their team for helping to make her dream a reality. In August 2019, Curran filed legislation to rename Terrell Avenue Park to honor the community’s hero.
“It means so much that we’re able to dedicate this park, less than a mile from his home, to a fallen American hero whose altruism ranged from his bravery on the job during 9/11 and to his dying day,” Curran said. “He demonstrated the best of humanity as he answered the call of duty after the World Trade Center was hit.”
Lainie Alvarez met with her now good friend Robin Landau to design the park to be a place for self-care. A licensed massage therapist and an interior designer, Landau strove to make the park a healing space all.
“Without her guidance and insights, this could never turn out the way it has,” Lainie said.
The park prominently features a clock at the center that reads “be present” above the hour and minute hands that point to the word “now” at every spot where numbers would be.
“In these uncertain times, it is most imperative that we stay present and mindful of our own care,” Lainie said.
After the ceremony, Phil Alvarez introduced one of the new K-9 units, a black Labrador named Louie. The police dog has completed its training and will graduate to a bomb detection dog in the coming weeks.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said the park renaming was well deserved. “Detective Alvarez epitomized selflessness, sacrifice and dedication to others,” he said. “The dedication of this park in his memory will serve as an inspiration to local residents and ensure Detective Alvarez’s legacy will never be forgotten.”
The park, with its large green sign commemorating Alvarez, is open to the public.
“We didn’t want this to be another 9/11 memorial park,” Lainie said. “This is considered to be a tranquil place, one that was created to heal the mind, the body and the soul.”
Mike Smollins contributed to this story.