Just five days after the anniversary of New York City Police Detective Steven McDonald’s death in 2017, state and local elected officials honored him at Hempstead Lake State Park on Jan. 15. Two commemorative signs on opposite ends of McDonald Pond, near the intersection of Peninsula Boulevard and Lake Drive, were officially unveiled.
McDonald Pond is among several places in Nassau County that honor 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, at age 59. His widow, Patti Ann, Malverne’s former mayor, said that he would regularly sit by the pond and pray the Holy Rosary, a set of prayers used in the Catholic Church.
“This place brought Steven a lot of solace, peace and happiness,” McDonald said, “and I’m sure that, going forward, people going by who see this sign will also have peace and love.”
McDonald said the pond was named for her husband, a Rockville Centre native, shortly after he came home from the hospital after the shooting, as a surprise from then Rockville Centre Mayor Eugene Murray. Murray’s son, Rockville Centre’s current mayor, Francis Murray, noted that the two were close friends for many years.
“It’s my hope that people who come here will be reminded of a life filled with service and forgiveness,” Murray said.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin lobbied for the commemorative signs. Kaminsky said that a constituent had emailed him about the idea, explaining that not many people know how the pond got its name. He added that Chip Gorman, the regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, was instrumental in completing this project.
“Detective Steven McDonald’s message of strength, courage and forgiveness has touched people across the globe, and it will continue to resonate,” Kaminsky said. “These signs will give this pond so much more importance, and what we do today will last for generations.”
“I hope this serves as a comfort to the McDonald family and all that visits this beautiful park,” Griffin said. “May his memory be a blessing for all of us and an example to all of us.”
Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, who also lobbied for the signs at the pond, wasn’t aware that there were none until he and his family took a walk through the park a few weeks ago.
“He just had that ability to unite people,” Corbett said of McDonald, “and over the past few weeks, that’s something we’ve missed deeply on this earth right now. Steven just knew how to bring the best out of all of us, and to find that common ground.”
McDonald’s son, NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald, recalled spending much of his childhood at the pond with his father. “He loved coming by here and telling me that this was named after him,” he recounted. “He was so proud of that. So for all of you to rededicate it so no one forgets his legacy is extremely important to my mother and I.”