By Katie McFadden
Free and easy—the Firefighter Timothy Klein Way. As people walk past Beach 129th Street, they’ll forever be reminded of a local resident and firefighter whose way of doing things reflected courage, selflessness and humility throughout his life, up until the point he gave the ultimate sacrifice working for the FDNY, and through the legacy he left that continues to follow the Timothy Klein way.
On the morning of Wednesday, August 23, friends, family, neighbors, fellow firefighters and elected officials packed Beach 129th Street and Newport Avenue to witness the renaming of Klein’s block in his memory. Firefighter Klein died on April 24, 2022, at age 31, while responding to a fire in Canarsie, where he worked with FDNY’s Ladder 170. Wednesday’s street renaming was made possible by Councilwoman Joann Ariola, who advocated for the renaming, and the FDNY Ceremonial Unit, which organized the ceremony.
FDNY Lt. Joe LaPointe hosted Wednesday’s ceremony, which began with the FDNY Emerald Society playing bagpipes and retired firefighter John Burke singing the National Anthem. FDNY Chaplain Monsignor John Delendick started the ceremony with a prayer. “Timothy Klein was a person who dreamt about becoming a firefighter and he fulfilled his dream. He went the full way, he gave his entire life for the people of this community, for the people where he was serving, for the people of this city. So we come together to remember him, and promise to follow in his footsteps to become people of service.”
“Timothy Klein was more than just a firefighter. While I never had a chance to meet him, from an outpouring of support across this peninsula and beyond, I know that he was a great son, brother, friend and human being. From the volleyball tournament to the country fest and all the work in between, we see Firefighter Klein’s legacy live on,” Councilwoman Ariola said. “Through his courage and selfness, Timothy Klein has inspired all of us to do better, to be better, and to live our lives to the fullest.”
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh spoke to the firefighters of Canarsie’s Bravest, Engine 257/Ladder 170, saying, “From knowing all of you, it is no surprise that Tim was who he was. He was the type of person that in every part of his life, did everything he could to make other people’s lives better. He sacrificed everything for the city he loved, for the family he loved, for the fire department that he loved and that’s an inspiration for me every day.”
U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell announced that not only was Timmy being honored there, but that his name has also been placed on the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Maryland. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz also shared a few words.
Firefighter Vinny Geary spoke on behalf of Timmy’s firehouse, saying, “We will always remember Timmy Klein as the considerate, genuine, sincere person that he was. Always there to help his family, friends and countless others in times of need. Fittingly, 129th Street, which is the core of Rockaway, will forever proudly display Timmy’s name. Timmy Klein will live on forever.”
Finally, Timmy’s youngest sister, Erin, spoke on behalf of the Klein family. “We are blessed to have the ability to keep his spirit alive in such beautiful ways, as the world could use a lot more Timmys in it,” Erin Klein said.
“When I heard this street would be named FF Timothy Klein Way, I thought, well that’s fitting. Tim, the oldest of four, the only boy, and whether she’ll admit it or not, my mom’s favorite, always did get his way,” she said to laughs from the crowd.
Erin went on to explain why else having Beach 129th named for her late brother was fitting. “Tim spent much of his time on this block. He got his breakfast at Mohammed’s, a Jeter from Bon Appetit, a burger from Callie’s, chicken in a basket from Harbor Light and way, way too many late nights that turned into early mornings at Jamesons. Just three years ago, Tim bought his first home here on 129, a place he was proud of, made into his own, and shared with the people he loved most. This block had a special place in Tim’s heart. He grew up on it and for it to now bare his name is an honor.”
Erin Klein thanked everyone in attendance for their ongoing support. “Since losing Tim, my family has witnessed an overwhelming amount of kindness and generosity and with that comes the motivation to not only live by Tim’s example, with selflessness and humility, but to also pay it forward so that others may see this ripple effect and feel that ever-present impact my amazing brother left on this world. Free and easy, Timmy. We love and miss you forever.”
With that, the Klein family was invited to pull the string to unveil the bright red sign hanging above Beach 129th and Newport Avenue, as Tim’s favorite song, “Free and Easy” by Dierks Bentley played in the background.