Detective Brian Simonsen was called “Smiles” for a reason. The 42-year-old NYPD Detective assigned to the 102nd Precinct and ultimately killed in a friendly fire incident during the interrupted robbery of a Queens T-Mobile store in February was so beloved for his jovial, compassionate nature that the community in which he grew up has banded together to ensure his memory is never forgotten.
The Jamesport Fire Department and Greater Jamesport Civic Association — along with several Riverhead Town employees and community members — asked the town board to dedicate portions of South Jamesport Avenue in honor of the fallen officer who was raised, and now rests, on that same street; a request which passed in a town board resolution on April 16.
“One of the most touching things about this is that Detective Simonsen can look at the road from where he’s buried,” Riverhead Town Deputy Chief of Staff May Zegarelli said of the dedication and unveiling on Saturday, June 15, of one of the three spots on South Jamesport Avenue that will identify the road as Detective Brian Simonsen Way. “We’re only going to be unveiling the one on Main Road and South Jamesport Avenue, right near George Young Community Center.”
The spot is across the street from Jamesport Cemetery where Simonsen was buried February 20 and mourned by both the NYPD, which spearheaded Saturday’s dedication ceremony, as well as the community to which he stayed loyal, including Simonsen’s wife, Leanne; mother, Linda Petersen; and grandfather, Vernon Petersen.
“The fact that he commuted all the way to Queens each day from Calverton shows his love for this community,” noted Zegarelli. “The Riverhead Police Department has definitely been mourning alongside the NYPD. It was a great loss for them.”
Seventeen-year-old Jordyn Stromski, who was awarded an $1100 scholarship from the Greater Jamesport Civic Association for her efforts in lining County Road 105 and Route 25 with American flags and blue ribbons during Simonsen’s funeral procession, is the daughter of one of those officers: Riverhead Town Police Detective Mark Stromski, who attended both Riverhead High School and the police academy alongside Simonsen.
“It was such an honor to give Jordyn the scholarship,” said Greater Jamesport Civic Association President William Van Helmond. “To see a young individual come out and shed some positive light — find that silver lining in a dark cloud — it really touched me.”
The decision to dedicate, rather than entirely rename South Jamesport Avenue, was a timing issue, according to Van Helmond, who said the association decided to go with a road dedication, rather than to go through the rigmarole of having each resident sign off on entirely changing their address.
“There were a lot of people who felt the same way about memorializing South Jamesport Avenue in Detective Simonsen’s honor,” he said. “Brian was an exceptional man who had an unfortunate accident serving and protecting the people of New York City, as he would have done if he were working for the Riverhead PD. That was just his nature.”