The intersection is now co-named for Firefighter William Tolley, a Bethpage, Long Island, man who fell five stories to his death while battling a blaze in Ridgewood in April 2017.
Tolley, a 14-year veteran of the FDNY, was stationed on the roof as the outdoor ventilation firefighter at 1615 Putnam Avenue when he fell. He was 42 years old.
Last Wednesday, elected officials, the Fire Department and Tolley’s family hosted a ceremony inside Engine 286/Ladder 135, where they honored the fallen firefighter for his dedication and sacrifice.
“We are gathered here to perform a sacred task, to write into the history books the name of William Tolley,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “And to ensure that future generations of firefighters and members of this community will always see that name and be reminded of his greatness.
“We are feeling profound sorrow today,” he added, “but there has to be also a sense of gratitude that Billy walked this earth, that he was here among us.”
The mayor praised Tolley’s family for living up to his legacy, and the firefighters on his “Myrtle Turtles” team for showing strength and compassion in the wake of their colleague’s death.
De Blasio noted that Tolley truly loved three things: his family, the FDNY and his band. He was honored not just as a firefighter, but a family man and a rockstar.
On the day he passed away, Tolley went to a bakery looking for the “perfect dessert” for his daughter’s first communion, de Blasio said, which exemplified his values.
The mayor addressed Isabella, Tolley’s daughter, directly in his remarks. He said he has a “small sense” of what she went through because de Blasio lost his father, who also “wore a uniform,” at a young age.
“When you know your dad’s a hero, it’s something you carry with you your whole life,” he said. “It’s so horrible that you lost him so young, but you’ll always know his goodness.
“Someday, there will be a challenge and you’ll feel the presence of your father there to support you,” de Blasio added. “You’ll feel his goodness and that will give you the strength you need to carry forward.”
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Tolley was not only a reliable and veteran firefighter, he was someone younger members looked up to as a mentor. He was a protector of the community who would walk students throughout the firehouse when they came for a fire safety lesson.
“He lived and breathed being a New York City firefighter, he had true passion for this job,” Nigro said. “It was a childhood dream, and he fulfilled it to the absolute fullest. He loved knowing that his job made it possible to make a positive impact on others.”
The commissioner added that the Glendale firehouse wasn’t just where he worked, but his second home and extended family.
“The moments here with all of you, and out fighting fires, were special to him,” Nigro said.
Fire Department officials and the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York then unveiled a special plaque honoring Tolley, which will hang inside the firehouse.
FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said the plaque and street renaming will make Tolley “forever a part of the history” of the department.
“There will come a time when nobody here knows Billy Tolley, whether it’s 20, 30 or 40 years from now,” he said. “But it’s our duty to always make sure he lives on.”
Marie Tolley, his widow, said Billy loved everything about being a firefighter and gave the job his all.
“We’ll never forget this,” she said. “It’s nice to know that he’s watching over this firehouse and over this community forever.”