Father hopes to restore memorial of late son

Father hopes to restore memorial of late son|Father hopes to restore memorial of late son|Father hopes to restore memorial of late son
Photo courtesy of Michael Merchant|Photo courtesy of Michael Merchant|Photo courtesy of Michael Merchant

A father is up in arms after his son’s memorial site was desecrated.

The memorial, located deep inside Pelham Bay Park since July 2015, was removed last month.

It commemorated the unfortunate death of Throggs Neck resident Eric Merchant, a graphic artist, illustrator and muralist.

Merchant, 32, the owner of Steiner Enterprises, who was described as an adventuresome and daring individual, had set up a tent on Hunter Island in mid-February of last year to camp out for the evening.

To provide warmth and comfort he ignited a charcoal grill heater inside the tent to counter the figid cold winter weather, according to his dad.

His parents believe Merchant miscalculated the tent’s ventilation and shortly after he laid down to sleep, he suffered asphyxiation and died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the city’s medical examiner.

Earlier reports attributed his death to a suicide.

Merchant’s body was discovered in the tent about six weeks later by a Park Ranger. A funeral service was held for Eric on April 1.

Last July, Eric’s father Michael set up a 225-square foot memorial to honor his late son at the wooded area where he perished.

The memorial consisted of a three-foot metal cross, flowers, a bird feeder, Rosary beads, branches, messages and photos commemorating Eric’s life.

Early last month, NYC Parks removed the memorial, including the metal cross, which had been cemented deep into the ground.

Photo courtesy of Michael Merchant

According to a Parks statement, it removed the memorial shortly after it was discovered, because placement of such displays are against Parks’ rules and regulations.

The statement also stated that overnight camping is never permitted, as the curfew at Pelham Bay Park and all other non-playground sites in the Bronx is 10 p.m.

However, Michael is still determined to find a way to perserve a memorial site in Pelham Bay Park for his late son, even if it is against Parks policy.

“I understand that he (Eric) wasn’t supposed to be in the park at that time, but I’m hoping that Parks will make an exception in this case,” Michael said. “It’s a remote area and there haven’t been too many deaths like this in the park so I’m hoping that they (Parks) will let us have a site for him.”

Michael added that because his son’s body was so severely decomposed after one and half months in the park the family cremated his remains.

“Pelham Bay Park is over 2,700 acres and they won’t let us have 225-square feet for a memorial space?” the dad said.

Merchant thanked Parks for all the assistance they provided the family early on.

Parks even offered to plant trees in Eric’s honor.

Michael Merchant is insisting on a memorial and said that he will soon begin collecting signatures on a petition to get the project approved by Parks.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.
Photo courtesy of Michael Merchant