For years, a memorial wall for a murdered Throggs Neck teen laid in ruin.
Chipped paint coupled with ripped portions ravaged the mural that paid tribute to Michael Sarti, 17.
Sarti died after being stomped to death at the 1997 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan, ranked among the most violent in the parade’s history.
As the commemorative wall at the Eljam lumberyard eroded, Michael’s friends grew compelled to do something about it.
Their desire finally came true thanks to a month-long grassroots campaign.
Dozens of family and friends turned out on Sunday, August 19 for the unveiling of the brand new Michael Sarti memorial wall at Little League Place and Westchester Avenue, across from Lehman High School, his alma mater.
While famiilies brought pictures of Sarti, children held blue and orange ballons representing the New York Mets, Sarti’s favorite team.
Among those attending was Michael’s mother, Pat.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Pat, clutching her heart-shaped necklace bearing Michael’s face. When the wall began crumbling, Pat stopped visiting.
Like the wall, Pat’s life had been broken by the death of her son, a quiet teen who loved rapper Biggie Smalls, comic books and hanging with friends.
“My son should have come home that day,” said his mother, who recently buried her husband. “He died from a broken heart.”
She has since moved out of the Bronx, a sad reminder of the life her son had and could’ve had. “He should have carried on with his teenage life, became a man, had a family.”
But after the 15th anniversary of Michael’s death, neighborhood friends wanted to bring the mural back to life.
Using social-media, longtime friend Karen Ceriani, with help from Nick Hooks and Christina Motta-Pelliccio, raised over a thousand dollars to fund the project with any of the remaining funds going to Crime Victims Suppport Services of the North Bronx Inc. They help people to bury their loved ones.
“I got checks from across the country,” said Ceriani, who enlisted her boyfriend and professional graffiti artist Kacer 171, to re-touch the mural.
Kacer 171 kept the spirit of the original painting created by Chuckie Gill, a friend of Sarti’s who died in 2004.
Replacing “Michael Sarti” with his nickname “Mikey” was among the revisions, with it resting on a bank of clouds and “forever young” written above it.
But other scriptures were added, including a quote found in Sarti’s wallet five years ago – “Writers have the power to change thought.”
Sarti had been one of millions attending the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade when he was approached at Madison Avenue and 59th Street by several Brooklyn teens who mistook him for a member of a rival Woodlawn crew.
An argument quickly escalated into a brawl, with Sarti thrown to the ground and stomped.
An EMT-trainee revived Michael long enough for EMS to send him to Presbyterian Hospital where doctors placed him in a medically-induced coma. Sarti died three weeks later, two weeks shy of his birthday.
Three teens – Thomas Warnock, 16, James Wiffin, 19 and Jason Andrade, 18 – were arrested and tried. But they eventually walked after evidence, including partial footage of Michael’s beating, proved circumstantial.
The verdict left a gaping hole for the Sarti family.
To this day, they’re still seeking justice.
Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383