Recognition for ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz

(l-r) Councilman Torres, Rev. Carlos Baez and Junior’s mother Leandra Feliz with artist renderings of the Lesandro ‘Junior’ Way street sign.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

The name Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz will become immortalized on the corner of East 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue, right where the 15-year-old was brutally murdered by gang members over a case of mistaken identity Wednesday, June 20.

Councilmember Ritchie Torres is directing the City Council in the renaming process which is expected to be finalized by early 2019 if approved.

“The legacy that Junior Guzman leaves behind summed up in #JusticeForJunior has been an awakening for all of us and has become a national rallying cry against gang violence in our streets. The images of Junior’s death have become to our time what the images of Emmet Till was to his own time. Junior’s death has awakened all of us, and has confronted us with a crisis that we cannot afford to ignore,” Torres said.

In wake of Junior’s tragedy, Torres also allocated one million dollars to seven police precincts in the Bronx to combat the dangerous rise of gang violence in the borough, those being: the 40th, 42nd, 44th, 46th, 47th, 48th (Junior’s home precinct) and 52nd precincts.

“I pushed for $1 million to be included in the recently adopted city budget and it will go directly to the 48th Precinct for ‘Cure Violence’ gang-violence prevention initiative. This will take a holistic approach that will connect former gang members and violence interrupters with youth who may be at risk of joining gangs, and link them to social services, conflict resolution specialists and legal services as needed,” said Torres.

“I want to see justice for my son after this honor. Thank you so much for the honor, but I want more; I want justice for my son. I don’t know what else to say. I have too much emotion,” said Junior’s mother Leandra Guzman-Feliz during the announcement of the street renaming proposal.

Growing up, Junior had dreamed of being a police detective. Since January he had enrolled in the NYPD Explorers program in the 45th Precinct.

Bruce and Howard Bendell, owners of City World Automotive, strong supporters of the program, contributed a generous $25,000 to the Explorers program in the wake of Junior’s passing.

The NYPD has also established two $5,000 scholarships to be given to two high school graduate explorers in Junior’s name.

“There is no better way to honor a young man whose stated dream was to become one of the greatest detectives in the world than by establishing a memorial scholarship in his honor,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

Celebrities like Cardi B, Carmello and Lala Anthony have all contributed and paid respects to Junior and his family as well.

The Bronx rapper personally donated $8,000 of a larger $329,723 donated to Guzman’s family; while the Anthonys venerated his memorial.

Brianna Schaar taught Junior’s tenth grade English class this year at Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health & Science Charter School.

“Lesandro was such a great and genuine kid with such a good heart,” Schaar said.

She also mentioned how he struggled in English class but was the most improved by the end of the academic year.

“He saw a book on my desk one time and told me ‘I love books but they’re hard to read,’” she added.

Schaar also mentioned how he brought her and a colleague red roses on Valentine’s Day, calling the boy a true gentleman.

The last time that Junior and Schaar spoke was before the school year ended, when he told her that his family was looking into moving to Florida and how excited he was to visit Miami.

Right now his intermediate school is looking for a fitting way to remember the young man. One idea being considered was a scholarship fund in his honor.

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