Coney Island

Push to memorialize Coney Island firefighter beaten to death on Belt Parkway

"He was everybody’s best friend."

May 24, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
Firefighters embrace outside the wake for Faizal Coto. Eagle photo by Todd Maisel

The street corner of a Coney Island firehouse may soon bear the name of a fallen member.

Community Board 13 voted Wednesday to support an application to co-name the corner of West Eighth Street and Surf Avenue, just outside Engine 245, “Firefighter Faizal Coto Way.” Faizal Coto, then 33, was beaten to death on the Belt Parkway in December, following a road-rage dispute with then-29-year-old Joseph Desmond.

Desmond, of Staten Island, is accused of fatally beating Coto, 33, with a blunt object after the pair got into a minor accident. Coto was found dead next to his 2008 Ford Mustang on the right shoulder of the Bay Eighth Street and Shore Parkway exit. His death was “almost instant,” according to the DA’s Office.

Desmond, who fled the scene, was apprehended three days later at a motel in New Jersey. A crowd of firefighters awaited his walkout of the 62nd Precinct in Bensonhurst, where, instead of jeers, Desmond was met by heavy silence.

He pleaded not guilty to a murder charge later that month. His next court appearance is on July 12. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Desmond was on parole for a 2012 assault-as-a-hate-crime.

Coto, who was also an aspiring rapper, was off-duty when he was killed.

The application was introduced to the City Council by Councilmember Chaim Deutsch, who contends that the co-naming would mean something not just to Engine 245 but to southern Brooklyn as a whole.

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“Coto devoted his life to helping others, working at one of the most dangerous jobs in the city,” Deutsch said in a statement. His legacy is one of service, of compassion, and of deep commitment to his hometown, and a street co-naming in his honor would ensure that his memory will live on.”

At his wake in Sunset Park, family, friends and colleagues remembered Coto as someone who “lifted people up,” both as a firefighter and a musician.

Firefighter Joseph Romeo, Coto’s closest friend in the Coney Island firehouse, said he and Coto entered the fire department in the same class three years ago.

“He was my best friend, and he was everybody’s best friend,” Romeo said. “He would find the goodness in everyone.”

He was also “the hardest worker in the firehouse,” the friend said.

CB13 District Manager Eddie Mark called the effort a noble one.

“We thought it was a worthy cause,” he said of the board’s vote.

Deutsch’s office expects a decision on the co-naming in the coming months.

Additional reporting by Christina Carrega and Todd Maisel

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