The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) unveiled its permanent memorial sculpture known as “Forever Strongest” May 20 honoring members of the department who lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. DSNY has suffered nine confirmed COVID-19 fatalities. Over 20 percent of the department’s approximately 9,500 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020.
The nine sanitation employees confirmed to have lost their lives due to COVID-19 are:
- Ali Ali, sanitation worker, Queens East 7
- Raymond Copeland, sanitation worker, Queens East 12
- Rickey Dowtin Jr., sanitation enforcement agent, Manhattan
- Michael Geraci, auto mechanic, Queens Borough Repair
- Francisco Nunez, auto mechanic, Manhattan and Bronx Repair Shop
- Quebiy Pigott, sanitation worker, Manhattan 5
- Iqbal Shaikh, clerical associate, Queens West Borough Office
- Paul Santoro Sr., auto mechanic, Queens East 10
- Kevin Williams, sanitation worker, Bronx 5
“This pandemic has brought untold challenges to our city and to our department. DSNY has been there every step of the way keeping New Yorkers safe and healthy. Today we honor and remember the nine friends, colleagues and family members we have lost along the way. This statue means we will never forget them and their patriotic service during our city’s darkest hours,” Edward Grayson, commissioner of the DSNY, says.
“Forever Strongest” is the first permanent, free-standing memorial to victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in the city of New York. Made from stainless steel, concrete and rebar, this sculpture weighs approximately 750 pounds, stands 3 feet wide and approximately 10 feet tall.
This memorial was conceptualized and crafted by a DSNY employee, who was commissioned to forge it by the Sanitation Foundation. Bernard Klevickas is an iron shop worker and machinist, who earned his bachelor of fine arts with honors from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Reflecting upon the loss of our essential workers, I began with a shortened Greek-style column to symbolize their lives cut too short. As an artist, I leave the other elements and totality of the work open to each viewer's interpretation,” Klevickas says.
The statue will be temporarily placed at DSNY garages around the city in the coming months before being installed in its permanent home.