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 Construction kicked off in April on the Rochester Fire Department’s Heroes Point park and garden.

Construction kicked off in April on the Rochester Fire Department’s Heroes Point park and garden.

Rendering provided by the Rochester Fire Department

Construction begins on Heroes Point park and garden

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 7, 2020


ROCHESTER — Rochester will soon have its own memorial to pay tribute to first responders.

Construction has begun on the Rochester Fire Department’s Heroes Point park and garden — a project that was conceived over three years ago when a piece of the remaining structure from the North Tower of the World Trade Center was donated to Rita Duff, a member of the Rochester Fire Department.

Duff has a great-grandfather who served as a division chief with New York City Fire Department in 1899, another who served as a New York Police Department officer, and cousins who served on 9/11 with the NYPD. She received the gift of steel after sharing her family’s long history of service with a firefighter with the FDNY during training in New York.

“Rita has worked very hard at trying to get a piece of steel and finally found an officer in the fire department who actually gave Rita his personal piece of steel from the towers, so it’s really personal to us. … It’s very special to us to be able to have it on display in Rochester in the park,” Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said.

With space for community gatherings and dedications, as well as paths on which to stroll and play, Cieslik said Heroes Point pays tribute to past and present first responders and is intended to be a peaceful and respectful place of honor and reflection for the community. The design includes benches, a waterfall fountain and landscaping, and it features a piece of steel from the North Tower, recovered after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“This is our pocket park in honor of the men and women who serve the whole community, from the police and fire to all of our military branches, and we don’t want to forget the citizens who volunteer on so many committees that make things happen in our community,” Cieslik said.

In December, the Fire Department received a $160,000 donation to support the project from Rochester residents Hugh and Nancy Elliott to supplement the approximately $30,000 the Fire Department raised. The Heroes Point project is estimated to cost around $190,000.

“If it wasn’t for the Elliotts, we wouldn’t be doing it yet,” Cieslik said.

The Fire Department is still appealing to the community to assist in supporting Heroes Point. Donations can be made at any financial level by individuals, families, neighborhoods or organizations.

“There are still some opportunities if people would like to go ahead and donate. We’re looking for some donations to pay for the monoliths for each one of the branches of the armed services, and we’re also looking for donations for some flower urns and things we’d like to put along with the waterfall. Everything will be landscaped with plants and flowers, and if they want to help sponsor a garden, they can do that too,” Cieslik said.

Engraved brick pavers can be purchased, and there are also opportunities for bench and fountain sponsorships and engravings, as well as sponsorships to fund sections of the garden.

“It’s going to make the front of the building look a whole lot nicer … and it should bring more people to the area,” said Rochester Fire Department Capt. Gary Purdom, who serves on the Heroes Point committee.

Officials hope construction will be wrapped up in August, and they plan to host a groundbreaking in September.    

For more information about sponsorships, call Cieslik at (248) 651-4470 or email