Father Fagan Park
Father Fagan Park
This park commemorates four local heroes who perished in the face of fire, losing their lives that others might live. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Father Richard Fagan (1911-1938) moved with his family to Boston, Massachusetts as a child and later lived in Brooklyn, New York. He studied with the Marist Brothers in Poughkeepsie and entered the Preparatory Seminary at Catskill in 1926. Three years later, he graduated from St. Anthony’s Seraphic Seminary and entered the Novitiate in Pittsburgh. In 1932, he came to St. Francis Seraphic Seminary and was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1935. Father Fagan was called to duty at St. Anthony’s Church in 1936 and lived at the rectory at 151 Thompson Street.
The rectory caught fire in the early morning of November 4, 1938. Father Fagan escaped and then twice reentered the burning building – first to rescue Father Louis Vitale, and again to save Father Bonaventure Pons. Trapped in the rectory and badly burned, Father Fagan leaped through a window to the roof of the Settlement House a floor below. He was found and brought to Columbus Hospital, where he died on November 9, 1938 at the age of twenty-seven. To describe Father Fagan’s heroic life and heroic death, members of his church quote the Book of John: "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15:13).
In 1994, another deadly fire stunned the neighborhood. On the night of March 28, Ladder Company 5 and Engine Company 24 of the Fire Department of New York responded to a blaze at 62 Watts Street. While operating on the second floor landing, Captain John J. Drennan (1945-1994) and firefighters James F. Young (1963-1994) and Christopher J. Siedenburg (1969-1994) were trapped in a sudden flashover from the burning apartment beneath them. Firefighter Young was killed almost instantly. Firefighter Siedenburg died the next day, and Captain Drennan died six weeks later.
Located on Avenue of the Americas between Prince and Spring Streets, this sitting area was one of several wedge-shaped plazas developed when Sixth Avenue (the former official name of Avenue of the Americas) was extended south of Carmine Street in the mid-1920s. The park was named in memory of Father Fagan by local law in 1941 and was one of several properties along the avenue in the Greenwich Village area rehabilitated by NYC Parks in 1960.
In 1994 three bronze plaques were installed next to trees in the northwest section of the parcel in memory of the three firefighters who sacrificed their lives in the Watts Street blaze. The park was renovated in 2017-2018, maintaining the site’s open design while making it more attractive and welcoming with an enhanced sitting area and additional greenery. A water supply was installed at the Charlton Plaza garden on the other side of the avenue, and the sidewalk there was reconstructed to correct drainage problems. This renovation should ensure that the park will remain an enjoyable neighborhood amenity for years to come.