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What’s In a Name? The Fireman’s Memorial Garden

Fireman’s Memorial Garden on East 8th Street

As we continue to document the research we have compiled on every building and site in the East Village, we run across some incredible stories of the neighborhood’s history. Such is the case for a site at 358-362 East 8th Street, a lush green oasis in the middle of the block between Avenues C and D. Our research led us to the tragic tale of how this community garden came to be known as the Fireman’s Memorial Garden. As part of our series, ‘What’s In A Name?,’ we thought that we would look into the reason for this nomenclature.

The garden pays homage to the memory of Martin R. Celic (1952-1977), a young member of Ladder Company 18 who lost his life fighting a fire in the tenement that once stood here.

Picture of Martin R. Celic, Source: The Celic Run

On July 2, 1977 an arsonist set a fire on the fifth floor of the abandoned building that once stood on this site. When the firefighters arrived, the blaze was spreading through the building. After the firemen entered the building, the arsonist went back inside and started a fire on the floors below them, trapping the firemen inside.  Unfortunately arson and abandoned buildings were all too common in the East Village at the time.

The only escape route for the firefighters was to crawl onto the fire escape and jump to the cherry picker which was raised to the fifth floor. Struggling through smoke and with heavy equipment on his back, Marty Celic missed the ladder bucket and fell to the ground. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he died eight days later.

Celic received the Fire Department Medal of Valor, the Medal of Supreme Sacrifice from the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the United Firefighters Officers Association and was honored as Fireman of the Year by the Crime Victims’ Rights Organization.  In recognition of his memory, Celic’s fellow fire fighters advocated for the renaming of the southwest corner of Pitt and Delancey Streets, in front of his firehouse, to Martin R. Celic Plaza which was dedicated in 1979. They also fought to have the building at 358 East 8th Street demolished.

Martin R. Celic Plaza and Engine Co. No. 15 and Ladder Co. No. 18.  Source: Google

Neighbors Ansley and Kelly Carnahan had been gardening in the lot next to the abandoned building two years before the fateful fire.  After the building was torn down, the garden was expanded to include the lot, and it was named the Fireman’s Memorial Garden.

A special ceremony is held in mid-July in the garden in remembrance of the sacrifices of all New York City firemen. And every year there is a 4-mile run held in Staten Island, now known as the Marty and Tom Celic Memorial Run,  (sadly Martin’s brother Tom lost his life during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center) to raise money for a scholarship fund.

To stay up to date with our advocacy efforts and gain quick access to historic resources for please check out our Interactive  Neighborhood Map. 

6 responses to “What’s In a Name? The Fireman’s Memorial Garden

  1. Thank you for posting this story. I came across this article while doing research on my family history. My grandfather’s first home in 1902 was this building back in 1902. I believe he was born in this building. When I saw the name of the park, I wanted to know more. I am a fire captain and it means so much to me that this park was dedicated to the memory of firefighter Celic. Thank you


  3. My name is Michael Martin Celic. Martin Celic is my uncle who I never had the privledge of meeting for I wasn’t born until 1988. Obviously my middle name is named after him, my father is Michael, Martin’s older brother. All these loving comments truly mean the world to me and my family and I want everyone who is involved in the park to know we truly love and appreciate you all. My email is celicmike1@gmail.com any of you can contact me anytime. My father Michael recentley passed away from cancer at the age of 71 and was heavily involved with the park, he brought me years ago when I was basically a kid to build those benches that are in the park.

    1. How proud your Uncle would be to know he is not forgotten. What a great family you are from. God Bless the FDNY,

    2. Michael Martin,
      This is uncle Steve. Just wanted to let you know that your message about the FMG is really sweet. Thank you for your kind words. Your dad, my brother Mike, really loved you and his family. Hoping you are well and happy. Best always …

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