Williamsburg detective remembered with street co-naming

By Matthew Fischetti


NYPD Detective Barbara Taylor-Burnette was many things: a mean point guard on the basketball court, a proud product of the Williamsburg Houses and a tireless advocate for 9/11 first responders.

Dozens of people piled into the corner of Humboldt and Scholes Street, now known as “Detective Barbara Taylor-Burnette Place,” to celebrate the legacy of the 18-year veteran of the force this past Saturday. Fifty-eight-year-old Taylor-Burnette passed away on Dec. 30, 2021 after battling interstitial lung disease, inoperable lung cancer and other illnesses she contracted due to her first responder work in the weeks following 9/11. 

She began her career working in the 73rd Precinct in 1988 when shootings in Brownsville were as high as 250 per year. 

“When she left 10 years later, there were 80. Make no mistake about it, a reduction in violence like that does not happen by accident,” said Intelligence Operations and Analysis Section Inspector Joseph Seminara.

After her stint in the 73rd Precinct, she moved on to the Narcotics Division and worked as an undercover.

“I can tell you from personal experience that is the most dangerous and unpredictable assignment that you can imagine,” said Jeffrey Ward, treasurer of the Detective Endowments Association. “But she had the guts and the fortitude to do that. And as a result of that, she earned her detective shield. Earned.”

She later moved on to the Intelligence Division, now known as the Intelligence Bureau – a high-profile unit that is in charge of trying to prevent terrorist attacks. 

In the weeks following 9/11, Taylor-Burnette selflessly spent time at the piles helping clear debris. And in the years following the attacks, she testified in front of Congress twice, advocating for the funding of the 9/11 Compensation Fund.

“Mom was a helper. If somehow, somewhere, someone she knew needed help – and it made it through the grapevine to her ears – she would move heaven and Earth to make sure that she was able to help,” her daughter, Yasmeen Burnett said. “When the towers fell, there was no second thought, there was a call to action. When asked to testify before Congress for the extension of health care benefits and compensation twice, there was no second thought.

Nicholas Papain, a personal injury lawyer who worked with Taylor-Burnette to fight for the Zadroga Act, described her as a “hero who would never call herself a hero.”

“For her, it was an opportunity to serve,” Papain, 69, said in an interview about her work in Washington D.C. “She was rather invigorated by the opportunity to go down there and once again serve her fellow first responders.” 

Besides her work with the NYPD, current and former residents of the Williamsburg Houses, whose tight knit community refers to each other as family, fondly remembered the second floor resident of 185 Scholes Street for the love she gave people and her basketball prowess.

Aaron Jones, 58, first met Taylor-Burnette on the court. He remembers her as a disciplined person in everything she did, a talented ball player who used to beat up on all the guys and a smack talker that pushed him to be a better player.

“It’s kind of surreal to see one of your own be forever enshrined in the community that you grew up in. We have many great people here. But it takes someone to fall in the line of duty in order to bestow this honor,” Jones said. “And that’s the sad part of it. But you know, we’re happy that one of our own will always be remembered.”

Seventy-four-year-old Alvin Mack lived right above Taylor-Burnette. And while he said that it was good to see her memory honored with the street co-naming, he said that he wished more people from the Williamsburg Houses were able to speak at the ceremony. 

“They should have allowed more of the people in the community who grew up with her, who loved her, who was poor with her because you would have got a real aspect of who she really was,” Mack said.

“She’s lovable. She was raised to love. She was raised to care. She was raised to be who she was,” he continued. “There’s not a bad thing you could say about her.”

Active shooter in Sunset Park subways

New York City experienced an active shooter situation early Tuesday morning, when an unidentified male individual began to open fire on the N line subway in Sunset Park.

According to police officials, the individual appeared to be wearing a gas mask when he boarded the train around 8:20 a.m. at the 36th Street Subway station. He then opened a canister of smoke that filled the subway car and began shooting, stricking multiple people inside the car and on the platform. Police describe the shooter as a tall black male, about 5-foot-5, with a heavy build wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and a green construction vest.

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, a representative with FDNY indicated that 16 people were injured in the attack – 10 of which were being treated from gunshot wounds. Other patients were injured from smoke inhalation or shrapnel, according to investigators. Five people injured in the fracas were identified as being in critical but stable condition at the time of the press conference. According to officials, none of the individuals injured face life threatening injuries.

“There are currently no known explosive devices on our subway trains and this is not being investigated as an act of terrorism at this time,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.

Police indicated that no motive has been established for the shooting as of press time. The investigation remains in its preliminary stages and any information may be subject to change.

Photos from the scene, released on social media, showed blood around injured individuals who were receiving medical help on the scene as others tried to escape through the clouded platform.

“Today, we saw New Yorkers in a difficult situation and emergency helping each other,” MTA Chief Janno Lieber said at the press conference, comparing the moment to 9/11. “That’s who New Yorkers are… everyday they’re showing people in the subway, which is our public space, that New Yorkers of all varieties can come together in small spaces and get alone and create something bigger. That’s what we remember in these emergencies, as well as the tragedy.”

“Our community is shaken by this senseless act of violence,” NYC City Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, who represents Sunset Park, said in a tweet. “The investigation is still active at this time. My thoughts and prayers are with all 16 of those injured. At this time we know that 10 are being treated for gunshot wounds and 5 are in critical, but stable condition.”

NYPD is asking for the public’s help with information. If you have any information you can confidentiality call Crimestoppers at 800-577-TIPS.

Detail details

Dear Editor,
Once again, Mayor Bill de Blasio has done something illogical and unethical. During his inane presidential campaign, which was the biggest joke of the century, he had a police detail drive his family around.
If he wanted to do that, he should have hired a private security service and pay out of his own pocket. That money should be returned to the police department immediately.
If he refuses to repay it, then he should be sued by the city. De Blasio thinks he can do whatever he pleases, but he has been nothing but a thorn in our city’s side since the day he took office. It will be indeed a pleasure to see him leaving at the end of this year.
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

The new NYPD?

Dear Editor,
If you think that fighting crime is the NYPD’s top job, guess again.
While shootings and homicides in New York City are nearly double their pre-pandemic levels, Mayor Bill de Blasio said “Customer service has to be what the NYPD is about.”
To achieve that goal, the NYPD will hire “community guides” at all 77 police precincts to greet visitors at the door. This new program will cost taxpayers $5.7 million a year.
Our mayor is doing this because he’s upset by the “gruff & dismissive” attitude toward the public. Even though New Yorkers fear for their safety, de Blasio wants cops to act like Walmart.
Instead of hiring greeters, why not hire more cops to reduce crime? New York’s Finest serve their “customers” – law-abiding residents and taxpayers – by risking their lives daily to protect us.
If they are sometimes “gruff & dismissive,” perhaps it’s because de Blasio and other “progressive” political leaders don’t respect them. Getting pelted and spat at by “peaceful” protesters may impact attitudes.
I urge our elected representatives to halt this insanity. But if they don’t, I’m sure our likely next mayor, Eric Adams, a former cop, will pull the plug. He values public safety above “customer service.”
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

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