Longtime Woodside resident Alejandro Nino may be gone, but after Saturday’s ceremony to co-name the street where he grew up, he won’t be forgotten.
About 40 of Nino’s close friends and family members joined Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and members of the Sunnyside Drum Corps on Saturday to install a street sign “Alejandro Nino Place” on the intersection of 49th Street and Queens Boulevard.
Nino was raised in a Colombian-Cuban household on 49th Street and lived in Woodside since 1981. He served as a member of the Army’s National Guard until 2007, when he was diagnosed with cancer and honorably discharged.
He lost his fight against the disease in March 2010, at the age of 36.
“He may be out of sight, but he is always with me in my heart,” said Nino’s mother, Rosa Velez, speaking against the backdrop of traffic on Queens Boulevard.
“Looking out today on all his friends and people who cared about him,” Velez said, “I thank God because Alejandro knows full well how much he was loved. I am extremely proud and grateful for this loving tribute.”
Velez also spoke of her son’s great satisfaction in being “of service to others.”
In addition to his service in the National Guard, Nino was a member of the City Volunteer Corps and served as a therapy aide at Coler Memorial Hospital on Roosevelt Island.
Reached by phone later, Velez added that one of her son’s most rewarding volunteer assignments was serving as an assistant at Holy Apostles soup kitchen in Manhattan. “Alejandro loved working there and helping to feed people who really needed the help. He really inspired people with his service.”
Van Bramer, whose office was instrumental in helping to facilitate the street co-naming, said “This whole day…this sign is about the love you have for your son.”
An aide to Van Bramer said that the street co-naming bill was introduced Nov. 30, 2010 and was passed by the Council on Dec. 8. The bill was signed into law by the mayor on Dec. 20, 2010.
Velez thanked Van Bramer for honoring her son’s life and for also helping to get the initial 112-signature petition for the renaming approved by the council.
Joel Solorzano, who grew up with Nino, flew in from Orlando, Fla., for the ceremony.
“We grew up right here on 49th Street and we played football, basketball, everything,” he said. “He was part of the community. He looked out for everyone and made us proud.”
Nino’s sister Michele called him a “great father, brother … and a great man.”
Denise Carlos, a nurse’s aide at Elmhurst Hospital, said Nino was one of her favorite patients. “He touched my heart. I woke him up every morning with a hug and kiss,” she recalled.
“When Alejandro passed, I felt as if I lost my best friend.”
But, she added “with this tribute, his memory will live on.”