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BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Lower Manhattan residents gathered Monday in front of the Frank Gehry building to remember and honor Mike Rogalle, a beloved U.P.S. worker who was fatally struck by a car three years ago.
Over 80 residents from 140 and 145 Nassau St. donated money for a tree to pay homage to Rogalle, who spent decades on his Nassau St. route — and became a part of the community.
“Mike was no ordinary U.P.S. guy,” said Diane Rohan, a resident who organized the tree planting and the ceremony. “The best way to remember him and let his family know how much we loved him was to plant a tree.”
In April 2012, Rogalle, 58, was critically injured when a S.U.V. hit him on Beekman St. and died five days later on April 22.
Safety concerns on the street were heightened once again as a recent hit and run crash badly injured a mother who was on her way to work at Lower Manhattan Hospital.
Wanting to honor Rogalle, Rohan and others raised money in 2013 for a tree. It took two years to coordinate with the city Parks Dept. to make it happen. The first place for the tree was at 15 Beekman St. — in front of which the incident took place — but it was not viable due to a hollow sidewalk. Rohan found a spot at the plaza in front of 8 Spruce St.
“I’m really appreciative of this Downtown community,” Chelsea Rogalle, his daughter, told Downtown Express after the ceremony. “I can tell the community misses him as much as we do.”
Around 25 people came for the plaque’s unveiling at the base of the tree and shared memories of Rogalle before, during and afterwards — raising a glass to him across the street at Beekman Pub.
“He always had an extra minute or two,” said Alan Steinberg, who knew Rogalle for more than 30 years. “What happened to him was absolutely tragic.”
Fern Cunningham, a new Community Board 1 member, said that she “can’t get over” what happened to Rogalle.
“He was just the best,” said Cunningham, who has lived at 140 Nassau St. for 15 years.
“Each of us had their own unique relationship with him,” said Barbara Lipski.
Lipski, who lived at 140 Nassau St. for 20 years and now lives in Penn South in Chelsea, spearheaded the fundraising drive.
“This is what a community is supposed to be,” said Lipski with tears in her eyes. “Mike was a part of our community.”
Dwight Hamilton has been a U.P.S. worker for 29 years — and knew Rogalle for almost as long. Hamilton’s route was near Rogalle’s and he saw him every morning.
“It’s tremendous,” Hamilton said. “To have this here, it will remind of us Mike for a very long time.”