I first got wind of the horrifying situation a few minutes before 5 p.m. via a phone call from a friend.
“You can’t go anywhere near Forest Park right now,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
He went on to describe the scene, a phalanx of Fire Department vehicles and Police cruisers, lights flashing, framing the expansive, 500-plus acre green space as the sun began to set on the city, where Woodhaven Boulevard meets Forest Park Drive.
“They pulled a kid out of the pond…the ice on top broke and he fell in,” my friend reported.
After a series of phone calls and emails I would learn that, indeed, firefighters had rescued an 11-year-old boy and rushed him to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
As I followed up on the incident several hours later, I learned that the boy, Anthony Perez, from Glendale, had perished. He was 11 years old.
Anthony and an unidentified 12-year-old friend were on Strack Pond around 4 p.m. when the older boy ventured too far out – about 50 feet, according to firefighters – and the thin sheet of ice that topped the body of water gave way, plunging him into the murky depths.
Anthony jumped in and pushed his friend to safety. Should have known he’d do that—wouldn’t even stop for a breath to think about the dangers.
“I’m not surprised he risked his life,” Anthony’s friend, Noah Rodriguez, told the New York Daily News.
But Anthony was unable to extract himself and eventually slipped under the ice. His buddy ran to get help.
Anthony was submerged for approximately 30 minutes before FDNY crews could drag him out. He had no chance.
So now what? We are left to grieve, to mourn a life mercilessly cut short.
And, inevitably, we will return to that three-letter question that always seems to cut so deep.
According to the City Parks Department, Strack Pond, dedicated to Private First Class Laurence E. Strack, who grew up in Woodhaven and ice skated on what was then an unnamed pond to the west of Woodhaven Boulevard and south of Forest Park Drive in a natural depression. Strack was the first Woodhaven resident to die serving in the Vietnam War. The pond that honors his legacy was buried in 1966 but restored in 2004.
Since it was restored and re-dedicated, the pond has become nothing short of a danger zone, especially in winter. An area firefighter who responded to Tuesday’s nightmare told The Forum that the pond should be drained in the winter.
“We get way too many calls like [Tuesday],” the smoke-eater said.
Another member of the city’s Bravest, Deputy Chief George Healy of Division 13, reminded all to keep away from bodies of water in the winter.
“We implore parents – make sure your kids know the ice in the city of New York, on these lakes and ponds, is not safe. It won’t support your weight,” he said at Forest Park on Tuesday. “Please stay off the ice.”
But, kids will be kids. To satisfy their curiosities they’ll explore. They’ll bait danger.
That’s why the City should, once and for all, drain Strack Pond, and anything like it in winter months.
Rest in Peace, Anthony.


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