As the sun set on Tuesday evening, friends and neighbors gathered in the grand courtyard of the Cobble Hill Towers to light candles in memory of Jeffrey Axelrod, a resident who .
Axelrod, an avid cyclist, was riding his bike on Christie Street when he was caught in a collision with a tractor-trailer truck, and pronounced dead on the scene.
As dusk fell, the candles cast a glow on the crowd and on an illuminated photograph of Axelrod, smiling and clad in a blazer and fedora, placed on a table in the courtyard of the Towers, where Axelrod had lived for the past 20 years. The event drew a crowd of a few dozen neighbors, work colleagues and friends, who all came to share memories of their departed friend.
Although it was an occasion for mourning, the mood remained buoyant with fond tales of the man who had clearly touched the lives of many.
“I'd say we should observe a moment of silence, but that would really not be appropriate for Jeff,” said one friend, drawing fond laughter from those gathered. Instead of somber remembrances, friends told stories of a man vibrant and full of life, and seemed to take heart in the memory of a man who lived life to the fullest.
Axelrod was a lifelong Brooklyn resident, having grown up on Coney Island long before he became a fixture in the Cobble Hill community.
Although Axelrod was a strong Cobble Hill resident, his life's work and enthusiasm for community reached far beyond local matters, recalled friend Seth Asher.
“He was very involved in cycling, and improving safety for bikers in New York," he said.
In fact, a group of friends have been discussing organizing a Ghost Bike memorial in Axelrod's honor. The monument would be placed at the scene of the accident to remember the fallen cyclist, with the hope that no more casualties would occur there.
Throughout the evening it became apparent that Axelrod was a man of many passions and hobbies. Long time friend and neighbor Erik Nadoban recalled Axelrod's chess skills.
“It was really how he took on everything – to its fullest. He was impressive for a recreational player. He was hard to beat.”
“He literally knew music inside and out,” added Nadoban.
As one neighbor recalled, Axelrod had worked hard to study Chinese. He was dedicated enough to carry on full conversations.
“He would talk to the people at the Chinese food restaurant up the street!” remembered Nadoban.
Axelrod's enthusiasm for life – whether through music, cycling or bringing fresh produce to the community as a founding member of the Cobble Hill Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – was palpable through the memories shared. The CSA fondly names Axelrod the “heart and soul of Cobble Hill” in a commemorative post on the website.
“He was super smart and he knew it,” reminisced Paul Glankler, who first recruited Axelrod into the CSA around 2000. “He was always himself – unpretentious, no grand-standing – and he had a wonderful outlook despite a natural cynicism.”
Axelrod apparently also had a penchant for immaculate fashion.
“He was a great dresser. Sharp, with a 1940s style,” said Nadoban – a fact reaffirmed with admiration in many conversations throughout the evening.
Glankler added, “He was noble – definitely left-thinking, and interested and engaged. He saw everything with ethics.”
Jeffrey Axelrod was a neighborhood fixture, a resident who reportedly greeted everyone with a smile, approached life with a bawdy sense of humor and stood behind his causes with tenacity.
He will be missed.