W’Terrace resident known for his legal-advocacy work commits fiery suicide in P’Park

Tragic prospect: Windsor Terrace resident David Buckel, 60, burned himself alive inside Prospect Park on Saturday morning.
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A Windsor Terrace man burned himself to death early Saturday morning in Prospect Park, leaving behind charred remains that horrified passersby who started the weekend with a stroll in the green space.

Paramedics pronounced 60-year-old David Buckel dead when they found his body on the ground not far from a footpath near the park entrance at 10th Avenue and Prospect Park Southwest, after responding to a 911 call reporting a man on fire “rolling around in the grass” around 6:30 am, according to photographer Mark Mellone, who overheard the call on a police scanner and rushed to the scene.

Parts of Buckel’s body continued to burn for almost an hour as emergency responders attempted to shield the corpse from park-goers’ view with a white sheet, according to Mellone, who said he spent the morning warning dog walkers and other visitors about the grizzly sight when he wasn’t snapping pictures of it.

Police discovered a suicide note in a manilla folder stashed inside a grocery cart near the deceased’s corpse, which cops found just a few blocks away from his Prospect Park Southwest home, authorities said.

Buckel described his decision to take his life as a protest against humanity’s destruction of the environment in the note, which he also e-mailed to publications including the New York Times before setting himself ablaze, according to a Times report.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote. “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

Buckel also compared his self-immolation to similar suicides by Tibetan activists who ignited themselves in flame in protest of the region’s occupation by China, according to a New York Daily News report on the incident.

“Many have chosen to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see,” his note read.

The deceased gained public recognition for his work as a civil-rights attorney and champion of LGBTQ causes at national-advocacy organization Lambda Legal, where he once spearheaded its marriage-equality initiative, according to the group’s acting director, who described Buckel’s death as “heartbreak­ing.”

“This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice,” Camilla Taylor said in a statement.

Buckel’s work for Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project included presenting arguments that in 2006 led the New Jersey Supreme Court to rule that same-sex couples seeking marriage in the state deserve the same rights as their opposite-sex counterparts, Taylor said.

And before that, the attorney in 1999 successfully sued a Nebraska county sheriff for failing to protect a transgender man raped and murdered there years earlier, whose death inspired the Academy Award–winning film “Boys Don’t Cry,” according to a Gay City News report.

Buckel rededicated himself to conservation in recent years, joining the ranks of a local farm in nearby Red Hook where he “elevated community composting to an exquisite art form,” according to a leader at the growing operation, who described him as a source of inspiration for other green thumbs in a letter mourning his death.

“Our deepest condolences to his loved ones at this difficult time,” said Red Hook Community Farm’s Saara Nafici. “We will continue the work of environmental education, advocacy, and action to honor his life of service.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:46 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Real from fort green says:
all those sarcastic responses will garner their Karma
April 17, 2018, 6:52 pm
SCR from Realityvillle says:
If only David Buckel was better personally informed,before putting a match to himself in Prospect Park,he would have realized;that there will be far more earlier deaths-due to the world's soaring severe overweight and human obsesity,plague. Namely,junk-food,corporations,such as Coca-Cola,McDonald's;and KFC will be more responsible,for the early deaths of humankinds-for early and unnecessary deaths,than global warming/climate change. In my nearly sixty-years of life,junk food,has gone from a once-a-week occurance,for mostly for children and teenagers;to almost everyday comsumption-by all ages. As for,Buckel,citing of martyrdom of Tibet,their culture;is willfully being deliberately diluted and destroyed,NOT-the last Buckel's It's NOT,as if Washington, continually planting,the worst of Rednecks,in the LBGTQ-coastal cities. That's rather,comparable to what Beijing,has done,as much as Tibet;as they possibly could. Yet,I have little doubt,that the rather successful Attorney David Buckel,didn't commit suicide for others reasons. Likely he suffered,from continued depression? Generation,after generation,has continued,to grin and bare prolonged depression. It's also,matter of a lack of available good various psycho-therapies. Intelligent people,are instinctively unable,to accept-"sliding-scale"therapy-by those,who they realize,within about the first couple of minutes;are considerably LESS intelligent,than they are. Even,if you could afford,maybe $500 per-session upper East-Side,psychiatrist;travel times-on the terribly delayed Lexington Avnue(6) subway,could well add to mental-depression. Especially so,if the,'shrink";is just as PO'd by your tardiness-as you are. Hopefully,the NYPD,and Buckel's love ones,will further investigate,all the possible motives-for this so tragic and illogical public suicide?
April 17, 2018, 9:29 pm
SCR from Realityville says:
P.S.I obviously meant to say, LBGTQ-friendly coastal cities!!
April 17, 2018, 9:55 pm
Morris from Mill Basin says:
SCR from Realityville: Great punctuation!
April 18, 2018, 11:38 am
Tyler from pps says:
Seriously, SCR. What do you think a comma is? That block of words was unreadable.
April 19, 2018, 10:14 am

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