About 1,000 people from all walks of life, some crying and others wearing photo-emblazoned T-shirts, gathered yesterday to mourn a 6-year-old Brooklyn boy stabbed in a public-housing project elevator.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, his wife, Chirlane, and the Rev. Al Sharpton attended a private wake before the funeral of Prince Joshua Avitto, known as P.J. The line of relatives, friends and community members stretched around the block outside the St. Paul Community Baptist Church in the East New York neighborhood.
"It's very hard for me to say how very sad I am today," said his father, Nicholas Avitto. "Our greatest joy and pleasure was my son."
Taj Gibson, a relative and a player for the Chicago Bulls pro basketball team, was there, as were the team's coach, Tom Thibodeau, and staff from the first-grader's school.
"We've come today to celebrate P.J.'s life," the Rev. David Brawley said. "But we must acknowledge that his life was ended way too soon."
Among the flower arrangements placed on the altar was a Superman-themed bouquet, a tribute to P.J.'s "Superman" nickname. His body was taken out of the church in a small white casket, which was put into a hearse to go to a crematorium for a private, family-only service.
Outside the church, Marilyn Glaspie, 51, said the incident has left her in fear because she lives in Linden Housing, a development next to Boulevard Houses where P.J. lived. "I was a hostage in my own home. I did not leave my apartment until Thursday. I was scared," Glaspie said, adding that her grandson and P.J. attended the same preschool.
On Thursday, police charged Daniel St. Hubert, a recently released convict, with murder and other crimes in the attack Sunday that killed P.J. and critically wounded his friend Mikayla Capers, 7. The church erupted in applause after Brawley disclosed that the girl had been taken out of the intensive care unit.
St. Hubert, 27, served time for attempted murder and assault. Court records show he was arrested in May 2009 after punching his mother in the face, choking her with an electrical cord and stealing her car. He pleaded guilty in July 2012.
If convicted, St. Hubert faces a maximum 50 years to life in prison. His next court date is Wednesday.
With Maria Alvarez