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Prayer for justice - Murdered couple laid to rest

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Friends and family members of Marine Park divorce attorney Mark Schwartz and his wife Christine Petrowski-Schwartz prayed for justice Sunday as detectives continued to pour over evidence that may lead them to the killer who took their lives.

The beloved couple, who were as devoted to each other as they were to their family, neighbors and clients of their thriving Quentin Road law practice, were found gunned down in their home on East 33rd Street near Fillmore Avenue on the afternoon of July 16.

Sometime the night before, a gunman crept into the home, somehow managed to subdue their protective German shepherd – which was found tied up in the backyard the next day – and shot them both in the head.

Their housekeeper found their bloodied bodies, officials said.

As of late Tuesday, no arrests had been made in the killing.

Investigators were reportedly questioning a number of possible suspects, including Petrowski-Schwartz’s son Nicholas.

Neighbors told reporters that the Schwartz’s put the sign “Don’t come home” on their front lawn a few weeks earlier. The sign, they believe, was directed at Nicholas, who lived above their law practice.

Nicholas reportedly told detectives about another possible suspect, a business partner of the couple and a former federal employee who may have embezzled money from the Schwartz’s during a recent business venture.

Police sources said this week that detectives were “looking over everything.” Nothing and no one is being discounted, they said.

During a funeral service at Sherman’s Flatbush Memorial Chapel on Coney Island Avenue Sunday, mourners said that even though the couple had been married just eight years, they participated in an almost legendary love affair.

“They were attached not physically, but for all intents and purposes emotionally,” Rabbi Joel Smilchensky explained to the dozens gathered as he looked over Mark’s urn and Christina’s casket in the Midwood chapel. “One did not go without the other. It was a beautiful example of how one should relate to a spouse.

“Mark and Chris showed us what love, caring and devotion was all about,” he said.

The evening before the slaying, Christina’s daughter Melissa remembered being at their house. As usual, Christina was happily preparing dinner for her beloved.

“She was smiling. They were happy like always,” she recalled, adding that just that Monday, Schwartz had told her that he wished the clients in the divorce cases he handled could “keep the kind of love that they had.”

“In a way I’m grateful that they did both go, because I don’t know how to console either one of them,” she said. “This is the way they would have wanted it. They don’t mean to leave us upset, but at least now we know that they have each other.”

Schwartz’s cousin Elliot said that the attorney had an “Uncle Buck” quality about him.

He was loud, garrulous and his language was “colorful” at best, he explained.

Elliot remembered that his cousin was so dedicated to his work that one time during a family trip to Alaska, he commandeered the hotel’s front desk just so he could handle a legal problem for a client.

“He made all of the hotel staff associates of Schwartz and Associates,” he recalled.

Christina, who acted as a mediator in the law firm, gladly took the role of everyone’s older sister, Elliot recalled, explaining that when he was dating his wife, Christina would find gifts for him to buy his future bride.

Besides the law, Mark enjoyed fishing and tinkering with computers, Elliot said.

“[Mark] programmed my first computer. The password he put in? ‘MALPRACTICE.’ He said that way I would always remember him,” he said.

As the investigation continues, cops are asking anyone with information regarding this shocking murder to come forward.

Calls can be made to the NYPD CrimeStoppers hotline at (800) 577-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

Once known for their putrid odors, the former Fountain and Pennsylvania landfills are being transformed into a lush greenery with birds and butterflies fluttering on bluffs overlooking Jamaica Bay.

And last week, a host of nature-loving citizens, earth science instructors, city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) workers and National Park Rangers toured the former landfills to see the work in progress.

The 400-acre sites in total, just off the Belt Parkway near Spring Creek Towers, served as city garbage landfills for over 30 years.

“The landfills were permanently closed in 1985 and then the DEP took over around 1991 and were forced to do something because the city was being sued by the feds to the tune of $25,000 per day,” said Lee Shelley, chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue Restoration.

Shelley explained that the federal government declared the landfills a Superfund site around 1990, meaning they were among the top environmentally hazardous sites nationally.

The federal government then allocated $220 million toward cleaning it up, he said.

Thus the DEP contracted the engineering services of URS Corporation, which studied the situation in the 1990s before putting a liner over the landfill to stop any leeching, followed by a series of soils and plantings, with the idea of returning it to its natural coastal forestland.

Queens College Earth Science Professor Peter Schmidt said whereas Prospect Park was designed to keep its already existing natural habitat, the landfills are an example of a completely man-made return to natural habitat.

Indeed, on the tour of the site last week, several bird and butterfly species were spotted fluttering amongst young saplings and native grassland.

The only odor emanating on top of the former landfill was that of sweet wildflowers coupled with the smell of salt marshes from Jamaica Bay on a sticky hot summer day.

Other birds already spotted in the new habitat include owls, egrets, swans and herons.

The site will continue to be maintained and monitored for weed control, said George Leahy, the URS chief engineer for the project.

The design also includes gently sloping plains, with the highest one in the Fountain Avenue landfill reaching 300 feet, or 125 feet above sea level, offering scenic views in every direction.

The plan calls for additional DEP monitoring as well as construction of a 350-500 vehicle parking facility, refreshment courts and comfort stations, and making both Penn and Fountain Park disability accessible.

In 2012, both former landfills will be turned over to the National Park Service where the sites will become part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

In the meantime, Shelley said the advisory committee will continue its advocacy role in the redevelopment.

This includes raising money for a Jamaica Bay fishing pier, boat launching facilities, bicycle path, band shell/amphitheater and education program.

“We’re overjoyed with it. I was born here in East New York and I can remember spending my childhood sleeping many a night with that stench,” said Shelley. “Now when I walk there I feel so happy that the project is almost all done.”

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