9/11 memorial nears approval in Riverhead

Firefighter Thomas R. Kelly, 39, of Riverhead, was Firefighter Thomas R. Kelly, 39, of Riverhead, was assigned to Ladder Company 105 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His unit, which lost six members, was last seen in the lobby of the south tower. Kelly’s remains were never found. This is one in a series of profiles of LI families who lost loved ones on 9/11, and how they're coping 10 years later. Go to www.newsday.com/911anniversary for the full profile, or to send in memories, photos or video. You can also use the iReport tool in the newsday.com iPhone application (click on iReporter in the top navigation).

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A memorial park honoring Riverhead firefighter Tom Kelly and others who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, is expected to be approved this month by the Riverhead Town board after a public hearing Tuesday that featured just one speaker -- Kelly's older brother.

"This has the full support of the community," said Bob Kelly, a retired New York City firefighter who also served at Ground Zero. "We have a lot of folks willing to donate their money and their time to build it. . . . it's a very small park. You couldn't pick a nicer place to have a memorial."

Every year since the attacks, the Reeves Park community has gathered on Sept. 11 to remember Kelly -- an FDNY member who died trying to evacuate people from the Twin Towers and who lived near where the park will be constructed -- and the other victims of the attacks.

Last year, a memorial stone with a piece of steel from the World Trade Center was added to a strip of land on Sound Avenue and Park Road, at the entrance to Reeves Park, as a memorial to Kelly.

An agreement was reached between the town and Suffolk County to have the county purchase a 4-acre tract on the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road to build the memorial park and to have the town make improvements to the land. The county acquisition is still being worked on, but could be delayed because of Suffolk's ongoing financial problems. Still, both town and county officials said they expected the new park to be open by September. Town officials said they would be ready to proceed on the project as soon as the county gives them the green light. County officials said the review process preceding the land buy should be completed in the next two or three months.

Tuesday's hearing was on a proposal to spend $50,000 in federal community development funds on improvements to the park property. Plans call for providing benches and two walking trails -- one asphalt and one stone -- through the wooded area. The money would also cover routine maintenance over the next five years.

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