Two state senators from Islip Town are working to drum up support in Albany for legislation that would again make available state funding for deteriorating buildings dedicated to veterans organizations across New York State.
Most veterans' posts, like those for the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, were built decades ago and serve some of the 892,000 veterans throughout the state, said Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), the bill's sponsor.
State capital funding for veterans organizations was stripped about four years ago from the list of permissible recipients that now only includes municipalities, and school, fire, library and ambulance districts, Boyle said. The posts have since had to rely solely on donations and fundraising, which does not come close to covering infrastructure costs, Boyle said.
This leaves many buildings "literally falling down," Boyle said, with leaky roofs, electrical problems, and kitchens and bathrooms in need of renovations.
"We cannot provide the grant money that you organizations are requesting of us because of the way the law is written now," Boyle said at a news conference at VFW Post 6431 in Brentwood Friday morning.
Dozens of veterans gathered there for the announcement, as garbage bins toward the back of the meeting room were set up to collect water from the building's leaky roof. The VFW on Wurz Street was built in 1956, according to post Commander Sabrina Lacy. The hall needs $150,000 to fix the roof, as well as upgrades to the kitchen, where the sink is inoperable, and for the bathrooms that require extensive renovations.
Islip Town Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr. said local veterans posts also help those returning from war to cope with civilian life and should be kept in good condition to provide that refuge.
"When we come down and have all vets talk, you guys listen and you tell your stories," Cochrane said to the crowd of veterans. "And [for] the new generation, we have to have centers and these halls [so] they [returning veterans] feel welcome."
Boyle introduced the bill Jan. 13 and has since gained 16 co-sponsors, including Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) and three Democratic co-sponsors. Boyle said he hopes to get this bill passed in this year's state budget, which is expected to go into effect April 1.
Croci, a commander in the Navy who was deployed overseas from the summer of 2013 to summer 2014, called this proposal "long overdue."
"It's too important for us to let these institutions in our community crumble away," Croci said. "The people inside are too important."