To John Viscusi and other residents of Carle Place, Fuschillo Park is more than a play space. It is a community gathering place where they meet people, build relationships and share memories, and they are committed to ensuring its future.
Viscusi and dozens of other residents attended a meeting June 17 at the park to discuss ways to improve it and increase activities there. Viscusi was born and raised in the hamlet and said he grew up playing hockey, baseball and all kinds of games in the park. The softball coach continues to “play” there but said park activities have declined over the decades.
“When I grew up, we were always outside on our bicycles," said Viscusi, 52. "We were always playing catch [and] playing hide-and-seek. That, in essence, has changed.”
And that is something North Hempstead Town officials want to change.
“Certainly, parks are places where people get together,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “Fuschillo is a very well-used park, so we want to make sure it’s staying up to date.”
The 4.3-acre park was built in 1946 and is nestled among a residential neighborhood and the Long Island Rail Road station in Carle Place.
Bosworth and Councilwoman Viviana Russell, who represents Carle Place, said they want to find ways to increase activities at the underutilized hockey rink and the “quiet area,” an empty, shaded spot next to the playground. They also wanted to hear suggestions on playground upgrades.
Every year, North Hempstead spends millions of dollars on park maintenance and improvements. Fuschillo is one of two dozen park projects the town has planned for this year. Martin “Bunky” Reid Park in New Cassel, which is a couple miles west of Fuschillo, has nearly $1 million budgeted this year to repave walkways, resurface basketball courts and improve the park's pool.
For the renovation work at Fuschillo, the town has $300,000 budgeted this year and more allocated in the next four years, adding up to $900,000 for the project. Town officials said some of the improvements, such as resurfacing the courts, are expected to be done in a year. The timeline for other improvements remains unclear as the town continues to put together a plan.
During the hourlong brainstorming session, residents said they wanted to see a new playground, batting cage, picnic area and water spray added to the park.
Eileen Vaz, 47, of Carle Place, has two daughters and said she would like to see new equipment added to the playground for older children.
“I have a 9-year-old, and she’s aged out of here while her 7-year-old sister is still playing here,” Vaz said.
Emilia Johnson, 12, and her fellow softball teammates said they wanted a batting cage, for practice, and clean water fountains.
Other than catering to the needs of children, many suggested creating more options for parents. Ideas included adding concrete game tables and making an adult fitness area for parents to exercise in.
Some residents suggested converting the hockey rink, which is rarely used, into a picnic area or spray ground with water features, or both. Others said the rink could be resurfaced and better used for skating.