Nassau officials broke ground Monday on an Oceanside park honoring Lou Alvarez, the late cancer-stricken NYPD detective whose congressional testimony is widely credited with helping secure health and death benefits for thousands of fellow 9/11 first responders.
Detective Luis G. Alvarez Memorial Park will be a place of reflection, where visitors can meditate, take yoga lessons and picnic with their families, said his widow, Alaine Parker Alvarez, who designed the facility.
"This park is very special in a lot of ways," said Parker Alvarez during a ground breaking ceremony Monday at the park on what would have been her late husband's 55th birthday. "A place where you can come to and stay in the moment. And not think about the future or the past and just enjoy life to its fullest. Tomorrow is never promised."
The $350,000 county-funded park, located on Terrell Avenue, less than a half mile from the family's Oceanside home, will feature the county's first meditation labyrinth where users will travel a single winding path from the outer edge in a circuitous way to the center.
In the middle of the labyrinth will be a granite stone etched with a five-edged star bearing Alvarez's name and badge number and the phrase "Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost" in the center.
A clock tower just outside the labyrinth will replace the 12 numerals with the word "Now," as an encouragement for visitors to live in the moment, said Brian Schneider, Nassau's deputy county executive for parks and public works.
The park, which is expected to be completed by the end of November, will also include swings, a designated area for meditation and yoga and a gazebo.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran encouraged residents to visit the former Terrell Avenue Park to remember Lou Alvarez's life.
"What a wonderful patch of county land for people to come and reflect on him, his service, his legacy and life," she said.
Alvarez, who spent months working on the pile at Ground Zero, was later diagnosed with colorectal cancer linked to the toxic dust floating in the air of lower-Manhattan in the aftermath of the terror attacks.
He was cast into the national spotlight in June 2019 during a televised appearance on Capitol Hill about the $7 billion Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund amid congressional inertia.
His face gaunt and his frame exceedingly frail, Alvarez was a symbol of courage and perseverance as he joined with activist and comedian Jon Stewart in making an emotional plea to extend health care funding for first responders such as himself.
Alvarez, a father of three and former Marine, died June 29, 2019 just weeks after his testimony.
"My brother talked about taking care of each other and taking care of yourself," said Phil Alvarez. "We hope this park helps in that mission. We hope people come here and are at peace."
Congress eventually passed the extension and President Donald Trump signed legislation to replenish the fund, which provides assistance to individuals who developed serious medical ailments stemming from the terror attacks. The money is due to last until 2090.
Parker Alvarez, wiping tears from her eyes, said her husband would be exceedingly proud of the park that will bear his name.
"He was a wonderful man all around. A good man," she said. "He showed his true colors after he was diagnosed and the heart that he had."