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Outdoor spaces to be renamed for Huntington community leaders

Paul H. Johnson Sr., left, Phil Tepe and

Paul H. Johnson Sr., left, Phil Tepe and Toni Rettaliata-Tepe are Huntington community leaders who died in 2020. Credit: Newsday File

Two of Huntington’s popular outdoor spaces will be renamed for notable Huntington residents who died this year.

Dix Hills Park will be renamed for Toni Rettaliata-Tepe, the town’s first female town supervisor and her husband Phil, a Dix Hills Fire Department commissioner.

Gateway Plaza in Huntington Station will be renamed for community leader Paul H. Johnson Sr.

Rettaliata-Tepe was elected supervisor in 1987 and served one term when the term of office was only two years. While in office, she established the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board and the Huntington Area Rapid Transit (HART) bus system, town officials said.

She also was elected to represent the state's 10th Assembly District from 1979 to 1987 — only the third woman to hold that seat. She was the chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee at the time of her death.

Philip H. Tepe was a Vietnam War veteran, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Nathan Hale Post 1469, and a member of the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board. He also was a 52-year member of the Dix Hills Fire District and served many roles. He also was a Suffolk County deputy fire coordinator and a Town of Huntington fire marshal, town officials said.

Lupinacci saluted Rettaliata-Tepe for breaking a glass ceiling for women who aspire to work in public service.

"Antonia ‘Toni’ Rettaliata-Tepe and Philip H. Tepe are deserving of recognition matching their decadeslong devotion and dedication to the greater Huntington community and our country," Lupinacci said.

The couple lived in Dix Hills and died within three weeks of each other in March and April. Rettaliata-Tepe was 75 when she died; Tepe was 71.

The name change was approved 3-2 at last Tuesday's town board meeting with Democratic town board members Mark Cuthbertson voting no and Joan Cergol abstaining.

Cuthbertson offered an amendment to rename Dix Hills Park on Vanderbilt Parkway for Robert Flynn, a Huntington Democrat who served as town supervisor in the 1960s, and name Caledonia Park, also in Dix Hills, for the Tepes. He argued that the land was acquired and preserved during Flynn’s administration, but the measure failed.

The board voted unanimously to rename Gateway Plaza on New York Avenue for Johnson, a Huntington High School Class of 1948 track star,. Army paratrooper during the Korean War, and a lifelong member and leader of the Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church. The town’s African American Historic Designation Council and the NAACP Huntington Branch made the recommendation citing that the area has significance to Johnson, including a building where he attended Boy Scout meetings.

"He is well deserving of this honor," the Rev. Larry Jennings, president of the Huntington Branch of the NAACP, said. "It commemorates the legacy of leadership and civic duty he left in Huntington Station and all of Huntington."

Johnson died at 90 in February.

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