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Easement will help Babylon preserve winged lions in American Venice neighborhood

One of two winged lion statues that sits

One of two winged lion statues that sits atop columns at RPM Marine in Lindenhurst. The columns were erected almost 100 years ago. Credit: Barry Sloan

A piece of Babylon Town history that has been in danger of deterioration may now undergo a renaissance despite a setback in the town's preservation efforts.  

Angelo Costanza, who owns marinas in Nassau County, has purchased the RPM Marine property in Lindenhurst and said he will provide an easement to the town so officials can have access to two nearly 100-year-old towering columns topped with winged lions that sit at the front of the property. Town historian Mary Cascone said the easement would allow the town to seek grants to do restoration work  as the lions are eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places.  

“This is probably the second best way to accomplish what we all set out to accomplish,” Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said.  

A plan was launched last fall between the town and Suffolk County to purchase RPM Marine and turn the property into a public marina and park. The intent was part of a more than decadelong attempt by the town to preserve the lions, which are part of the “American Venice” neighborhood. The community was created in the 1920s as a summer getaway destination, designed to replicate Italy's Venice, complete with canals and gondola rides for potential homebuyers. Development stopped after the 1929 stock market crash.

Town attempts over the years to get access to the lions faltered. RPM Marine owner Terry Pulvidente Sr. filed for bankruptcy last year and listed the property for $1.39 million. The county got an appraisal for the property earlier this year but learned an offer had been made. County officials would not reveal the amount of the appraisal, but Schaffer said that it was “around $1.3 million” and the offer was made in March.

Pulvidente accused the town and county of “dragging their heels” with an offer but said he also wanted the property to continue to be operated as a private marina.

“We don’t need any more parks,” Pulvidente said, adding that public marinas undercut private businesses, causing many to go out of business. “That’s my life, that’s my blood, my family’s blood . . . I’ve been doing this since I was a kid.”

According to paperwork filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in Central Islip, Pulvidente entered into a contract with Costanza in January to purchase the property for $975,000.

Costanza said he will operate a marina on site but wants to celebrate the area’s history and Italian culture, illuminate the lions and add seating, a gazebo and fountains.

“I just want to make it this nice, welcoming feel to the whole American Venice neighborhood,” he said, calling his plan the “renaissance” of American Venice. “I’m determined to make it as good as it was 100 years ago.”

Kathy Gullo, a member of the recently revived American Venice Civic Association, said residents were disappointed that the town’s plans fell through, because the property had become an eyesore but added they are hopeful that Costanza — who she said has a good reputation in the boating community — will help with a neighborhood revival.

“It’s keeping the flavor of the neighborhood as it was supposed to be,” she said of Costanza’s plans. “Things had fallen off, but we’re getting it back on track.”

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