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Nassau's first house for a veteran going up in Hicksville

Larry Sklar, director of Homes for Homecoming Heroes,

Larry Sklar, director of Homes for Homecoming Heroes, poses for a portrait at 77 Thorman Avenue in Hicksville Saturday, May 3, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Sometime this summer, a veteran who served in Iraq or Afghanistan should be moving into the first house in Nassau County built specifically for someone who fought in those conflicts.

The home is being constructed in Hicksville by volunteers for the nonprofit Homes for Homecoming Heroes.

It's the first house to be built by the group formed three years ago by Army veteran Larry Sklar, 69, of Jericho. It will be provided to the veteran at a low cost because the architect, contractors, carpenters, electricians and others donated their time or materials.

"It's finally come to a reality," Sklar said of the house where the foundation was poured last month. The walls and roof went up earlier this month. The building is coming together after two years of effort -- getting donated land from Nassau County, drawing up plans, acquiring approvals, and pulling together supplies and volunteers.

While Sklar's project is the first home for veterans in Nassau, several have been constructed in Suffolk.

The Long Island Home Builders Care Development Corp. has been building homes for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2011, starting with one in Sound Beach and another in Ronkonkoma in 2012.

Last year in Islandia, it built a six-house development believed to be the nation's first veterans-only affordable housing subdivision for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sklar, who has held leadership roles with the Jewish War Veterans group for two decades, said he got into house building as one of the founders of the Nassau chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

But he wanted to start his own nonprofit. "I began gathering volunteers," he said, assembling more than 200.

Robert Engel, of Dix Hills, a member of Northeast Regional Carpenters Union Local 290, said he and fellow carpenter Dan Lynch, of Smithtown, arranged for about a dozen of their colleagues to volunteer.

"My father was a veteran, and we have a lot of vets in the local, so I just wanted to give something," said Engel, who has given three days toward the project so far.

Francesca Stasi, owner of Cesca Construction, of Hicksville, donated the house foundation, which she said would have cost $25,000. "I figured it would be a nice gesture to help out," she said.The Nassau County Legislature in 2011 approved County Executive Edward Mangano's plan to donate the site -- a vacant lot on Thorman Avenue -- to the project.

The organization has received $100,000 in donations and needs to come up with another $40,000 to complete the 1,800-square-foot house, Sklar said.

A veteran has been chosen to live in the house, Sklar said. His name will be revealed once the $230,000 mortgage is approved. Sklar arranged with the state for a 30-year, low-interest mortgage with 1 percent down. The expected sale price is $235,000.

"We hope to build many more houses if we can find the land," Sklar said.With Bill Bleyer

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