Originally created in 1963, the North Amityville Veterans Park was once considered an important site to the community both for the recognition it gave to the men who had served and as an identifying landmark for the hamlet.
But over the years, it became overgrown and unrecognizable, to the point where passersby on Albany Avenue wouldn’t have known a dedication stone existed under all the brush.
“Over the years, as anything, it began to look a little tired,” said Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer, speaking at the reopening of the park on Wednesday. “The people of Babylon didn’t think that was appropriate in recognizing our veterans.”
He said the plan to revitalize and reopen the park was put into motion before he took office in January. It included clearing the site of growth, pouring new pavement, setting new stones, landscaping, and installing a new park sign.
About 150 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for the small park located on a plot of land called “the teardrop” at the corner of Albany Avenue and Croydon Road.
The crowd included the sixth grade honors class from Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School and the kindergarten class from the Northeast School, both in Amityville. Members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion also filled the seats, and former Babylon Town Supervisor Bill Lauder, who initiated the original park idea, was one of a handful who spoke to the crowd.
Architect Stephen Fellman led the project, an opportunity he called “an honor” because his father, Ray Fellman, designed the original park.
Fellman, 55, whose firm SRF Architect is located just blocks away from the park, said he immediately agreed to work on the park, but had no idea where the park was. When he was told it was just around the corner, he couldn’t believe it. Fellman said his father, who died about 19 years ago, and two brothers were Marines.
“When I came here and pushed aside the bushes, there was my father’s name,” he said. “All of a sudden I got a little jelly-legged and my eyes got teary.”
Copiague resident Al Jackson, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of American Legion Post 1218 in Amityville, helped raise the flag at the park on Wednesday. He said it was a great honor to be at the ceremony and to have the park completed.
“I was coming up here every day to see the progress,” he said. “I love it. I really, really do. They did a great job.”