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Huntington to Build Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Spray Park in Elwood

Town’s first spray park, to open next summer at Elwood Park, will be memorial to slain NYPD officer who lived nearby

The Town of Huntington, in a program attended by local officials, community members, representatives of the New York City Police Department and a Harley Avenue Primary school kindergarten class, announced September 25 that it will build a spray park at Elwood Park in memory of slain NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo.

The decision to construct the spray park, which will be in a 2,500-square foot park area and have 1,600 square feet of active play features, followed discussions with Sgt. Tuozzolo’s widow, Lisa, over what would be an appropriate memorial to her husband, and included her input as well as representatives from the NYPD. In addition to the spray park features, the area will also have a shade structure, six park benches, a four-foot vinyl coated chain link fence and a memorial trellis naming the spray park.

Sgt. Tuozzolo was fatally shot last Nov. 4, when he and a group of officers were responding to a report of a disturbance in the 43rd Precinct in the Bronx, where he worked for the last 10 years of his career. They believed they were responding to  home invasion, but it turned out to be a domestic incident. A dispatcher told responding units that the man who had broken into the home left in a car that was located about six minutes later. Police, including Sgt. Tuozzolo, approached the vehicle. The suspect opened fire and shot Sgt. Tuozzolo in the head and upper torso and another officer in the leg. Sgt. Tuozzolo died of his injuries. The suspect was subsequently killed by a police trainee.

Sgt. Tuozzolo, a 19-year-NYPD veteran, grew up in Bayville, but moved to Huntington with his wife, Lisa, and were raising their family here, in a neighborhood not far from Elwood Park.

“It’s a neighborhood park. It’s a park he visited, and his children visited,” Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said at the ceremony announcing construction of the park. Speaking of Lisa Tuozzolo and sons Austin and Joseph, Supervisor Petrone said, “We talked about creating a memorial that would be meaningful to her and to her two sons. We of course are saddened by the tragic incident that cost Paul his life and we hope that this spray park will be a place where Austin and Joseph can come and relive their fond memories of their dad and know that all of us will remember the sacrifice he made while trying to keep us safe. This spray park will be a testament to the exemplary way Paul Tuozzolo led his life, as a police officer, as a husband and as a dad.”

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said, “Thank you, Lisa. You really are a pillar of strength. We look up to you…This is a continuation of Paul’s legacy.”

 Councilwoman Susan A. Berland said, “The Town has really come together to help Lisa and her family. This is the whole Town of Huntington that is here for you, to support you and your family, and this spray park will be a testament for generations to come.  It’s going to teach youngsters about the police and about the qualities it takes to be a police officer.”

Councilwoman Tracey A. Edwards said, “I am very saddened about how we arrived here today, but what I can tell you is that I am not surprised about the outpouring of support from the police officer’s family, from the NYPD, from the Suffolk County Police Department, from the Elwood community and the Town of Huntington. This is what we do. We support each other.”

Councilman Eugene Cook was unable to attend, but sent his best wishes to the family.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi spoke to the members of Austin’s kindergarten class who attended the announcement. “It’s important to know that you are witnesses today to something that will be here forever.  We need to tell the story for the future, that Sgt. Tuozzolo is a hero. And this park is being named after him because he is a hero, and we hold up heroes as people who we want to emulate, people who have made a sacrifice on our behalf.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said, “Sgt. Tuozzolo died a hero, he was a fine member of the NYPD. He was also a loving father who cared for his children. To dedicate this park for Sgt. Tuozzolo is a perfect tribute.”

Speaking for the NYPD and its commissioner was Chief Larry Nikunen, who worked with Sgt. Tuozzolo in the Bronx. “We have a phrase in the NYPD that we never forget. We never forget the members of our department who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It is something that is very sacred to us as members of the NYPD…It is also important that people outside the NYPD understand what kind of man, what kind of officer Sgt. Tuozzolo was. That’s why the NYPD is extremely grateful to Supervisor Petrone and the Town of Huntington that they are creating a lasting monument for Sgt. Tuozzolo out here in Elwood Park.”

Last to speak was Lisa Tuozzolo. “Paul and I lived here for almost nine years, but thanks to the support we have received from this community, it feels like we have lived here a lifetime,” she said. “Those we knew, as well as strangers, have been by our side and supported us and I appreciate all of them…His last years of his career, at the 43rd Precinct,  focused on the safety and wellbeing of children and their schools in the Bronx.  His passion for children did not end and the end of the work day. The two most important children in his life were his sons, Austin and Joseph, and the moment he walked through the doorway upon returning from work, our home lit up as bright as the sun from the smiles on everyone’s faces. Today’s dedication is a fitting tribute to the devotion he had toward his children and I know that he is smiling down with great pride, knowing that his boys will have laughter and smiles at this spray park.”

After the remarks, the officials, joined by the kindergarten students, unveiled a sign showing conceptual drawings of the spray park and participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking.

The preliminary cost estimate for the project is $450,000. A good portion of the funding will come from money paid by the developer of the Seasons at Elwood as part of its community benefits agreement. Other funding will come from the Town’s Park Improvement Fund.

The plan is to complete the design over the next few months, begin construction in March 2018 and have it completed by the beginning of next summer.

 

 

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