Elwood residents are looking forward to having a new spray park to play in next summer being built in memory of a slain New York City police sergeant.
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board unveiled plans Sept. 25 for the town’s first interactive water playground to be constructed at Elwood Park in memory of a Huntington resident Paul
Tuozzolo, who was killed in the line of duty.
The spray park came about after lengthy conversations between town officials and Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, to build a memorial that would be meaningful to the couple’s two children.
“We, of course, are saddened by the tragic incident that cost Paul his life,” Petrone said. “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.”
Tuozzolo, 41, was working for the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of the Bronx last November when he was shot and killed responding to what was reported as a home invasion, but later turned out to be domestic incident. A dispatcher told responding officers that a man who had broken into a home was fleeing in a car, which Tuozzolo swiftly tracked down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect opened fire and shot Tuozzolo who died of his injuries.
“We have a phrase in the NYPD that we ‘never forget,’” said Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen, commanding officer of the Patrol Borough Bronx who spoke for the NYPD. “We never forget the members of our department who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It is something very sacred to us as members of the NYPD … It is also important that people outside of the NYPD understand what kind of man, what kind of officer Sgt. Tuozzolo was.”
During his 19 years of service, Tuozzolo held various positions including a union representative for the Sergeants Benevolent Association and later on worked in the school unit ensuring safety and well-being of Bronx students, according to Nikunen.
Tuozzolo was known as a “laidback, easy-going sergeant who cared for his cops” whose passion for children was evident in both his work and his family life, according to his wife.
“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,” Lisa said. “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.”
The park will cover a 2,500-square-foot area with approximately 1,600-square-feet of active play features that will be purchased from playground equipment manufacturer Waterplay Solutions. Its equipment will include a shade structure, six park benches, a 4-foot vinyl-coated chainlink fence and a memorial trellis naming the park.
“We need to tell the story for the future, that Sgt. Tuozzolo is a hero,” said U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). “This park is being named after him because he is a hero, and we hold up heros as people who we want to emulate, people who have made a sacrifice on our behalf to make our lives better.”
Suozzi presented Lisa and her sons with a flag from U.S. Congress in Tuozzolo’s memory.
Over the upcoming months, Petrone said the town will continue to work with the Tuozzolo family to finish designing the spray park with construction set to begin in March 2018. The preliminary estimated cost for the project is $450,000 which will come from money paid by the developer of The Seasons at Elwood as part of the community benefits agreement and in part from the town’s park improvement fund.
Kindergartners from Austin’s class at Harley Avenue Elementary School helped town officials ceremoniously break ground on the spray park. Tuozzolo’s wife had a special mission for each student.
“A hero is someone who care about others. A hero is someone who does things for others. I have a job for each and every one of you. Who thinks they can handle that job?”, Lisa asked, watching small hands raise into the air. “The job I’m about to give you is to be a hero just like Austin and Joseph’s daddy was.”
The spray park will be the first of two slated for construction by Huntington officials in 2018, with a second to be built alongside the upcoming James Conte Community Center in Huntington Station.
Residents said the choice of memorial by town officials was gladly welcomed by the local community.
“Huntington is the only town that doesn’t have a spray park,” said Elwood resident Megan Hall. “Myself and other mothers would talk about it. It’s finally an answer to our wishes.”