On Wednesday, May 3, a press conference was held outside the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Santora/ Bonacasa Memorial Post 400 on College Road in Farmingville, across the street from Suffolk County Community College.
The event was held to highlight a respectable and selfless effort by multiple community bodies to repave the parking lot of the VFW Post 400 building that for decades has served as an organization center for many Veterans of combat overseas.
The lot was described as a complete mess by Veterans and politicians alike, who lamented the craters, potholes, and dirt that made it a safety hazard for the Veterans who make regular use of the parking lot. Additionally, it proved to be a massive obstacle to those who are wheelchair-bound and are significantly obstructed by such conditions.
While the old parking lot proved to be an accessibility issue, as well as a financial issue for the Post, it proved to be a morale issue as well. The Veterans who have served overseas, many of whom spent several years in Vietnam, had to petition just for the parking lot to be renovated to make the facility safe and accessible.
The VFW Post reached out to a clear community ally of Veterans, Suffolk Legislator Nick Caracappa of the Fourth Legislative District, for help on the issue. Caracappa serves as the Chair of the Veterans & Consumer Affairs Committee in the Suffolk County Legislature, making his role in the matter of the decrepit parking lot all the more appropriate.
Caracappa worked alongside fellow Suffolk. Legislator Jim Mazzarella of the Third Legislative District to bring this matter to public attention and spearhead an effort to mend not only the parking lot in Farmingville but also that of the VFW American Legion Post 1533 in Mastic Beach.
What was produced from this effort brought together several bodies of the community and will continue to pave futures for our great Veterans. Not only were the Legislators effective in their efforts to give back to Veterans for their service, but it was done entirely through donated labor, resources and equipment. Affatato Paving and Suffolk Paving and Asphalt Supply of Long Island cooperated to pave the lots entirely free of charge. Additionally, the event was heavily attended by employees of Suffolk Community College who are involved in the Veterans programs there, some of whom are Veterans.
Additionally, Home Depot, which is well known for its support of Veterans, helped pitch in on the project to donate mulch and other supplies for the beautification garden around the lot. Finally, the breakfast before the conference was sponsored by Cella Bagels of Selden, with lunch being provided by White Castle of Centereach and Texas Roadhouse of Selden. Overall, the joint cooperation for something as simple as repaving a parking lot ended up displaying itself as the quintessential community effort that will continue to positively impact the community for years to come.
All who spoke at the conference thanked and applauded Shaina Affatato, president of Affatato Paving, for the highly charitable donation of her company's time and labor. As well as Louis Veccia, owner of Suffolk paving for their generosity. The workers were paving the lot before and during the press conference, delivering a visibly finished product by noon. Affatato also received a plaque of honor from the legislators. Legislator Caracappa headlined the event and introduced each speaker.
Legislator Mazzarella took the podium next, saying. "We are taking care of the people who take care of us, and we need to keep them in our thoughts and prayers." Mazzarella also remarked on the lightning-fast work of the paving companies, saying: "I couldn't even get down to the Post [in Mastic] before the job was done." Councilman-Elect Manzella gave his thoughts at one of his first events since his victory in the special election last week: "Something like this seems small, but it's the least we can do to give back to our Veterans for all that they do." Caracappa said that Manzella is a friend and "ally" of our Veterans and has hit the ground running since his election.
Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) President Edward Bonahue also gave his remarks, "SCCC has nearly 300 students in the veteran program, meaning it serves more G.l. Bill recipients than any other college or university in the SUNY and CUNY systems. SUNY Suffolk is also designated as a VetSuccess on-campus program through the Department of Veterans Affairs, one of 104 schools across the country with this designation." Joseph Gonzalez, a Marine Veteran and former Army Infantry member, spoke with The Messenger at the event. Gonzalez is studying history with the aim of being a college professor.
"This repaving is great for the Veteran of the Post, as well as of the college. We want more students to get involved and have a good support system. It's also reciprocal: we want to give to the organization, and the older generations would like to pass on their knowledge and experiences to the younger generations." The repaving of the parking lot will certainly be a boon to the college's significantly large veteran population. The exact location of the press conference could be interpreted as symbolic, as it was held on the lawn of the college near the street directly across from the Post hall, signifying a joining of forces once separated by a parking lot.
The end of the conference was signified by Sanzone's surprise announcement that the aforementioned beautification garden will be called the "Rose Caracappa Memorial Garden" in honor of the late Suffolk Legislator and Nick Caracappa's mother.
The event beautifully highlighted the contributions of members past and present of the community, and the renovations are certain to benefit the community going forward. "Every single day is another day, another opportunity for all of us to honor and give thanks to our great Veterans.
Why should recognition of our Veterans be limited to just remembrance days? Why can't we honor them and work for them any other time of the year?
We were not elected to stay in our home districts; we are here to work for the entirety of Suffolk County." stated Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa