By Tatiana Belanich
The Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park is not only the perfect remedy for summer-heat – it’s a powerful reminder of the work and “ultimate sacrifice” of a local, late police officer.
The spray park, which officially opened Wednesday in Elwood Park, serves as a poignant reminder to the local community that, Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), said, “We’re the land of the free, because of the brave.”
Tuozzolo, a Greenlawn resident and 19-year member of the NYPD, was killed while on duty in November 2016. He made the “ultimate sacrifice” in “an act of true courage and bravery” by warning his fellow officers of an armed criminal, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said during the grand opening ceremony.
Joining Lupinacci were members of Tuozzolo’s family, local and state officials and officers from both the Suffolk Police Department and NYPD.
The spray park, which is the first of its kind in town, and is the culmination of a partnership between the town, NYPD and Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, all of whom worked extensively to produce the community landmark that would continue Tuozzolo’s legacy and memory.
The finished product spans 4,900 square feet and sports a 2,500-square-foot play area, and is surrounded by eight benches and fencing.
“I think it is very important the community has a place to gather and have fun and remember what it means to be a family, whether you are related by blood or not,” Lisa Tuozzolo said. “It is so important to tell the people most important in your life how much you care about them, you love them and what they mean to you.
For me, this is a way to remind everyone of what Paul and I always did.”
Many families at Wednesday’s opening ceremony were overjoyed as they first stepped into the park on the warm, sunny afternoon. There were plenty of smiles, including those of Tuozzolo’s sons, Austin and Joseph, who joined their mother to cut the ribbon and start the flow of water.
Huntington resident Elizabeth Burke, accompanied by daughter Esme, said, “We are excited to have a free place to have the children play in the water.”
It’s “great for the community,” added Sandra Lamprea of Dix Hills, “especially for kids who can’t afford camp in the summer.”
Huntington resident Jaclyn Jacobs, who works with Lisa Tuozzolo, called the park is “a special tribute to Paul.”
Debra Lissandrello, also of Huntington, said she frequents Elwood Park and is excited for the new addition. “It’s a nice place to go with your family and picnic.”
NYPD Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen said the park is special to the two communities he is part of: the NYPD and Huntington.
“This is a truly lasting memorial for a great, honorable man – a brave man who sacrificed his life,” said Nikunen, who worked with Tuozzolo in the Bronx. “It’s so fitting that he was a school sergeant and worked with kids – they adored him – and now listen to all the joy these kids are having in a park that’s named after him.”
Lisa Tuozzolo agreed that the park is a fitting tribute to her late husband. “Bringing happiness was something that Paul brought to all he met over a course of a life well lived,” she said.
Along with an arch sporting Tuozzolo’s name that spans the spray park entrance, parkgoers are further reminded of the park’s connection to law enforcement by “NYPD” branding on its tallest feature.
“Everybody who walks in will look up and remember the police,” John Dorst, of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said. “This is a way for the community to know that the police do good things.”
NYPD Detective Inspector Kevin Taylor added, “At the end of the day, this is for the kids and they’ll know the sacrifice every police officer does across the nation and what it means when they lose their life.”
The Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park is located in Elwood Park, which is found on Cuba Hill Road.
Spray park hours will traditionally be 11 a.m,-8 p.m. However, due to a town summer camp held during the week, hours through Aug. 10 will be 12:30-8 p.m., Monday-Friday.
Residents are required to present recreation photo ID cards to enter. The spray is open for use by children under age 13 when accompanied by a parent or guardian.