Both those in bathing suits and those in uniform enjoyed the refreshing relief Wednesday that came with the official opening of the Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park in Elwood.
The spray park was first proposed and planned just under a year ago, to honor Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, who was shot and killed in the line of duty while serving with the NYPD’s 43rd Precinct. Sgt. Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa Tuozzolo, and all those who knew him through the NYPD and SCPD wanted to do something to memorialize his dedication to family and community. Through the efforts of his wife, Mrs. Tuozzolo, the support of the NYPD and SCPD, and the involvement of Huntington officials, the town’s first spray park was able to become a reality.
And what a spray park it is. It has fountains, spray-hoops, a giant water-pouring bucket, and all sorts of push-button water features. In addition, water runoff is collected and reused for field irrigation at Elwood Park. As NYPD Chief of Department Terrence Monahan said, “Huntington did one hell of a job.”
Before the park officially opened to the public, various guests and dignitaries spoke about Sgt. Tuozzolo and all that he left behind. “We are here today not just to honor Sgt. Tuozzolo’s bravery and his memory, but to open a living memorial to him,” Town Supervisor, Chad Lupinacci, said. “This park, the memorial trellis which bears [his] name and badge, the NYPD-themed spray features, and the values etched into the benches around the park—honor, loyalty, bravery, courage, respect, courtesy, family, and dedication—all serve as reminders of who Paul was, and his devotion of protecting children and keeping them safe from harm.”
Chief Monahan echoed similar sentiments. “It was kids,” Monahan said. “That’s what [Sgt. Tuozzolo] lived for, that’s what he did.”
Mrs. Tuozzolo spoke of the pain and gratitude she has felt in waves since her husband’s death in 2016. “20 months later, the pain is still real,” she said. “I can’t express to you all the joy I feel amidst the heartache of losing my husband, to be here with you today to dedicate this park that will bring so much joy to the children in our community.”
Mrs. Tuozzolo spoke, too, about how every feature of the park—including the colors, designs, words, and images—represent Paul, his honor, and the New York City Police Department. “I hope you all have as much fun playing in this spray park as the grownups did who helped make this vision of a park a reality,” she told the crowd.
After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, Lisa and Paul Tuozzolo’s sons, Austin and Joseph, turned on the spray park. The gates were then officially opened to the public, and over 100 people poured in to cool down, play, and celebrate Sgt. Tuozzolo’s legacy. Though things began with mostly kids, even the NYPD officers joined in to enjoy the spray park to its fullest.
The spray park is the first of its kind in any Huntington park. Lashea Edwards, a Huntington mom, was especially looking forward to its opening. “My son’s never been to a spray park before,” she said as she got him ready to go in. She was hopeful that the town would add water features to more of their parks—especially after seeing the successful turnout of the spray park’s opening day—to give families more places to get cool and have fun.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said, “Hopefully when parents come here, they can reflect upon how precious time is with family,” and Mrs. Tuozzolo had reminded the crowd, “Remember to say, ‘I love you,’ to your loved ones, you never know when life is going to change.” In laughing and being together in the beautiful new spray park, people were given the opportunity to cherish the presence of their families and their community. Sgt. Tuozzolo’s legacy is sure to live on because of it.
Official hours for the spray park will be 11 AM to 8 PM (spray park hours during camp days will be 12:30 PM to 8 PM through August 10). The spray park will be open to residents with Resident Recreation Photo ID Cards (children under 13 years old will be able to use the spray park if accompanying parent/guardian shows a Resident Recreation Photo ID Card – exception only for those who have Picnic Permits for that day), which may be purchased at Town Hall in the Parks and Recreation, call (631) 351-3089 for information. Recreation ID Cards may also be purchased at the Dix Hills Ice Rink, call for hours, (631) 462-5883. This summer, non-residents may only enter the spray park if they are accompanied by a resident with a Resident Recreation Photo ID Card.