Brother of 9/11 victim proposes memorial park instead of development

Bob Kelly is suggesting that the land slated for commercial development on the
corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road instead be turned into a Sept. 11
memorial park.

The brother of a Reeves Park resident killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center is suggesting that the land slated for commercial development on the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road instead be turned into a Sept. 11 memorial park.
He made that suggestion to the Riverhead Town Board Wednesday.
Bob Kelly said his brother, Tom, is actually one of two New York City firefighters from Reeves Park killed that day, as the family of Jonathan Ielpi, a firefighter from Great Neck who was killed on Sept. 11, also has a home on Park Road.
Mr. Kelly said many of the victims were never recovered, and their families have no cemetery or gravestone to visit their loved ones at.
“On Sept 11, 2001 my brother Tom Kelly was at work in Brooklyn at Ladder Company 105 on Dean Street,” Bob Kelly told the Riverhead Town Board Wednesday. “By the time I reported to work that day at my firehouse in Queens, the Twin Towers had already been struck by terrorist attacks. I immediately called my brother Tom up at his firehouse, and tried to tell him to be safe, but I was too late. They’d already responded. And I never got to speak to him.
“The last time I was with my brother, we were on the beach at Reeves Park on Labor Day weekend. Life was good that day. I told him how lucky he was to stay out here in Riverhead and Reeves Park all year round. Tommy had just purchased a home on Marine Street and he gladly made the trek into Brooklyn, knowing he could come home to his Reeves family, my folks and our friends.
“But so it goes. Tommy and his entire company were killed that day. They’ve never been recovered.”
Mr. Kelly said a stone, a plaque and a flag were later placed at the site in Thomas Kelly’s memorial, and the town renamed Park Road Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.
He said a 9-11 memorial park at the site would honor all of the people who died that day, not just firefighters and police officers, and he said it would provide a place to go for relatives whose loved ones were never recovered and have no graves to visit.
“Think what a gift that could be,” Bob Kelly said.
Supervisor Sean Walter, who previously proposed having the town acquire the four acres slated for commercial development, liked the idea, but said property owner Kenn Barra told him he had invested about $1.6 million in that property and the development application.
“The town doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to buy it on our own,” Mr. Walter said. He suggested partnering with Suffolk County and even having residents raise funds privately.
Reeves Park resident Mike Foley also spoke to Mr. Barra and said he found him to be very receptive, but that he needed to be made whole for his investment.
Mr. Foley acknowledged that Mr. Barra has been “vilified” by residents, but he said, “I found him to be reasonable.”
Reeves Park residents also presented the Town Board with more than 1,000 signatures on petitions opposing the commercial development.
Town officials have said that a court ruling in favor of the developer orders the town to approve the commercial site plan application for stores and a restaurant, subject to an environmental review.
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