Reeves Park resident Bob Kelly's dream for a 9/11 memorial park came true, just two days before Thanksgiving.
On Tuesday, the Suffolk County Legislature voted to approve acquisition of the four-acre property at the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead.
For years, Kelly has dreamed of a 9/11 memorial park at the site to pay tribute not only to his brother, who died on 9/11, but to all the others who lost their lives, including first responders.
Kelly said on Tuesday, he and Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, attended the meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, which was also Ed Romaine's last before taking his new seat as Brookhaven Town Supervisor Monday.
After the approval, Kelly said he wanted to thank Romaine and his legislative aide Lisa Keyes, both of whom "worked very hard" to see the dream become reality.
Kelly also thanked the Riverhead Town board, as well as Deputy Town Supervisor Jill Lewis and Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti, for their tireless efforts.
And, Kelly thanked the Reeves Park community, with special recognition to Bob McLaughlin and Mike Foley -- and, of course, Biegler, who has long advocated for the 9/11 memorial park.
"Eric would not give up," he said. "Eric worked at this harder and longer than anyone knows."
Biegler, Kelly said, was integral from the moment the dream for the park materialized a decade ago. "He kept me focused, keeping my emotions in check -- no easy task."
And, Kelly thanked his family -- most of all, his brother Tommy. "He guided us through this long, strange trip," he said. "He truly was an angel on our shoulders. Thanks, Tommy. You know our love will not fade away."
With next steps including a contract and a closing date, the hope, Kelly said, is that by early next year, "This deal is done."
Romaine said the land acquisition was particularly meaningful. “There is nothing more fitting than to have this as my last land acquisition as a county legislator,” he said. “My aide Lisa Keyes and I spent years working with area residents and the Town of Riverhead to acquire this parcel. I look forward to attending the park dedication."
Once the purchase is complete, Kelly said next steps involve deciding how the park should be designed.
Kelly has said he would like to see the park dedicated not only to all those who lost their lives on 9/11, but also to the first responders and workers who are falling ill today in the aftermath of the tragedy. In addition, he said he would like a memorial to Heidi Behr, the Riverhead EMT who died in a tragic ambulance crash, in the park.
The memorial garden will include butterfly bushes, paths, and benches for quiet reflection, Kelly said. In addition, the stone and memorial that now stand would be moved back to sit near a large tree, much like the "tree of life" that stands at Ground Zero at the new memorial.