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The sign that will grace the Thomas J. Pellegrino Waterfront Park in Port Washington North shown here with the village's retiring mayor, Tom Pellegrino.

The Port Washington community came together on Sunday afternoon, June 12, to celebrate the career of one of its most esteemed public servants, Port Washington North Mayor Tom Pellegrino. In honor of this man's 35-years of public service to Port North, the village dedicated one of its new projects in his name: the Thomas J. Pellegrino Waterfront Park.

He was showered with citations from U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman, State Senator Mike Balboni, State Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Nassau County Legislator Craig Johnson, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman and North Hempstead Councilman Fred Pollack.

The mayor and Village Clerk Palma Torrisi, who shared some fond memories of her 21 years working with Tom Pellegrino.

However, the most memorable praise came from those who shared fond memories of the mayor, who has the distinction of being the longest serving mayor in New York State.

Pellegrino's predecessor, former Port North Mayor Joel Joseph, started his tribute by saying that he was living proof that there was a "B.P." in Port North---"Before Pellegrino." In fact, he noted addressing Mayor Pellegrino that "before Pellegrino there was a Joseph, there was a Berkman, etc...in fact, Tom, you were the ninth mayor of this village."

Joseph continued offering some history of the village. "The first mayor was a wealthy contractor names Jacob Cocks, who in 1903 built a fine clapboard house at 75 Shore Rd. It was demolished in 1981 to make room for the Delco Shopping Center. In the spring of 1932, Mr. Cocks, along with a few of his neighbors, moved to incorporate an area of Port with about 680 residents as the village. Mr. Cocks became mayor at age 73, and served until 1936, when he died in office.

Joseph went on to call the mayor's tenure "The Pellegrino Era." It was a time "when for some 35 years the village had grown and prospered; obsolete commercial and industrial sites have been replaced by parkland, scenic vistas and much needed housing -- all done with fairness, economy, competence and above all, that most rare of commodities among public officials - vision."

Another huge fan of the mayor shared her affection and respect for him. Port North Village Clerk Palma Torrisi called her former boss, "my favorite person. I served under Tom Pellegrino for 21 years as village clerk, and, so, I feel a special responsibility to tell you what a great person he is ... about his great foresight, his compassion for people, and his complete dedication to his family. I have loved every minute of working with Tom."

She recalled the time when the village used the mayor's executive authority to board up a crack house on Harbor Road. "I remember when, in the space of a few hours, we placed hundreds of sand bags around a home on Soundview Drive to prevent it from being flooded right off its foundation. I remember finding an abandoned, destitute, elderly man on Morgan Place a clean, warm facility with three meals a day to move into. I also remember the mayor calling me on vacation in my hotel room in Madrid, Spain one morning because he needed a flash newsletter on the West Nile Virus.

Palma ended on a humorous note recalling that when Mayor Pellegrino swore the new mayor in Tom said, "I've just made my wife the happiest woman in the world."

Mayor Pellegrino was overwhelmed by the show of respect and affection and thanked the residents of Port North, his boards over the years and his beloved family for their patience and understanding as he met the demands of his office.

Pellegrino's successor, Port North Mayor Bob Weitzner said, "The restoration of the Shore Road waterfront has become a reality due to the singular will of a diverse community whose dreams, discussion and designs called for a place where residents and visitors to Port Washington could come and enjoy the beauty of the harbor that drew the early settlers to our area centuries ago. The Thomas J. Pellegrino Waterfront Park also represents an appreciation of the wonderful natural resource of which the community was built upon."


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