(Ed. Note: The following was sent to Leo Cimini, president of the Sandminers Monument, Inc., and is printed here at the writer's request.)
My friend, Frank Nuzzolese, suggested I contact you relative to a proposed memorial honoring those who "mined" the sand and gravel that built New York City. Not knowing how far such a proposal has progressed, I write to you hoping for a brief synopsis of its status.
I was born in Port Washington and grew up on Ohio Avenue. My father, Joseph Forgione, along with many young, strong immigrants, worked in those "sand banks" (as they were known then). He, along with others, lived in those " tar-paper shacks." Among his co-worker friends was "one legged Mike" (DeMeo).
Mike, like my father, worked at releasing sand and gravel that refused to slide down to where the steam shovel could reach and load it into the quarries' train cars. The method of loosening the aggregates was to use a long, flexible pole. The pole was worked into the reluctant aggregate, whipped around in circular motion until the material slid down to where the steam shovel could reach and load it.
One such "loosening" brought about a large landslide that pushed Mike DeMeo down the slope and onto the rails right in front of the wheels of the moving train. Mike's right leg was severed.
Back then there was no workmen's' compensation, so Mike became a liability and had to seek work elsewhere. I recall seeing him working, hopping in and out of pipe trenches along Main Street by Greenfield's drug store opposite the L.I.R.R. station. It took a very good two-legged man to keep up with him. Eventually, many immigrants worked their way out of the sand banks, but their legacy of their early days in America was inextricably tied to the sand banks. As a young boy, I frequented the " Huckleberry Finn" aspect of those sand banks.
Adventures were many and varied, as well as dangerous. The quarries were vast, (Gallagher's, O'Brien's and later Generoso Pope's). And because of their vastness, chasing us kids was fruitless.
Enough of that.
My interest in the proposed memorial/monument lies in that I came to know many of my father's friends who were his co-workers there. They visited my home, played cards and drank their homemade wine. I became aware of their hard lives, dangers and determination to survive "here" in America.
Now, at this opportune time, in my 86th year, I'd like to submit, via yourself, a design that would be suitable to the memory of those workers and to the great significance those sand banks held for our town, N.Y.C. and our nation. The design reflects those men, their strength, courage, pride and contribution to Port Washington and the building of New York City. It is to be a relief-sculpture in bronze.
The men of the time are legendary. No monument could be more deserving.
Please review my suggested concept. A concept which may be scaled up or down, in size depending on available building funds.
As to the location of the memorial/monument, my feeling is that the site should be at, or near where the Langone store was situated. That was the focal point for workers. The living quarters (tar paper covered shacks in a row) was only about 200 feet away from the Langone store.
I hope that what I'm here presenting finds approval in your mind.
Anthony E. (Tony) Forgione