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Who Was Alvan O. Petrus? Why Was a Park Dedicated to Him?

During the last few weeks, the name Alvan O. Petrus has been in the news here in Port Washington. Much has been written about the acre and a half parcel of land known as Alvan O. Petrus Park. It occurred to me that I knew nothing of the man for whom the park is named and perhaps you don’t either.

Alvan O. Petrus was actually a native of Freeport and a businessman in that community. However, he had the spirit of a social activist and enjoyed a 12-year career with the Nassau County Youth Board, eventually becoming chairman. He then found his way to Littig House, the community center in what was then called Harbor Homes here in Port Washington. His first year at Littig House was spent as a consultant. He soon became the executive director and served in that position until his untimely death in 1985 at the age of 47.

Mr. Petrus came to be the face of Harbor Homes, advocating for better sidewalks, better lighting and better drainage so that the community did not find itself underwater after heavy rains. “When he became executive director of Littig House, the area was a backwater in the center of this prosperous community,” said Myron Blumenfeld, chairman emeritus of Residents For a More Beautiful Port Washington and a close friend of Mr. Petrus. “We pestered the county about the poorly paved streets, the lack of trees, the lack of drainage until they finally did something.”

Alvan O. Petrus was a pioneering community organizer in Port Washington. He worked with the ACLU, The Community Action Council and the Port Washington Youth Council. He was a force to be reckoned with.

It was no surprise that when the parcel of land at the northeast corner of Harbor Homes was dedicated for park use in the summer of 1987 it was named in honor of Alvan O. Petrus. His widow, Margaret, accepted the dedication from then Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli. Many of the current residents of the Roberta Nixon Houses at Harbor Homes knew Alvan O. Petrus and remember him fondly.