The Bellport community came together Tuesday evening in honoring the life of a hometown advocate, Anthony Gazzola.
Gazzola, who many knew as Tony, is now the namesake of the Martha Avenue Recreation Park, which was rededicated in his memory during the annual community-building campaign, National Night Out.
The late NYPD detective died in 2015, but his efforts in Bellport live on.
“He lived and cared about the locals in this community,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, “and what people were doing about our parks, about the community itself, and what was going on.”
A crowd of elected officials, first responders, and local residents all erupted in cheers and applause when the sign reading “Tony Gazzola Park” was unveiled.
The people rejoiced by remembering what made Gazzola special — his actions.
“On behalf of my family I would like to thank you for your support and showing up,” said his son, Vito Gazzola. “If you know my father, you know he did out of the goodness of his heart.
After retiring as a detective, he never stopped serving and protecting. Gazzola became Brookhaven Town chief investigator and was involved in local politics as well.
Not one, but three elected officials who were attendance of the ceremony remembered Gazzola inviting them on a tour of Bellport on separate occasions after they got elected.
“He was pointing out, ‘We got to fix this house. This has got to be cleaned up. We got to do this over here,'” remembered state Assemblyman Dean Murray of East Patchogue.
As the ceremony continued, locals in the town spoke to how much they missed him. They told stories about how he changed lives.
One community member yelled out, “If you didn’t have Christmas, he made sure you had Christmas!”
Gazzola was known for offering his home and helping to feed the homeless by dropping off day-old cakes and bread from local bakeries.
“Very, very few people you’ll find that cared more about [Tony’s] community,” said Murray.
Top: The Tony Gazzola Park sign, along with Gazzola’s family, friends and elected officials.
Photos by Nicholas Esposito