Huntington – Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci, Councilman Eugene Cook and Councilman Ed Smyth applauded the ingenuity of Town Parks and Recreation Director, Greg Wagner, for his role in the formation of the 1653 Foundation, founded in January 2020 for the purpose of using private funds to restore, maintain, and enhance Huntington's parklands and public spaces.
Wagner was appointed to head the Parks and Recreation Department by Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci, Councilman Eugene Cook and Councilman Ed Smyth in February 2018.
“In early 2018, our newly appointed Director of Parks and Recreation, Greg Wagner approached my office with this great idea of forming a foundation to raise private funds for public benefit, particularly to enhance and beautify our parks,” said Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci. “Improving quality of life across our Town while taking the burden off the taxpayer embodies the new direction of fresh ideas and creative solutions we promised the Huntington community. I’m proud to see Mr. Wagner’s strong commitment to our parks, outside of his official responsibilities, come to fruition in this combined effort with Bob Bontempi of the Huntington Chamber, and I look forward to collaborating with the 1653 Foundation to continue beautifying and preserving our open space.”
“I am proud of Town of Huntington Director of Parks and Recreation Greg Wagner, Robert Bontempi, Vice Chairman of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce (Open Space EOSPA Committee Member), Brian Yudewitz, the Chamber’s Chairman, and Mark McAteer, principal of The Laurel Group for their thinking outside the box to create the 1653 Foundation. This not-for-profit 501c3 will raise private funds for the benefit of Town public parks and open spaces; in a time when the Town is challenged to find funding to acquire, improve or enhance open space.” stated Councilman Eugene Cook. “The hard work of these individuals will benefit all residents and visitors to the Town of Huntington, and for that I am thankful.”
Councilman Ed Smyth commented: “I’d like to commend this group of individuals for taking the time to make the parks and open spaces a top priority in the Town of Huntington that will ultimately benefit businesses and the community as a whole.”
A not-for-profit 501(c)(3) entity, 1653 Foundation was conceived as a means for individuals, businesses, local organizations and fellow charities to support the ongoing goal of improving the tangible quality of life for all of Huntington’s residents. The 1653 Foundation is the brainchild of Greg Wagner and Robert Bontempi, Vice Chairman of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce and Town of Huntington Environmental Open Space & Park Fund Advisory Committee (EOSPA) member; also forming the 1653 Foundation’s Board are Brian Yudewitz, Chairman of the Huntington Chamber, and Mark McAteer, member of EOSPA and the Town’s Public Art Advisory Committee.
“We will be proactive in using private dollars, coupled with public funding and grants to find those critical projects that will benefit the Town,” said Greg Wagner. “This is a model that New York City does extremely well. We can do that here.”
“Huntington is a world class community renowned for its history, arts, museums, energetic downtowns and eclectic culture,” said Robert Bontempi. “Its parks and public spaces need to reflect that same status. The Foundation seeks to restore, maintain and enhance Huntington’s open space, parklands and public spaces.”
The Environmental Open Space & Park Fund Advisory Committee (EOSPA), which meets monthly, was formed in 1998 to develop criteria for acquisition of ownership, rights in interests in land for active and passive parkland and recreational use, and preservation of open space. The Town Board charged the EOSPA Committee with the duty of advising and recommending to the Board use of bond act funds for park and open space acquisition and improvement.
Potential land acquisitions and park improvement projects on EOSPA’s wish list far exceed what the Town can budget for however the Town Code allows for funding through partnerships, which is where 1653 Foundation fits in.
The first project of the 1653 Foundation is an informal survey that asks respondents to help identify needs and create the 1653 Wish List. Results will be compiled into a report that will be published at 1653foundation.org and guide the foundation’s future efforts.