ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J.--()--Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association (PAPBA), announced today the PAPBA’s partnership with the New Jersey State Firefighter’s Mutual Benevolent Association (NJFMBA), to build 26 playgrounds in communities along the coasts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. This endeavor, “The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play” project, will honor the students and teachers slain in Sandy Hook Elementary School while simultaneously adding to the restoration efforts of the communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
“It is our privilege to give back to the wonderful people who cared so much for us.”
The Project, spearheaded by William Lavin, president of the NJFMBA, was born from the NJFMBA’s playground building program in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The NJFMBA built three playgrounds in the Gulf Coast area destroyed by Katrina. After Hurricane Sandy struck the New York/New Jersey region, the people of the Gulf Coast communities, where the NJFMBA built the playgrounds, began a program to “pay it forward” and collected Christmas gifts for the children affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Unfortunately, just as those affected by Hurricane Sandy were starting to come to terms with the devastation caused by the hurricane, the nation became aware of the unspeakable events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The country was in shock and the New York/New Jersey region was thrown back into despair. These two horrible events shared a common name: Sandy.
The Gulf Coast playground building experience led Mr. Lavin to realize it was only natural to build playgrounds in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in an effort to respond to the East Coast devastation and the senseless violence against children and their teachers.
The PAPBA will sponsor the building of a playground on Staten Island, NY, in memory of Sandy Hook Elementary School student Catherine Hubbard. Mr. Nunziato and Mr. Lavin will meet with Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Thursday, February 21, 2013, to discuss an appropriate site for the Staten Island Sandy Ground Project playground. Mr. Nunziato is hopeful the PAPBA can secure a site on Father Capodanno Boulevard in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island. The PAPBA staged its Hurricane Sandy relief efforts from a park on Fr. Capodanno Blvd., assisting hundreds of Midland Beach residents in the hurricane’s aftermath.
Only eleven short years ago the Port Authority Police Department suffered the largest, single-day loss of life in the history of American law enforcement. Thirty seven Port Authority police officers were killed in the line of duty on September 11, 2001, at the World trade Center. Mr. Nunziato stated, “We will never forget the support we received from the people of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Simply put, they helped us heal." Mr. Nunziato continued, “It is our privilege to give back to the wonderful people who cared so much for us."