Gene Scarpato was a singular, special human being. He was friendly, determined, and tenacious yet humble, while also being community-minded and a great family man. More than anything else, he was one of the kindest people I have ever known. He worked tirelessly for the village with his wife Virginia always at his side.
I had the good fortune to serve with Gene as a village trustee from 1995 to 2003. As the headline story recounts, he was a man of many accomplishments. I am proud to say that I was by his side in supporting his many improvement projects. The Village Pool was a battle, and when three members of the board prevailed, the rest was history. I still remember the cold opening day when Gene came down the slide — let’s call it the splash down — to celebrate. He also, fought to create the roller hockey rink, a wild success. His history as a champion of recreation had the underlying idea to bring residents together from the very young to senior citizens.
Among other things, he was able to get the gazebo built and improved the basketball court. He championed many projects, including a several year battle to get rid of the vacant and decaying campground on Ocean Avenue. It was a happy day when we were handed our shovels to break ground for Sterling Glen Assisted Living (now Atria Tanglewood). It was a project that added tax revenue without any real demands for village service.
One time, we discussed resident’s frustration with the need to walk all around the block in the evening from the Forest Avenue parking fields to get to the restaurants on Atlantic Avenue. There was a vacant sliver storefront on Atlantic Avenue that could be used to create a walkthrough. Gene embraced the idea and ran with it. The rest is history with village residents and visitors enjoying the convenience it brought. The high school prom parade has been one of the special uses of the walkthrough.
Gene was active in the Nassau County Village Officials Association and was recognized by his fellow mayors from the county’s 64 villages. He rose to become president of the association, a position that brought him honor and respect for his dedicated service.
We had a mutual admiration society so to speak. I admired his drive to deliver for the village. He leaned on me for my expertise of years of working with mayors and county executives. I truly loved our many conversations.
Gene fought hard for many years to get the movie theater replaced and now many years later it is a reality. The only dream that did not come to fruition was the Marriott Hotel project over the Forest Avenue parking lot. It would have doubled the number of village parking spaces at no cost and it would have brought additional tax revenue. In politics, you can’t win them all.
Even in retirement he and Virginia became involved in service to the greater community in Wattsfield, Vermont. It was part of their DNA. It was remarkable, but not surprising.
One cannot imagine what the village would be today without the efforts and contributions of Gene Scarpato. The village is blessed to have had him as our Mayor and friend to all of us.
My friend, may you Rest in Peace. A life well lived. We will miss you!