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Thornwood American Legion Post Flooded as Members Look for Home

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The members of American Legion Post 1574 in Thornwood may abandon the building they’ve used for 66 years after flooding during the Sept. 1 storm severely damaged the building’s lower level. Martin Wilbur photo

The epochal flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida on Sept. 1 heavily damaged the American Legion post in Thornwood and now its members are searching for an alternate home.

Gilbert Rauh Post 1574 on Garrigan Avenue took on about four feet of water in its lower level following the storm, rendering the building virtually unusable, said the post’s Commander Drew McFadden.

McFadden said although the upstairs portion of the structure escaped any damage, the downstairs level that contains the facility’s restrooms and kitchen. The Legion acquired the space from the Town of Mount Pleasant in 1955.

In addition to using the building for Legion functions, it has been rented out to various community organizations for meetings and events that has provided the post with much-needed revenue, McFadden said. The building will likely need expensive renovation, which the Legion wouldn’t be able to pay for, he said.

There is a water body that flows several feet from the edge of the parking lot, which overflowed during the storm. The parking area is still covered in mud after the floodwaters receded.

“We have had many floods before because of that, but nothing like this,” McFadden said. “We’re in a flood plain.”

He said the post’s members, who are mostly in their 70s, 80s and 90s, have requested the town reclaim the property, which the Legion acquired for $400. The 1955 agreement stated that if the town were to ever take back the land, it would pay the same $400 it received 66 years ago, according to McFadden. The post is looking to hold their meetings in a town facility, he said.

Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi raised the topic at last week’s Town Board work session, asking what could be done to help the Legion’s members. He acknowledged that the downstairs would have to be rebuilt. Town Board members suggested holding a fundraiser.

“They’re a bunch of World War II and Vietnam vets and they just don’t have the manpower,” said Councilwoman Laurie Smalley.

The flooding that befell the American Legion post was similar to several other areas of town and the region from the storm, which saw eight to 10 inches of rainfall within a few hours.

This week the Town Board is expected to authorize going out to bid for the third and final phase of work to improve drainage on Whittier Drive. Several homes on that street, which is across from Carroll Park, were inundated with water. It was the third time within the past decade after a major storm, two residents said earlier this month.

Fulgenzi said the town recently installed a bypass system under the north parking lot to reduce the impacts of stormwater flows and sediment going into the pond and provide direct access for the water coming onto Whittier Drive. The water will be released into the culvert to the north toward the Saw Mill River.

The rehabilitation project involves dredging the pond of silt to its original depth, re-establishing the shoreline and creating a sustainable habitat for fish and other wildlife. The additional storage area of the pond will also help store more water during storms.

The pond area and parking lot at the park are currently closed to the public, but the playground at the park remains open. Parking on Rolling Hills Road can still be used. Scheduled completion of the project is sometime next month.

“Carroll Park has seen a substantial increase in usage by our community in recent years,” Fulgenzi said. “It is vitally important that we continue to update the park as well as add new facilities to the park.”

Future improvements planned for the park include a new gazebo and fountain.

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