05/18/13 5:34pm
05/18/2013 5:34 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Richard Clark helped paint the exterior wall at the American Legion Hall in Greenport Saturday.

American Legion Halls across the country will hold Memorial Day celebrations next weekend to remember the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed services. Meanwhile, at the Greenport American Legion Hall, a faithful group of volunteer veterans and community members will be working to restore the ailing structure and its vintage roller rink.

The building’s revitalization began two years ago, but suffered a major setback in December when George Costello Sr., one of the project’s leaders, died unexpectedly at age 63.

In Mr. Costello’s memory, the Greenport Rotary Club hosted a fundraiser in April. The event raised hundreds for the reconstruction. The funding helped volunteers Saturday pay for the final coat of paint on the building’s recently rebuilt exterior south-facing wall.

“The rotary’s fundraiser helped a lot,” said Butch Corwin, vice commander of the legion hall. “Now with this done we can start working on the inside.”

The project is still in need of funding before it can open to public. The building will need new composite flooring, heating and air conditioning systems and a remodeled kitchen and bathrooms. Volunteers estimate the final cost of the reconstruction will be upwards of $600,000, but said they’re grateful for the community helping pave the way.

“We have help from so many people; it would take me pages to write them all down,” Mr. Corwin said.

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03/30/13 2:00pm
03/30/2013 2:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | The late George Costello Sr. with fellow American Legion member Craig Richter outside the hall they worked to restore.

The restoration of the rundown Greenport American Legion Hall and its vintage roller rink suffered a major setback in December when George Costello Sr., one of the project’s leaders, died unexpectedly at age 63. But the work will continue with help from the Greenport Rotary Club.

In support of Mr. Costello’s vision of rebuilding the legion hall, the Rotary Club is dedicating the proceeds from this year’s Locals for Locals fundraiser to the project in his name.

“He was the driving force,” said Craig Richter, Burton Potter Post commander and a fellow rink project volunteer. “It was his dream to see the Legion Hall not just open, but to see it being enjoyed by the community.”

The revival of the ailing structure began two years ago. For their efforts, Mr. Costello, a Vietnam War veteran, and fellow volunteers were named The Suffolk Times’ “Civic People of the Year” for 2011.

Following Mr. Costello’s death, Mr. Richter took the reins. He believes a there’s a sense of urgency to completing the construction in Mr. Costello’s memory. “There is a lot of work,” he said. “We are doing this 100 percent.”

On Saturday mornings a group of volunteers gathers to work on the building. In upcoming weeks the north-facing exterior wall will be painted white to match the front. The floors, which were heavily damaged by flooding during Hurricane Sandy, are being ripped up.

Before it can open to public, the building will need new composite flooring, heating and air conditioning systems and a remodeled kitchen and bathrooms. Additionally, a structurally unsound wall on the south side must be replaced.

“We need money,” Mr. Richter said matter-of-factly. He estimates the final cost will be upwards of $600,000. As for the construction time frame, Mr. Richter said, “It could be done in six months if someone wrote us a check for $400,000. It depends on when we can raise the money. I hope it’s a year, not five or six years.”

Attempts to secure grant money to repair the 60-year-old building have fallen short. “It is a tough economic time,” Richter said.

Thus far, nearly $160,000 has been invested, which went toward a new roof, windows and exterior paint.

Mr. Richter says weddings, reunions, conventions and concerts are the type of events he’d welcome at the hall. Once complete, the building will house its iconic roller-skating rink, as well as a possible indoor hockey and basketball courts.

The Rotary fundraiser takes place on Tuesday, April 16, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hellenic Snack Bar & Restaurant in Greenport.

The prix fixe menu includes a cash bar, chicken Santorini over orzo with salad and dessert. The food can be wrapped to go.

The Rotary will absorb the overhead costs, allowing 100 percent of tickets sales to go directly to the restoration.

Tickets are $18 per person for adults and $12 for seniors and children under 12. They’re available at Bridgehampton National Bank in Cutchogue, McMann Price Insurance Agency and Hampton Jitney in Greenport and through Rotary Club members.

“I think there’s going to be a really great turnout,” said Rotarian Robin Walden. “George was a great guy. I think doing this fundraising for the legion will help the entire community — and that’s what George wanted.”

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12/29/12 5:19pm
12/29/2012 5:19 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | George Costello Sr. speaking during the San Simeon fundraiser in Greenport in July 2011.

Funeral services have been scheduled for George Costello Sr. of Greenport, a partner in the Costello Marine dock and bulkhead construction business and the driving force behind the volunteer restoration of Greenport’s historic roller rink, who died on Dec. 28 at age 63.

Visiting will take place at the Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport on Tuesday evening, Jan. 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Wednesday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9. Father Thomas Murray, pastor of St. Agnes R.C. Church in Greenport will lead a service at the funeral home on Thursday, Jan. 3, at 10 a.m. Burial will follow at Arshamomaque Cemetery, also in Greenport.

Mr. Costello was at work on a job in Southampton when he collapsed Friday, said longtime friend Fred Schoenstein of North Fork Welding. He was taken to Southampton Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“It’s just a sad, sad story,” said Mr. Schoenstein, who added that his family began its business 30 years ago at roughly the same time Mr. Costello and his brother, John, a former Greenport Village Board member, launched Costello Marine. “George was an amazing character and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met,” he said. “This really takes the wind out of your sails.”

A Vietnam War veteran, Mr. Costello was known for his involvement in numerous community projects, particularly the restoration of the historic roller rink at the Burton Potter Legion Hall on Third Street. He and his fellow volunteers were named The Suffolk Times’ “civic people of the year” for 2011.

“His dedication to Greenport was unbelievable,” said Craig Richter, Burton Potter Post commander and a fellow rink project volunteer.

Mr. Richter said the legion should redouble its efforts to complete the project in Mr. Costello’s memory.

“This was his baby and he really stepped up to the plate,” said Mr. Richter. “He enjoyed it and knew it was good for Greenport. We’ve got to get it done.”

In July 2011 the San Simeon by the Sound nursing facility honored the Costello family, particularly George and John, for taking such an active role in the community.

“I’ve known George for a very long time,” said Mary Bess Phillips, the operator of Alice’s Fish Market in Greenport and a current Village Board member. “He will be very sorely missed.”

The Costello family asked for donations to the Burton Potter rebuilding fund.