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Alice Austen Park

Buono Beach

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Matthew “Giggy” Buono (1942-1968) was the 39th Staten Islander to be killed in the Vietnam War. A graduate of New Dorp High School, Buono lived with his wife Patricia at 172 Hickory Avenue in South Beach. Buono was a licensed barber, and hoped someday to establish a business with his uncle. In 1967, however, he was drafted into the war. He served with the First Air Cavalry Division for four months before falling to mortar fire while attempting to relieve a besieged marine outpost at Khe Sanh.

This city-owned beach, originally named Penny Beach, sits at the foot of Hylan Boulevard and borders the property of the Alice Austen House. There are several possible explanations for the name Penny Beach - but two in particular stand out as the most likely. First, the beach used to be a “lovers’ lane” along which couples would stroll. These couples would often leave spare change behind while making wishes tossing their coins into the ocean. During the day local children would comb the beach looking for leftover pennies. The second possible explanation is that the beach’s name refers to the original name of Hylan Boulevard - Pennsylvania Avenue. The parkland was named Buono Beach in 1988 by a local law dedicated to honor the memory of Matthew Buono. A portion of Edgewater Street, between Hylan Boulevard and Clifton Avenue, was also named Matthew Buono Memorial Drive in 1998. A plaque at P.S. 13 honors Buono’s memory as well.

In 1996, ground was broken for a $1,828,000 Buono Beach-Alice Austen House Park Shoreline Rehabilitation, sponsored by Council Member Jerome X. O’Donovan. The work was finished in October 1997. The effort was in response to erosion and degradation of the shoreline that threatened the integrity of the parkland. The Alice Austen House itself is maintained by the Historic House Trust. Founded in 1989 by Commissioner Stern, the trust works with Parks to enhance and promote preservation and public appreciation of historic house museums on Parks properties throughout the city. The Alice Austen House is operated by Friends of Alice Austen House, Inc.

The Buono Memorial honors the memory of both Matthew Buono and other Rosebank and Fort Wadsworth veterans killed in the wars of the 20th century. The memorial’s fountain is eight feet in diameter, and two and half feet tall. The water falls past a five-point granite star into a stainless steel structure with 50 openings that represent the fifty states in the union. There are three benches surrounding the fountain. The curved wall that encloses the memorial is engraved with the names of Rosebank and Fort Wadsworth residents who died in the two world wars, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. A walkway starting at the flagpole runs through the monument to Clifton Avenue. This axis symbolizes the connection between the local community and the nation at large, forged by the patriotism and sacrifice of these fallen soldiers.

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