By John Donegan
This story originally appeared in the 3/26/21 edition of the Westmore News. For the original article, follow the link.
Alex Leonzi and his wife bought their 104 Glen Ave. home eight years ago to do what every other American hopes to do: carve out on their quaint plot of land a place for themselves. And while their home was already carved, it needed serious work, especially around the fence line.
When they moved in, the corner of the yard outside their home was in a state of dilapidation. Shrubs and patchy turf clashed in a dejecting sprawl, dwarfed by a Frankenstein telephone pole and a sagging traffic light.
“This thing should be addressed,” Leonzi recalled thinking during a private tour of his property on Monday, Mar. 22. “This pole is so ugly; it’s been there so long and it’s a disaster; I tried to take away from this with the post.”
The flagpole came up first, five years ago. It’s a double—waving the American flag and a birthday flag, though Leonzi changes them out for holidays and seasonal shifts, choosing from a collection of over 30. He likes the birthday flag; he put it up for his son’s recent celebration.
A year later, Leonzi planted the post. He bought 13 arrowed signs online, intentionally placed and inscribed with the mainstays of the Village of Port Chester: I-95, Port Chester High School, Marini’s Deli, the train station, among others.
And once people began cutting through the corner of turf that surrounds the post, Leonzi added a flower bed. Backdropped by an otherwise ugly intersection, this directional post is vibrant and blooming in spring until fall.
The flower bed below the post is a late-winter brown, its shrubs brittle and annuals reduced to dry bones. But inside them chemicals are flowing and churning, gathering the strength needed to fatten flower buds and, in a few weeks, force them open. Leonzi’s wife plants the flowers every spring. Marigolds and petunias grow in the eastern beds and, in the western ones, she puts begonias and periwinkle. The flowers of choice in the southern beds, closest to the road: so far undecided.
“These are actually all friends of mine that have been a part of my life,” Leonzi said, pointing his finger down the stretch of signs.
Mad Dog, Acuario, Tripodi’s Electric, Neri’s Bakery, to name a few; restaurants and offices to the average passerby, but for Leonzi, each arrow is a path back to his youth, his treasured moments, and a reminder of his roots in Port Chester. It could also double as a creative list for Christmas cards and upcoming birthdays since he’s still in touch with each of the owners. “I keep up with them because I see these people all the time, they’re all local people,” Leonzi said.
“Some people have wanted to go up on the sign and I tell them, ‘I can’t advertise,’” Leonzi said. “I wouldn’t do it for people I don’t know just because it’s my space.”
The signs are as straight of a shot as they’d be to Antarctica, or Cuba, working as an art installation rather than a substitute for a GPS.
“I thought, ‘I want to put a sign there that shows, I don’t know—where the park is or the highway or something,” Leonzi said.
That said, people have used it to get around.
“Some people have actually told me that they used it as directions,” Leonzi said. “It’s not really directions, it’s just something fun, for me.”
The newest sign “Village of Port Chester,” which sits at the top of the lot and doesn’t point in any direction, is arguably the most helpful serving as a reminder to any newcomer in need that they’ve reached their destination.