Honoring The Man Behind Good Ground Road
BY KYLE CAMPBELL
Without Eugene Francolini, the San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons might never have existed.
At the very least, the annual celebration set to take place this weekend likely would not have been held on Good Ground Road in Hampton Bays—because without Mr. Francolini’s efforts a half century earlier, there probably wouldn’t be a Good Ground Road in Hampton Bays.
For his work, Mr. Francolini is being honored as grand marshal of the fourth annual feast.
It was 1963 when Mr. Francolini, a young lawyer who had moved to Hampton Bays a few years prior, was approached by his brothers-in-law, Jack and Andrew Capone, both former chiefs of the Hampton Bays Fire Department, with a quandary: The department needed a way to get trucks out of the firehouse without pulling directly out onto traffic-laden Montauk Highway. At that time, all the properties on Montauk Highway extended south to the Long Island Rail Road tracks.
Mr. Francolini came up with the idea of creating a public parking district along the railroad tracks, which the department could use as an alternative access road. He helped the department pitch the idea at Southampton Town Hall and, later, gathered support from the owners of the dozen other properties that lay between Springville Road and Ponquogue Avenue.
Thus, Good Ground Road was created in the mid-1960s, and the public parking district is still maintained by the Southampton Town Parks and Recreation Department, with the support of an annual tax, according to Mr. Francolini.
Based on the New York City celebration started in 1926 and replicated in various cities throughout the country, the San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons enters its fourth year on Good Ground Road in Hampton Bays on Saturday, October 4, with a full lineup of food vendors and musical entertainment. Simone Scotto, vice president of the festival’s board of directors and owner of Scotto’s Pork Store on Montauk Highway, said Mr. Francolini was selected to be this year’s grand marshal both in recognition of his work to create Good Ground Road and his tireless dedication to serving his community over the past 50 years.
“We chose him because he’s a staple of the community—he’s been here for a long time and his family has deep roots here,” Mr. Scotto said. “He’s done so much for his community without asking for anything in return.”
A native of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who grew up in Floral Park, Mr. Francolini joined the Navy after graduating from Chaminade High School and served from 1948 to 1952, including two years in Japan during the Korean War. When he returned home he attended St. John’s University, where he later earned both his undergraduate and law degrees.
Upon receiving his law degree, Mr. Francolini moved to East Quogue and rented a house with a group of fellow law school graduates. On Memorial Day in 1958, he met his future wife, Theresa Capone, at the Oliver Twist Inn on Foster Avenue in Hampton Bays. They married two years later before moving to her home hamlet of Hampton Bays, where he opened his own general practice law firm.
He was later made an honorary member of the Hampton Bays Fire Department for his work to create Good Ground Road and has also donated his time to serve his community as a past president of the Hampton Bays Board of Education and the Hampton Bays Lions Club. He also served as director of the Southampton Golf Club prior to his retirement three years ago.
Additionally, Mr. Francolini has donated his legal knowledge by often working pro bono on numerous cases for various community groups.
“I like to know different individuals and different groups, but, more importantly, I like being able to give back to the community in whatever way I can,” he said.
Mr. Francolini and his wife have four adult children—three daughters, Gail, Carol and Mary, as well as a son, James, and 11 grandchildren.
Mr. Francolini, who has attended the past three San Gennaro Feasts as a representative of the Hampton Bays Lions Club, said he’s not sure what his exact duties will be as grand marshal, but added that he feels honored to be given the title.
“I think [the feast] has been a big plus for Hampton Bays,” he said. “It’s gone over really well—each year they seem to bring in more vendors. It puts Hampton Bays on the map, which I think is good. I give a lot of credit to the individuals who organize it and see it through each year. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with vendors lining both sides of Good Ground Road. The San Gennaro parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday near the Hampton Bays Ambulance headquarters on Ponquogue Avenue before heading north to Montauk Highway. Marchers will then turn west before making another left onto Springville Road before turning east onto Good Ground Road.
There will be food vendors and musical performances throughout both days, a Grucci firework show at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday and a raffle drawing at dusk on Sunday with a Fiat 500 and a Vespa scooter on the line. There will also be eating contests both days for all age groups. There will also be a carnival on the Hampton Bays Fire Department grounds.