A routine project to build a six-acre parking lot in Long Island, N.Y., recently led to an unexpected discovery for a crew from DLI Contracting of Westbury, N.Y.
The excavation unearthed the remains of Mitchel Field, an Army aviation field built in 1917 to serve as an additional training and storage base.
“We started digging, and as we were doing the drainage, we discovered some of the old footings — the housing that was under the property, and we had to take it out,” said Domenico Iannucci, DLI owner. “There were three machines working within 100 feet, so I just took a picture. One machine was excavating, the other machine was breaking the concrete, and the third machine was just cleaning up. Like everybody else, we were surprised to find it there. There were abandoned water lines, abandoned gas lines … we found a little bit of everything under there.
We had to get rid of all the concrete that was in the way or whatever we found under the ground, because we didn’t have enough room for the drainage system. We had no choice, so we removed it, and then we installed the drainage system that was required.”
Used on the job were a Kobelco SK33L, Kobelco 210, and Kobelco 80, all purchased from Gary Wade at All Island Equipment Corp. in West Babylon, N.Y.
Iannucci noted that the equipment performed very well throughout the project, which lasted about three months.
“We used the machines to remove the concrete and heavy foundations and break up chunks of concrete,” he said. “Some were 10 feet tall by 6 feet wide by 20 feet long.”
The relationship between Iannucci and Wade actually began with their fathers.
“My father started working with his father, and when Gary took over, I started dealing with Gary,” Iannucci said. “Our relationship goes way back.”
Iannucci is the owner and president of DLI, which he started in 1989 after working for his father Joe for 15 years.
“Unfortunately, he passed away, but he was very proud of what I did,” he said.
Iannucci’s brother is one of his 20 employees, and runs a paving crew. The company does landclearing, excavation, drainage, sewer work, asphalt, and concrete work, mainly in Nassau County.
“Before 2008, we used to be up to about 35 employees,” Iannucci said. “With the turn in the economy, there are not a lot of new developments. The housing market is dead, so there are not a lot of new houses. Now we’re down to about 20 guys, and we do smaller work — very selective work. We do mostly private, and don’t do anything for the county, state, or government.”
According to the Cradle of Aviation Museum Web site, Mitchel Field was established in 1917 just south of Hazelhurst Field to serve as an additional training and storage base. It was known as Field #2. Hundreds of aviators were reportedly trained for war at these fields, which were two of the largest in the United States. In July 1918, the field was named Mitchel Field in honor of former New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, who was killed while training for the Air Service in Louisiana.
After World War I, growth continued at Mitchel Field, and a major new construction program was underway between 1929 and 1932. This included brick barracks, officers clubs, housing, warehouses, operations buildings, and eight steel and concrete hangars.
In 1938, the field served as the starting point for the first nonstop transcontinental bomber flight made by Army B-18s. It was also the base from which the first demonstration of long-range aerial reconnaissance was made.
During World War II, Mitchel Field was the main point of air defense for New York City. It was equipped with two squadrons of P-40 fighters. In the late 1940s, it served as the headquarters of the Air Defense Command, First Air Force, and Continental Air Command. However, by 1949, Mitchel was relieved of the responsibility of defending New York City because of the many problems associated with operating tactical aircraft in an urban area. It was closed in 1961 and the property was turned over to the County of Nassau.
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