King of the Corridor

by

Published For The Corridor

Real Estate and Building Arts Issue

My associate and I were headed South on Rt. 110 in Farmingdale when she suddenly made a sharp right turn onto an expanse of rutted, frozen tundra with a scattering of rickety garages in the back. “This is it?” I asked, “His office is here?” She assured me it was. I was led through one of the garages into a Spartan office. We were greeted by his daughter and son-in-law, Darcy and Richard, and then brought in to meet the “King of The Corridor”, Joe Gazza, the gentleman for whom Gazza Blvd. in Farmingdale is named.

Joe was sitting at his desk - at age 92 he is still in the office every morning at 7 am, still looking at real estate on Sundays, and still a powerful looking man with thick white hair and sparkling eyes. On the walls were photos of his family, boats, machinery. Only the most recent were in color.

After introductions were made and everyone was seated, Joe wanted to know why we were there. I told him “We’re here to meet you. You are a big part of the 110 Corridor...” so began our sometimes rambling conversation.

Gazza: I’ll tell you something, I remember this place (Farmingdale), when I was five years old. That’s 87 years ago. Farmingdale was a hick town. There was nothing here. I’m gonna show you Main Street in Farmingdale...I wasn’t a drop out but I had to quit school to make money during the depression. Not many people finished high school in the late 20’s and 30’s.

Gazza: Yea. Cause I got the shit kicked out of me when I was five or six years old because I went to school as an Italian, and not as an American. I couldn’t speak English when I went to school....The other kids beat me up. Farmingdale was a Klu Klux Klan town. I remember those bastards standing out there on Conklin Street where Joe Sten used to have his office, with big white hoods on their heads.

Corridor: Where are your parents from?

Gazza: My mother was born in Venice and my two miles down the road on Main Street. I’m talking about 1920. I’m gonna show you my mother’s cow.

Corridor: Wasn’t it your cow also? Or just your mom’s.

Gazza: My cow? I was four years old. I don’t think it was my cow.

Corridor: It was your cow also. It was the family cow.

Gazza: Everybody had a cow in those days. If you wanted milk you had to have a cow.

Corridor: Here’s the cow.

Gazza: That’s a different cow. What do you want to know about 110? There was nobody here then. Corridor: How many buildings did you build on Route 110?

Gazza: Half of them--I put most of them in on Allen Blvd. I built most of them on Gazza Blvd., I built Milbar, you know Milbar? I have to tell you a story about Milbar. I bought that land for about $120,000., that was six thousand an acre and I leased one piece of land on the corner to a diner. I had them for tenants for some thirty odd years. He sold out to the bank. I paid $120,000 for 20 acres and he got two million, two hundred and fifty thousand dollars just for his lease! They knocked the god-damned diner down and built a bank. I only paid 6,000 an acre for that land. I only paid $3000 an acre across the street in 1947 and $200 an acre in 1937...And my father said I was nuts.

Corridor: So, you built Gazza Blvd.,

Gazza: Milbar, Allen Blvd...I built Carolyn Blvd. That’s the last building I built. The last piece of property I bought. I bought that for $42,000 an acre. We’re selling it for a million an acre now.

Corridor: Are you working on any projects now?

Gazza: My son is building an 18,000 footer on Main Street, on 109 next to the Wendy’s. The building will be done in about another two weeks.

Corridor: Which was the first building that you built?

Gazza: I built it on Potter’s Street, right off 109. I built every building on Potter’s Street. Yes I did.

Corridor: Now, Gazza Blvd. That’s obviously named for you? Gazza: Well, I didn’t pick that name. The town picked it. I bought that land for $10,000 an acre. Before you were born.

Corridor: Who are some of the people that you worked with to build these buildings? Are any of them around, still?

Gazza: Yea, they’re around. There’s one guy, where the hell is he, over there Werner Klanouvitz.

Corridor: And he is still in the business?

Gazza: No I wore him out. That guy was an excellent bricklayer....He worked for me. He should never have worked for me. He should have worked for himself.

Corridor: What did you do during World II Gazza: I was a Four F’er.

Corridor: Really? I would never believe that.

Gazza: I couldn’t hear. I couldn’t hear then, I can’t hear now. I worked in an air fare plant during the war, and they were doing all Grumman work. I made millions of parts for the plane. I had a big shop. Grumman didn’t rivet these airplanes. Grumman planes were not riveted together. They were screwed together with little nuts. They had a Spanner wrench that had two little things that you turn tight. I made those parts. Liberty Aircraft made those parts for Grumman. I took the job away from Liberty Aircraft and I got them in my shop. I made those parts in one operation. Liberty Aircraft took four operations to make that part....I made it in one.

Corridor: So you invented the process and got the contract?

Gazza: I was making about a half a million of them a week. I used to make eleven hundred pieces an hour on a special machine that I had made for me. I called Brown and Sharp in Providence, Rhode Island. They made all the automatic screw machines, and I asked them to send me a representative. I showed him the part, and I told them I want to make that part in one operation. Then I wrote to Alcoa, Aluminum Company of America, and I had them extrude the material to the exact size of the outside of the nut and the two little things that you turn. I made a die that I had those two grooves put in, then I had the stack made by the Aluminum Company of America with my die. The stack comes in twelve foot lengths, you put them in the machine...I was the only one who could make that extrusion. Because when you went to Aluminum Company of America and you designed an extrusion they would only make it for you. Not for anybody else. So I made that. Grumman found out that I had it, they wondered why I used to make them for three cents a piece when Liberty got fifteen cents a piece for them. But I made eleven hundred pieces an hour.

Corridor: What’s this picture of over here? What’s that?

Gazza: That is Allen Blvd., the corner. That’s me up there, the architect is in the middle and the buyer of the building is on the other end. This picture here is the ground breaking of Allen Blvd.

Corridor: What year did you break ground on Allen Blvd?

Gazza: 1947.

Corridor: Who is whom, do you remember the names of the people in this picture?

Gazza: ...Rosenberg was an architect from Jamaica. He designed a building with no footing! That building doesn’t have a footing under it. Bill Payton was the owner. I started the building for him. He bought the land from me for $20,000. I’d give him two million to get the land back.

Corridor: But, what did you pay for it?

Gazza: $300 an acre.

Corridor: You made $19,700.

Gazza: That’s peanuts compared to what we would make today. I’m telling you, I just gave an acre to my son on Carolyn Blvd. I had one lot left and I gave it to him. It cost me $350,000 to give it to him. I had to pay $350,000 to Uncle Sam for... income tax. To give the land to my son.

Gazza: In 1957, I bought swamp land in Bay Shore. In those days, all you had to was go to New York City and get a permit and they give you the okay to dig it up, and fill it up with anything you want. I dug canals there, I put the bulk head in... the canals...and I couldn’t sell the lots in 1957 for $9,000 with the bulk head. Those lots are selling today though. There’s only one or two left for over a million bucks each. I lost my shirt there. I almost lost my life too.

Corridor: Really...

Gazza: Yeah. I ran that bulldozer and stopped short about that far (indicates distance between thumb and index finger) from the end of the canal. The canal I put in was 16 foot deep, I would have drowned, I can’t swim, I’d still be down there, but I stopped the machine in time.

Gazza: Oh, (At this point he finally finds the picture of his mother and the cow).

Gazza: I used to walk down here when I was a kid. I was born a thousand feet, from this spot. I gotta show you that land where that house was built. For the next mile and one half, nothing but woods and scrub oak. We used to graze the cow there. That was Main Street. I’ll tell you something else about Main Street. Did you know Main Street had a trolley track? It came from Rockville Centre, it went down the south shore, went to Rockville Centre, Baldwin, Wantagh, Bellmore, Amityville, and the track came down Main Street, in front of this house, and it went to Hempstead. It went to Huntington and Northport and the tracks are still in the ground in Northport.

The last word on Joe Gazza comes from his son-in- law, Richard. “I’d meet people at one event after another and they always said to me ‘If it weren’t for Joe Gazza I never could have started in business...’ He’d let people move into a building without a lease, without money! He’d let them get set up and running on a hand shake. None of them let him down. When I asked him how he could do that he said ‘My religion is helping people.’”

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