Community News

A Q&A with Valley Stream author Bill Florio

Posted

Author Bill Florio, 32, of Valley Stream, is finalizing a new book covering the village and parts of the surrounding area — his second in the past three years. Florio works for Nassau County on the Special Projects team and is an active member of the Valley Stream Historical Society. Most recently, Florio said he’s in the process of helping St. John’s Methodist Church’s old building in North Valley Stream get on the state landmark list.

How did publishing Valley Stream’s “Images of America,” in 2015 inform your process for approaching this new book?

The new book’s title is “Images of America: Around Elmont and Rosedale.” I went into the Valley Stream book kind of blind to the process. Before I agreed to do this new book, I went to most of the major photo archives for the area and made sure there were enough photos available for me to use. I started work earlier than I did on the Valley Stream book, and I’ve been researching constantly to make sure I have accurate information. There’s an error in the introduction to my last book — it’s a minor error, but it bugs me that I didn’t research that further before it went to print.

Is there any overlap between the new book and previous one?

Yes. So, the book covers the historic Fosters Meadow area — the book’s title was a compromise with my publisher, Arcadia Publishing, since they were worried that referencing Fosters Meadow would confuse people who don’t know what that is. The area includes Elmont, North Valley Stream, Rosedale, South Floral Park, Laurelton, Cambria Heights, Franklin Square, Old Springfield Gardens and parts of Valley Stream and Floral Park. The northern and western part of Valley Stream, all the way down to the Hungry Harbor area, were part of Foster’s Meadow, so yes, there will be some Valley Stream photos in the book. 

What made you want to shift your focus slightly?

Rosedale and Elmont fascinate me because they were mostly farms and didn’t fully develop until later than many of the surrounding communities. By 1900, Valley Stream was already a well-defined community with a bustling downtown and railroad. Fosters Meadow in 1900 was still mostly farmland. Another thing that fascinates me about Fosters Meadow is how the area changed ethnically. It started as a bunch of German Farmers — with some Dutch and Scottish thrown in there — and over time, the area had an influx of Irish, Italians, and Jewish people, and then, more recently, a large influx of Caribbean Immigrants.

How do you go about searching and verifying information?

Google is a great first resource, because it sometimes points me in the right direction. I verify information in a number of ways: Old newspapers; speaking to old residents of the area; pulling old tax cards to see former property owners; historic maps; reading the work of people who have done previous research in the areas; and using a number of Internet groups that focus on the history of the area to ask questions or be put in touch with people who can help.

Was there anything that surprised you this time around?

After the stuff I uncovered with the Valley Stream book — about the Ku Klux Klan and the Lonely Hearts Killers and Fred McManus and the Prohibition raids — I was expecting to find some of that dark, forgotten history. The KKK existed in Elmont too, and Rosedale had a very public incident of racial unrest in the mid-1970s, as documented by Bill Moyers — but beyond that, I haven’t found anything that I truly wasn’t expecting.   There’s still time though.

Do you have any plans for this new book’s release?

Like my Valley Stream book, this will be available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Arcadia’s website and at select Long Island bookstores. I’m still looking for pictures from anywhere in the Fosters Meadow area. If you have anything that you’d like in the book, please contact me at fostersmeadowbook@gmail.com.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here