History Hidden In Plain Sight

Valley Stream Historical Society: The Park Inn Garage


If you look carefully at this photo, you will see not one, but two buildings. The structure on the left was the original Park Inn Garage built in 1916 by Joseph Buscher (1863-1930), a German immigrant, and his two sons, Frank (1889-1988) and Charles (1893-1972). It was the first service station to open in Valley Stream and its early years were fraught with danger — it was robbed three times in one year. In the September 14, 1920 edition of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Frank Buscher was asked why he would not report the burglaries to the county authorities.

“I have tried to secure burglary insurance but cannot unless I have a watchman on guard. I plan to place not only a watchman on guard, but a savage watchdog,” he said. In 1922, the Buschers teamed up with Victor Grieco (1894-1983), and together they opened a dealership, Park Inn Ford, in a newly constructed building west of the original garage. Both the 1916 and 1922 structures still exist.

Besides operating as a dealership and service station, the second floor of the 1922 building provided housing for various Buschers, Griecos and other renters. The most infamous tenant of all was James LaPenna, a producer of Broadway musicals and an associate of Johnny Torrio, the Chicago gang lord and bootlegger. LaPenna was living there in 1939 when he and Torrio were both arrested and sentenced to prison for evading income taxes on “immense liquor profits.” And the infamous mobster Al Capone — he was Johnny Torrio’s protégé.

Locations: 430 West Merrick Road and 440 West Merrick Road.