Uncertain Future for an Usher at Nassau Coliseum

April 3, 2015

While many fans are dreading the last few games of their beloved New York Islanders at the old barn, John Mazzullo is soaking up what may be his last few months as an usher at Nassau Coliseum.

And he already knows he won’t be making the commute to Brooklyn. The Barclays Center currently employs their own ushers for games, concerts and other events.

Mazzullo, 59, of Queens, New York, has been the colorful character greeting fans in the 200 section.

John Mazzullo stands in front of Nassau Coliseum, a place he calls home and work. March 16, 2015, Hemsptead, New York. Photo by: Suneet Mahandru

“For years I was in the 300’s and I moved down a couple years ago and now we are closing down.”

Season ticket holders love him and new fans like chatting with him. He takes pride in what he does. He remained at the coliseum for 10 years because he likes helping people. Mazzullo was a fireman for 20 years with the FDNY and say’s he’s wired that way.

But working at the Coliseum is also a getaway for John. His wife, who he refers to as “My Mrs.” passed away four years ago. And it’s the everlasting friendships that he’s made at the Coliseum that helped him through that difficult time.

Almost two years ago Bruce Ratner and his company Forest City Ratner, unanimously won the bid to overhaul the 41-year old Coliseum.

The new Nassau Coliseum rendered by Forest City Ratner, Bruce Ratner’s company. Renovations are scheduled to begin the summer of 2015. Courtesy Newsday

This $299 million renovation will be privately funded as opposed to the plan presented by former New York Islanders owner Charles Wang.

The Lighthouse Project, was a proposed renovation of the Coliseum and the surrounding area. It would have included a five star hotel, restaurants, a new coliseum for the Islanders.

Nassau County residents vetoed the proposal on August 1, 2011. The following year, Wang announced that the team was moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Nassau Coliseum glows at night during a game on March 13, 2015, in Hempstead, New York. Photo by: Suneet Mahandru

While the new Nassau Coliseum is being built some Islander fans will make the long commute from Hempstead, Long Island to Brooklyn, New York just to see their favorite team play.

Although Mazzullo isn’t happy about the move he can’t help but be enthusiastic for the final regular season games. “It’s an exciting time. You want to see them in the playoffs; it [also] extends our time here. Everyone gets excited, especially the children.” The Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cup Championships from 1980-1983, The Dynasty years.

Shawn Helm wears his prized letterman’s jacket showcasing the Islanders four Stanley Cup Championships. Also known as “The Dynasty” years, the Islanders won in 1980, ’81, ’82 and ’83. March 13, 2015, Hempstead, New York. Photo by: Suneet Mahandru

One of Mazzullo’s greatest moments as a fireman came when he rescued three children from a burning building. “They were hanging out the second floor window and the smoke was pouring out above their heads. We grabbed the ladder-put it against the house and got them out.”

The want and need to help people is who John Mazzullo is. From his days as a fireman to now, showing people to their seats has given him much joy the last ten years.

Whats next for Mazzullo? He’s not sure. He’s waiting to see when the construction begins and consequently when it ends. He hopes to be back working at the Coliseum when it’s all finished in two years. A lot of Islanders fans, including Mazzullo, believe the rumor that the Islanders will be back at the new barn when all is said and done.

John Mazzullo stands in an empty parking lot at Nassau Coliseum. Mazzullo has worked here for 10 years and doesn’t know if he has a job waiting for him when the renovation is complete. March 16, 2015, Hempstead, New York. Photo by: Suneet Mahandru

“I spoke to a lawyer in my section and he says that they can get out of that contract in two or five years (the lease for the Islanders to play at the Barclays is for 25 years).”

Mazzullo says working here has given him a new life, new friends and the opportunity to continue to help people. Nassau Coliseum has become a home away from home for Mazzullo and he hopes it’s a home he can one day come back to.

Nassau Coliseum settles in the background as a sign with that familiar slogan that Islanders fans know all to well, “WE’RE ALL ISLANDERS.” March 16, 2015, Hempstead, New York. Photo by: Suneet Mahandru

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