The flags around Splish Splash Laundromat, located on Woodhaven Boulevard in Rego Park, have left Dennis Deans, a Vietnam War veteran, frustrated.
“The first time I went to the laundromat, I noticed they had been tattered,” Deans said. “Then as I kept going, they weren’t being taken down or replaced, and now it’s got to be close to a year with the ripped flags.”
At least a dozen flags are mounted on the laundromat’s perimeter fence and roof, and all of them are shredded, torn or missing entirely.
Deans reported that he had spoken to employees on several occasions about the torn flags but his complaints went unnoticed.
“I spoke to about four different people about this,” he said. “Two of the women there said they spoke to the manager but didn’t know if it would be fixed. There was just no acknowledgement.”
Now, however, the owner promises he will remove the damaged flags soon.
Deans, who is a retired funeral director, said he doesn’t want to cause trouble but said seeing an American flag in the condition that the Splish Splash Laundromat banners are in is upsetting.
“I’m not the kind of guy who flies American flags on my car, but when you look at the guys I was with in Nam and what you went through over there, it just upsets me,” he said. “People died. There were a lot of people who died and when you know that and see these flags all ripped up, you just get the feeling that there’s no respect for that.”
When Dominick Papa, the “Flag Man,” as he’s been called by local residents, heard about the poor condition the flags were in, he took it upon himself to drive from his home in Howard Beach and see what could be done.
“I went there and saw for myself and knew immediately that the issue was the height,” Papa said. “Their flags are on the roof, and when you put flags on the roof of a building that isn’t surrounded by other buildings, they get blown away or ripped to shreds.”
Papa, who regularly drives around the community to replace damaged or missing flags, said the Splish Splash employees were polite but couldn’t say if the flags would be replaced or not.
“I was surprised how friendly they were,” he said. “The manager wasn’t there but the woman I spoke with was very nice and said she’d speak with the manager.”
Papa suggested that new flags be placed only along the fence that circles the business.
“That’d be real pretty to have them lined up that way,” he said. “You don’t have to put the flags all the way to the ground but you need to only go about 10 to 15 feet up with it and that’s all. That way, the flags are protected from the strong winds and will last longer.”
Fiore Ariola, the listed owner of Splish Splash Laundromat, assured that the flags will be taken down by the end of the week.
“I’ve been meaning to take them down for a while but I just never got the time to do it, but I’ll get them down by the end of the week,” he said.
“I just want them taken down, that’s all,” Deans said. “It’s a good business, they keep it clean and I go there regularly to do my laundry. So long as the flags are taken down, I’ll be happy and will continue going there.”