Empire City Garrison: Our Heritage

The Empire City Garrison was formed as part of the 501st Legion back in 1999 by our founder Frank Usamanont and first members Jon Seron, Keith Arbeeny and Carl Glanville.
In 2000 the Garrison had a membership boom, and our first Darth Vader, Kevin Zippy Zabawa, joined.
Soon the ranks grew to include Hector De Larosa, Spat Oktan, Eric Negron, Caysey Hershaft, Richard Kopacz, Christian Bontigao, Drew Martin and Natalie Muehlberger.
Our original 501st Territory included New York , New Jersey, Connectic
ut and Pennsylvania. As the Legion grew in numbers Squads and than Garrisons were formed to help organize troopers in different areas.
New Garrisons included The NorthEast Remnant, Garrisons Carida, The Connecticut Garrison and Garrison Excelsior
Today the Empire City Garrison serves New York City’s 5 Boroughs as well as L ong Island and the Hudson Valley.
Our current squad, The Hudson Valley Squad (HVS) was formed in 2013 to help promote our charity and promotional activities in that region.

Interview With Our Founder, Frank U.

How did you find out about the 501st legion?
Back in early 1999, I didn’t know that there was a group at all! I kind of found it by accident through a friend I met first time during the line for episode one. Jonathan Zeron, who was the first I met who owned the old Follano suit. Which was one of the heavier ABS plastics that was sold discreetly. He directed me to then the early days of the 501st legion and the website, which only really consists of few
people really not as large and huge as it is now. I then got in contacted with one of my first suppliers to have the armor FX suit and I contacted Al and enlisted into the 501st officially sending the pics and stuff from my first trooped convention ( a Star Trek Con of all things) Should’ve seen all the quizzical looks! I was extremely excited to finally owned one of these suits and become a true to life Stormtrooper. Something I’ve been loving since I was growing up. Imagine going to local stores andgrabbing all the kenner stormtroopers from the bin!
When did you join the Empire City Garrison?
I would say actually started the Garrison and was the master mind behind it really. So I Joined/started this in 1999 the year I first gotten this armor! I met fellow troopers and friends Jon Zeron and Keith Arbeeny. Turned out to be a everlasting friendship since. Joining the 501st we knew we needed at least 20 or at least back then 10 to have a garrison officially. So I dig around for a name and Keith and I came up with the Name synonymous with the State of NY the EMPIRE STATE and wanted to mix in NYC into the name. So we came up with the EMPIRE CITY name. We came up with a logo , had my brother who was a graphic artist draw it up and that’s the logo that you see everywhere today. Thus the birth of the EMPIRE CITY GARRISON!
How many members did the ECG have when you joined on?
The Garrison just was 3 at first , then we found a 4th member Carl Glanville, Don’t know where he is now? A year after in 2000 was when our membership seem to bloom! We finally got our first VADER! Kevin Zippy Zabawa, who was a perfect Vader standing at 6’2 I think. Once our little crew of troops and Vader got together for conventions etc. The recruitment started and we found more troopers that contacted us and from 5 grew to 8 and before we knew it members came to 15 and growing in just few months! I was ecstatic! We finally made it official with the 501s tas a Garrison! Notable members, who helped shaped us in the beginning : Hector De Larosa, Spat Oktan, Eric Negron, Caysey Hershaft, Richard Kopacz, Christian Bontigao, Drew Martin, Natalie Muehlberger,
What geographic areas did the ECG cover?
In the beginning the ECG covered only NYC. And we found members outside that joined from everywhere like Upstate , NJ , Long Island. So I would say ECG was covered pretty much all of NY and NJ at that point. As it grew members from our garrison branched out that had enough of their own in their city to start a garrison or squads., notably our good friends from Philly Jeff Romanoff and Jason from what is now Carida Garrison.
How many garrisons did the 501st Legion have upon the time that the ECG became into existence?
Wow , that’s hard to remember. But like said before I think at the time it had to
be only a handful. I think you may need to ask Albin that question. I would find out legion history from the start of 2000. That’s when I would say ECG came into existence officially.
How did the ECG evolve through the years?
ECG started just as a fun group of fans getting together , dressing up as storm
troopers, Vader etc. And finding any excuse just to dress up in armor. Halloween, Conventions and basically having a great time getting together and going to bars. As time went on, we got connected with some charities and really started to realize how much more we can do! Year after year the garrison started to become really huge and membership had grown. With that , comes growing pains. But with every group their will be this problem. But we all learned from it and the Garrison became stronger and better as time passed. I am happy where it is today with the leadership at the helm to steer this mega garrison to where it is today! Proud to be a member and founding member. Proud to know I had a hand in it that build the ship!
What were the highs and lows of the garrison during your time as a member of the ECG?
The highs are definitely the camaraderie that existed from every new member we found in the beginning. It was better than a college brotherhood! The ever lasting friendship it created! The special feeling of donning the armor and making kids and fans smile! Being that superstar!
Are you still a member of the ECG?
Yes, and I will be forever. I may not troop as much anymore due to things i’m persuing in life But I will be there when needed or call upon. Dust out my armor and be there. My goal to start this garrison and see where it is today is one of my big accomplishments in life. I never would’ve thought how long it would last. Because people do move on and you don’t know who will keep doing it. But it’s surprising to know that there are new generations of fans to keep the torch burning and be here for very long time! I will always be a proud member of the ECG!

 

Interview Date: September 2015 | Conducted by Anthony Paladino