The air was chilly. It looked like rain. What if nobody showed up? I wanted rain so I could call it quits and go home and be better organized and prepared next time. Here I was – an amateur volunteer – believing that we could actually accomplish the planned cleanup of Eliot Avenue.

Well, the greatest kids showed up. The adults – there were about ten – arrived. We dithered for about ten or fifteen minutes, and then, we started. We selected the locations to work, the tasks to perform, settled into groups and began the cleanup.
No expertise required; we all know how to handle a broom, a rake or a shovel. So, some of us swept, raked and shoveled trash into big garbage bags. All while the weather was improving.

Kids and adults took to the paintbrushes and rollers to cover the graffiti. From Eliot Ave and 85th Street, up to Eliot and 79th Street, graffiti on mailboxes, lampposts, fronts and rears of stores, store gates and brickwork was removed. We came, we saw, we cleaned!

Then, the Caldwell Avenue bridge area was cleaned of litter and graffiti.

The LIRR underpass at Woodhaven and Eliot was cleaned of litter and some overgrown weeds that had taken a quarter of the sidewalk. The graffiti remains. There’s too much traffic, so we are awaiting the arrival of a city truck that blasts the graffiti away, then paints over the wall. Would anyone like to replace the tulip paintings that lasted nicely for nearly ten years? After the city removes the graffiti, the walls will be your “Sistine Chapel”, awaiting your creativity.

The worst blight of all was the set of stores at Eliot and 85th Street. Graffiti covered the front, rear, at the private home attached to the hair stylist. Just this location alone took nearly fifteen volunteers, adults and kids, more than three hours to clean. Pass by to see the great improvement. So, we now know that graffiti can be removed. A little effort. A little energy. Precious little expertise. But it got done, and we all had fun.

Here is the moment to mention why we were so proud to work with these kids: One storeowner offered the kids five dollars each as thanks. These well bred youngsters politely refused, telling the storeowner “your thanks is enough”. The candy store proprietor – a generous and kind soul – offered the kids whatever they wanted. They each took just one item. They had the opportunity to clean out the candy store (they had just cleaned it), but they were too well mannered to do such a thing. Our future looks good.

Still to be done is the stretch of Eliot Avenue from 79th Street up to 71st Street.

On May 17th a group of volunteers helped clean up Juniper Park. They removed weeds and litter. One more group of good neighbors doing something to improve the neighborhood.

We will complete the cleanup of Eliot Avenue. And, then Metropolitan Avenue. And, then Grand Avenue. And Dry Harbor Road.

So, a group of inexperienced amateurs got a lot of cleanup done by doing whatever is was that we each do best. There’s a lot more to do, and we’ll organize these projects from time to time so we stay ahead of the litter and graffiti. We hope you feel comfortable enough to join us from time to time.

But, you do not have to wait for our call to help on a cleanup project. You can “Adopt a Block”. For the adults, this would actually be an area of from one to just four blocks. For the youngsters, the area would be closer to home, for safety reasons.

Look around your neighborhood. Look at the mailboxes, light posts, plywood walls at constructions sites and fronts and sides of garages and fences. Now that you’re really looking, you can finally see it. It’s been everywhere for such a long time, that we actually no longer see it when it invades our neighborhood. It can usually be removed in a very short time on a weekend afternoon.

Do you have a neighbor who has graffiti on the garage or fence? Offer to help the neighbor remove it. Have a pizza or barbeque when you’re done.

Do you want to Adopt, but don’t know exactly how to get started? We experienced amateurs will help you get going. The Post Office Supplies blue and brown paint, plus brushes and whatever is needed for the mailboxes. Silver paint will touch up the light posts. The Juniper Park Civic Association will help you get other colors in the quantity you need.

Actually, once you have the paint and the brush or rollers, the only thing left is to ask yourself if you have the time and energy. If not, ask us for help.