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June 22, 2006
Brush hour on Main St.

Gennaro leads bid to clean up graffiti

by Donald Bertrand
    Taking a page from Tom Sawyer's fence-painting episode, Councilman James Gennaro was out last week painting a door gate on Main St. in Kew Gardens Hills.

Gennaro's Sawyer-esque attempt to get passersby to join him fell flat, but the project he was a part of is no failure.

In fact, it's an extension of a 2-year-old Doe Fund effort that puts a team of formerly homeless persons to work five days a week cleaning litter from the streets of the community's business district.

Now, a second team of the formerly homeless will be deployed to clean up the graffiti on storefronts and walls in the area between Melbourne Ave. and Union Turnpike along Main St., and also along Vleigh Place.

"Graffiti, you are going down. No graffiti in my town," Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said last Thursday, as he slapped a coat of paint over the graffiti-scarred gate.

Since crews dispatched by the nonprofit Doe Fund started cleaning up the business district, the community seen improvements in both its appearance and its quality of life, said Patricia Dolan, president of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association.

"The merchants are telling me that it has made a big difference, not only in making our streets cleaner and safer, but it has made it a more attractive environment for them to do business," Dolan said.

Keeping the graffiti off the cleaned or painted walls and security gates won't be easy, conceded Peter Simmons, a Doe Fund senior supervisor.

"Areas where we have already done, new graffiti has popped up. We will go back and clean it off," Simmons said. "Somewhere along the way these people will get the message."

The original Doe Fund project featured a two-man team, cleaning in the district five days a week. That project is funded with $55,000 in funding secured by Gennaro.

The new project, which runs through July, will add just under $5,000 in funding.

Gennaro said that new funding will be allocated as needed.

"We recognize that with graffiti, you have to go back again and again," the councilman added.

"Our main mission is to help formerly homeless individuals to get back on track, recreate their lives and become self-sufficient," said Joanna West, director of business development for the Doe Fund.

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