July 10, 2018 By Tara Law
Members of the Forest Hills community are working to remove wrecked cars and trash from a neglected Yellowstone Boulevard underpass and to revitalize the space with a mural celebrating diversity.
A local non-profit with the help of volunteers aims to improve the appearance of the unkempt underpass located on Yellowstone Boulevard between Austin and Burns streets. The project will include cleaning up the desolate area and the installation of a geometric mural.
The project is being led by led by Yvonne Shortt, founder and executive director of community arts nonprofit RPGA Studio, and Community Board 6 member Mark Laster. The nonprofit Citizens Committee for New York City, which funds initiatives that improve the quality of life in the city, provided $2,700 towards the project.
Shortt, who organizes community arts projects in Forest Hills and Rego Park, said that she hopes the project will help bring the community together as well as beautify the area.
Shortt said that the group intends to remove trash from the underpass and to persuade the police to stop parking damaged cars by the underpass.
According to Short, the space— which is near the 112 Precinct— has become a storage area for
cars severely damaged in crashes. The vehicles are typically part of a criminal investigation.
Shortt says the cars are disturbing, and are a reminder of violence. It’s particularly inappropriate to keep them there, Shortt said, because the underpass is next to Russell Sage middle school.
“People say, ‘it’s always been like that, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Shortt said. “We have to be careful about allowing violence to sit.”
Community members will meet several times over the next three months to clean the underpass, as well as to discuss ways to remove the cars, and put together a large mural.
The mural, which the organizers intend to install in September, will incorporate themes that promote the neighborhood’s diversity and unity.
Four separate geometric grids inspired by the work of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian will be painted onto four panels that will hang on the underpass wall.
Each of the panels will be dedicated to a different word— love, respect, tolerance or resilience— translated into different languages. The words will be inscribed on each panel in 10 to 15 languages, Shortt said.
The panels will also incorporate stencil paintings of fruit from different countries. Community members will design stencils with help from a RPGA Studio artist, said Shortt.
Shortt said that she believes that organizing community members around art can be a powerful way of tackling more difficult problems, such as persuading the NYPD to move the damaged cars.
“It’s easy to get people together around art,” Shortt said.
Shortt and Laster invited the community to a first public meeting about the project in June. During the meeting, the group came up with some general themes for the mural and began to design fruit stencils.
Participants will convene again for another planning meeting this Sunday at the 112 Precinct, located at 68-40 Austin St. at 1 p.m. The volunteers will create additional stencils and discuss strategies to have the cars removed. To RSVP, visit the link.
After the meeting, the group will move to the underpass and cleanup the space from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The organizers also plan to hold a third public meeting in August. Details will be released in coming weeks.