Ridgewood Plateau gets a makeover - Queens Chronicle: Central/Mid Queens News

Ridgewood Plateau gets a makeover

by Matthew Ern, Chronicle Contributor | Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2014 10:30 am

After decades of neglect, the archways welcoming visitors and residents to the Ridgewood Plateau are receiving a fresh coat of paint and with it, new life.

Woodside artist Larry Madine was hired to restore the four archways bearing the words “Ridgewood Plateau” hand painted on them in script lettering. The project was years in the making and largely propelled by the Newtown Historical Society. Madine says the reaction from the neighborhood has been great and that many of the residents have been appreciative of the restoration.

“I was amazed at how many people were so very happy it was being done,” he said.

Over the past decades, pieces of the metalwork adorning the signs and much of the paint had worn away. No one technically owns the arches, so no one took responsibility for their upkeep.

The Maspeth neighborhood got its misleading nickname during its development in the 1920s and 30s. Nearby Ridgewood was a more developed, bustling neighborhood and the land developers that built the apartments and Tudor-style homes that populate the plateau decided it would be a smart marketing move to rebrand the community after its more prominent neighbor.

Newtown Historical Society President Christina Wilkinson was born and raised in Maspeth and started pushing for the arches’ restoration back in March 2011.

“I remember when you could still see the original faded lettering on the signs. It always bothered me to see them rusty and neglected,” she said.

After many false starts over the years, Madine was hired in October by Danny Pyle, owner of O’Neill’s Restaurant in Maspeth, to complete the restoration.

The arches were power-washed and stripped of the pre-existing, rusted metal before being primed and painted by Madine, who hand-lettered the signs in gold leaf. Each arch took about 16 hours of work to restore.

The artist took a wire brush to the signs to scrape off all the rust and chipped paint and then had to sand them extensively. A young couple from the neighborhood gave him a photo of the original paint job, which allowed him to better replicate it.

“That was a big ‘wow’ to get the original lettering,” Madine said. The whole job took about 10 days because he had to work around the weather.

He’s been painting as a hobby since he was 13 years old, and taught himself by taking art books out of the library.

“At that point I knew art school was out of the question, but I was so dedicated. I learned myself,” he said.

Madine is married with three children and three grandchildren.