Say goodbye to the site that created sore eyes.
For years, the Yellowstone Boulevard underpass beneath the Long Island Rail Road tracks was a breeding ground for pigeons and their doo, garbage dumpers, overgrown vegetation and other unsightly visions.
Thanks to a group of civic-minded individuals, the area has been cleaned up, and the crowning touch, a community-inspired mural, is being applied to one side.
Yvonne Shortt, an artist who has called Forest Hills home for the past 11 years, took it upon herself to get the ball rolling.
“We wanted to clean out the space going on for about a year,” she said, while overseeing the application of a coat of white paint that would turn the gray stone wall into a fresh canvas. “Everyone here has pitched in.”
Throughout the day on a recent Saturday, a gathering of nearly a dozen volunteers, including Shortt’s husband and one of her daughters, sketched, painted and offered ideas as the mural began to emerge.
“I could throw my design up here,” said Shortt, who has worked on other area murals, including one on 63rd Drive in Rego Park, also under the LIRR tracks. “But that’s not what this is about. We’re using art as a tool to fix some problems we’ve seen in the space.”
As she explained, the challenges included whacking the overgrown weeds, removing 22 bags of garbage and getting the Police Department to do away with the practice of using the underpass as a garage for derelict cars.
Having the severely damaged vehicles, often involved in police investigations, stored there “promotes other things,” Shortt said.
With the cooperation of the NYPD, the cars have disappeared. The mural is on the same side of Yellowstone as the precinct.
The underpass has also been plagued by falling debris which, Shortt said, the LIRR is addressing, as well as poor lighting. The city Department of Transportation has promised to put in new lighting by March of 2019, according to Shortt.
In all, an estimated 50 individuals have been involved in the effort, including family, friends and members of the community, Shortt said.
The project was funded in part by the nonprofit Citizens Committee for New York City, which contributed $2,700.
The mural, Shortt said, is “a real collaborative community piece,” with Shortt lending her artistic expertise. It will reflect the diverse ethnicities of area residents through four panels, each bearing one word translated into multiple languages: love, respect, tolerance, resilience.
The design also includes drawings of fruits and vegetables that are significant in the cuisines of the neighborhood’s cultures.
The LIRR will install the panels, according to Shortt.
Shortt’s daughter, Rebecca West, who, earlier in the day was up on a tall ladder, roller in hand, indicated, “Diversity is very important. It’s a good message.”
Forest Hills resident Caroline Kelly, another volunteer, said that getting the community involved in the project is a positive step. “There are a lot of artists in Queens but a lot of disenfranchisement,” she said. “This is a good way to build an artists’ community.”