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PS36 students restore St. Albans mural

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Students from St. Albans’ oldest elementary school are helping to restore a mural depicting the neighborhood’s history, including the establishment of their own PS 36 in 1893.

Artist Joe Stephenson, who grew up in St. Albans but now lives in New Mexico, has been working with elementary and high school students for the past few weeks to restore the landscape mural, which covers the south side of Linden Boulevard’s Long Island Rail Road station.

On the opposite side of the street is another of Stephenson’s creations, a mural memorializing many of the great jazz musicians and athletes who have lived in St. Albans over the years. Both murals were done in the early 1980s.

The landscape mural depicts the history of the neighborhood, starting with its first general store, built in the late 1800s, and journeying through time with the creation of the first school, now PS 36, the First Presbyterian Church, the first fire station, the naval hospital, and the Concorde, which used to fly over the area.

Emily Greenberg, an art teacher at PS 36, the St. Albans School, worked with the St. Albans Civic Association to secure two grants of $1,000 each from Newsday and other private funds for the restoration project.

Greenberg has been rotating a group of 20 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to help with the painting and Vivian Bergenthal from Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village has been bussing in several of her students.

Both teachers have found their students overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the project.

“It’s really fun,” said Amanda Antoiane, 11, who continued to work on the project even after graduating from fifth grade last week. “I want to be an artist and a doctor.”

“I want to be an artist and a judge,” said Kajanna McKencie, 10, a fourth-grader.

Martin Van Buren High School students Rod Joseph and Sandeep Kissoondyal, both 17, are also thinking about making a career out of their passion for painting and are enjoying the hands-on experience of restoring the mural.

“I like it because it’s lifting the community, people are getting more improvements instead of spray painting,” Joseph said. “I think other people our age should join in.”

“We are giving back something that is going to stay around for a long time,” Kissoondyal said. “It is fun and it’s a great way to help the community.”

Stephenson said the high school students have been very helpful with the detailed work, while he has the elementary school kids mostly doing large blocks of background color.

“They’ve been very helpful and it has been a good experience for them,” he said.

The artist, teachers and student helpers have all enjoyed the community’s support of the restoration.

“People are bringing food, thanking us and stopping to talk,” Greenberg said. “Everyone has offered their support.”

Greenberg started a mural club to prepare her students for the work and they also participated in an essay contest and researched the history of St. Albans.

Barry Johnson, a teacher at PS 36 and resident of St. Albans, has also noticed the outpouring of support.

“People are blowing their horns, thanking us for doing it,” he said. “I know it means a lot to them.”

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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