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Auburndale-Bayside group takes on graffiti

A new volunteer group led by state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris’ (D-Astoria) chief of staff has been formed in northeast Queens to take on massive graffiti cleanups each month in Bayside and Auburndale.

The Auburndale-Bayside Anti-Graffiti Volunteers hit 40 graffiti-strewn sites in the two neighborhoods Aug. 1 and has plans for another removal Aug. 30. The group was founded by Michael Sais, the chief of staff for Gianaris, and includes members of the Auburndale Improvement Association, Community Boards 7 and 11, local college students and members of the 109th and 111th precincts.

“We want to make northeast Queens a graffiti-free zone,” said Sais, who lives in Auburndale. “An abundance of graffiti can easily send the wrong impression about our neighborhood.”

Earlier this month, the group conducted its first cleanup, painting over a total of 40 sites, including street lights, mailboxes, road signs, fire hydrants, telephone polls and fire boxes.

One of the neighborhood’s most graffiti-covered structures was a 10-foot-tall gate near the Long Island Rail Road trestle near Station Road and Utopia Parkway.

“We cleaned the worst eyesore in the community and now it’s been completely transformed,” Sais said. “It’s like night and day.”

The group will schedule additional cleanups this fall.

Sais said the volunteer group, which currently has several dozen members, was given free supplies for the cleanup from Citizens Against Graffiti Everywhere, a borough-wide initiative involving numerous community groups that is dedicated to cleaning up graffiti. A majority of the sites cleaned by the group were public property. But the volunteers plan to also clean up businesses in the area Aug. 30.

“Neighborhood stability and appearance are improved in areas that are litter-free, graffiti-free and tree-lined,” said Community Board 11 member Henry Euler, who is also vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association.

Sais said the group will target sites for the cleanup later this month during the next several weeks.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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