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Kew Gardens group uses grant to plant flowers

When Kew Gardens residents hit the streets to plant brightly colored flowers around numerous trees May 16, it will be one of a long line of beautification efforts launched by a tightly knit community which has worked hard for years to ensure their neighborhood remains a desirable place for people to live, members of the Kew Gardens Improvement Association said.

The association was one of 60 neighborhood groups to receive a $500 grant from the nonprofit Citizens Committee for NYC and the money will allow the Queens organization run by volunteers to host a “Kew Gardens Blockbuster Clean and Green Day” May 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Any resident is invited to plant red and pink begonias, peach impatiens and white petunias in tree wells on both sides of Metropolitan Avenue from Audley Street to 83rd Avenue.

“We want people to come, enjoy themselves and beautify and build the community,” said Rosemary Sherman, a board member of the Kew Gardens Improvement Association and a resident of Kew Gardens for 29 years.

There will be live music and presentations by environmental groups on topics such as recycling and becoming more environmentally savvy, while face painting and arts and crafts projects will be offered for children. Area businesses, including Vitelio’s Marketplace and L’Angolo Pizza & Pasta, will have special promotions that day.

The association has been working since the 1970s to better the neighborhood, participating in events like tree plantings or replacing flower plantings on Lefferts Boulevard, and an official from the Citizens Committee for NYC said his group was thrilled to fund such a well-organized and supportive group.

“The Kew Gardens event is a wonderful, wonderful project,” said Scott Codey, director of advocacy at Citizens Committee. “It’s not just the neighbors coming together for one day — it’s clear that the neighborhood is a community. There’s broad participation and people feel a sense of responsibility for their neighborhood.”

The May 16 event will not only highlight the existing bonds between neighbors, but hopefully draw in people who have recently joined the community, association member Mel Gagarin said.

“There’s a lot of new people moving in and the hope is they’ll want to join the ranks when they see neighbors involved in something like this so we can continue to do these projects and maintain the neighborhood,” Gagarin said.

Residents and businesses will be encouraged to become tree stewards to ensure the flowers and trees flourish.

“We want the trees to be sustained, watered and cared for,” said Carol Lacks, an association board member who helped to apply for the Citizens Committee for NYC grant. “We hope businesses will work with the community to do that.”

Along with the $500 the Citizens Committee gave the Kew Gardens group as part of its Love Your Block program, the grant comes with assistance from city departments. The city’s program NYC Service helped to support the Citizens Committee’s grant program and city officials are expected to help remove graffiti from areas in Kew Gardens, replace broken or worn out litter baskets and conduct a street light survey.

Residents have asked the city to look into what they said was an especially problematic intersection at Metropolitan Avenue and Park Lane South, where Sherman and Lacks said there is a very short window for pedestrians to cross the street.

For more information, e-mail kghblockbusters@gmail.com or call 917-881-3358.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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