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Rich Hill welcomes all with new sign

Richmond Hill business owner Romeo Hitlall (l.) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo shake hands after unveiling the new "Welcome to Richmond Hill" sign. Photo by Howard Koplowitz
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Romeo Hitlall’s 4 1/2-year quest to get a “Welcome to Richmond Hill” sign erected in the neighborhood ended Monday when the sign was unveiled.

Hitlall — a member of Community Board 10, vice president of the community’s annual Phagwah parade and owner of NMCRA Connectors Realty on Liberty Avenue — paid $5,000 for the sign and will pay to maintain it and the surrounding shrubbery where Liberty Avenue, 133rd Street and 103rd Avenue converge.

“I’ve been working on this site for approval for 4 1/2 years, going back and forth with the city, the Parks Department, the Sanitation Department,” Hitlall said during the unveiling. “We’ve been working getting the right approval from the right department to get this sign up. It was a lengthy process.”

Hitlall said the green sign “will identify the community. There’s a lot of traffic coming into Richmond Hill. I’m hoping this will better our community, identify our community ... and this sign will do that for us.”

Hitlall first contacted state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) about his desire for the sign.

Addabbo said he told Hitlall it would be a “long haul” to get the sign erected “because the city isn’t crazy about these signs.”

The senator said the sign “was long overdue.

“This sign is going to welcome thousands of people daily from all parts of the world,” he said, referring to the area’s diversity. “This is a great spot for a ‘Welcome to Richmond Hill’ sign.”

Naidoo Veerapen, a member of the Phagwah parade committee and Community Board 9, said he wondered why nobody had thought of such a sign earlier.

“Richmond Hill is a great melting pot,” he said. “Sometimes I get calls, ‘Where is Richmond Hill?’ It’s important to have a sign like this as a form of identifica­tion.”

Diana Ali, a community resident, called the sign “beautiful.

“When people are in this area, they have no idea where they are,” she said. “They come off the [Van Wyck] Expressway, they have no clue.”

Veerapen also said the sign will make it easier to tell people where the Phagwah parade starts.

“Now I can say [at] the ‘Welcome to Richmond Hill’ sign,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 10:51 pm, November 9, 2011
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