A pair of Whitestone civic groups each installed a neighborhood sign this month following unrelated but similar campaigns to boost community spirit.
The signs, which were unveiled within a week of each other and sit roughly a half mile apart on opposite sides of the Cross Island Parkway, read “Welcome to Whitestone” and “The Village of Whitestone Welcomes You.”
Devon O’Connor, founder of the Welcome to Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association, is responsible for one of them.
Three years ago, he started his quest to replace the dilapidated sign located in the triangle at Francis Lewis Boulevard, the Cross Island Parkway service road and Locke Avenue.
O’Connor first got the idea when he was 17 years old and saw the less-than-flattering old entrance to his neighborhood.
“Somebody painted it green, there was graffiti,” said O’Connor, a fourth-generation Whitestone resident. “I don’t know why. I’m proud of my community and it started bothering me.”
O’Connor contacted state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who in turn got O’Connor in touch with the city Parks Department, which owns the land.
Parks gave the young Whitestone resident the green light — as long as he could raise the $5,500 himself.
“Once I got permission, I said, ‘Oh, this is great.’ I didn’t think it would take three years, but in the long run it was worth it,” he said. “It is something I’ve believed in and worked hard on.”
A week earlier, the Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association unveiled a sign of its own at the corner of 14th Avenue and 149th Street.
This sign sits at a more commercial part of the neighborhood and, according to a member of the civic, imparts a quaint feeling to the area.
“It gives it that Normal Rockwell, homely feeling,” said Marlene Cody, vice president of the civic. “We welcome you with open arms.”
Cody, who has lived in Whitestone for 55 years and wanted to recapture some of the past feeling of the town, said the sign was put up with money from the Taxpayers civic and the parcel of land it sits on was donated by the owner of a nearby gas station.
The sign has already earned kudos from local store owners, who told Cody that it will be good for business.
She stressed that there was no animosity between the two civics and that any signs that are put up should be good for the community.
“I think it helps the community,” she said. “I couldn’t care less who puts the signs in.”
O’Connor also congratulated the Taxpayers on their sign, although he said it might have been better if they had collaborated.
“In this community there are a couple of associations and it would be nice if everybody was working together, but they have a sign and that’s nice, too,” he said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community News Group
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