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Photo by Nykeema Williams
By Phil Corso

The shovels have hit the ground at a Whitestone eyesore along Francis Lewis Boulevard.

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) laced up his working boots Tuesday morning and took to the vacant lot near the intersection of an abandoned corner property, at 24-19 Francis Lewis Blvd. in Whitestone, alongside property owner Robin Singh to help spread some topsoil for new greenery.

“Hopefully, with this tree the site will become a green oasis instead of the urban wasteland it has been for so long,” Halloran said. “I thank the property owner for hearing the cries of the community.“

Singh said the lot should be complete by the end of the week.

The lot has been vacant and full of vegetation and debris for years before residents and local lawmakers moved to change its image. A trademark wooden fence riddled with graffiti became a common eyesore for residents in Whitestone.

“One of the problems is that this lot has changed hands several times recently,” Halloran said. “The new owner is anxious to be a good neighbor, and we are pleased to work with him on behalf of the community.”

Singh said he was glad to finally break ground at the site. He shoveled topsoil alongside Halloran, courtesy of Flushing’s Garden World.

“I’m happy to finally get this behind us,” Singh said.

Halloran said he has been working with the city Department of Buildings for more than two years to improve the property. He and Singh had a meeting two weeks ago, where they agreed to replace the signature graffiti-ridden fence with a taller, chain-link fence, which has since been installed.

“Commissioner Gluckman, Mr. Singh and I agreed that the higher fence would discourage dumping and trespassing, so it made sense to do it here,” Halloran said, referring to Ira Gluckman, the DOB commissioner.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) also issued a press release claiming he had played a role in the revamping of the lot. The senator said he worked with the DOB to contact the property’s owner and erect a chain-link fence in the place.

“This plywood graffiti fence has been an eyesore in this neighborhood for years,” Avella said. “I am pleased that DOB came to its senses and ordered the owner to tear it down. The construction fence attracted an unbearable amount of graffiti and illegal dumping and became a real blight on this community. This is welcome news to those in the community that have been forced to look at and live with this nuisance.”

According to Avella, he worked alongside North East Flushing Civic Association President Peter Brancazio to have the property cleared after years of inactivity.

“By working together with the community, we have been able to dramatically transform this abandoned lot,” Avella said, “though there is still work to do, taking down the graffiti construction fence is a significant and much-needed accomplishment.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573

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