Astoria pupils paint murals

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City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) unveiled two murals painted by western Queens students that he funded to cover a blank wall underneath the Amtrak train overpass along 31st Street in Astoria.

A group of 18 juniors and seniors from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria designed the two murals, which are paintings inspired by art, music and history.

The first mural features scenes from Bryant Park’s fashion week and Broadway musicals as well as a bus, whose passengers include guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, civil rights icon Rosa Parks and singer Tony Bennett, who is an Astoria native and the founder of the Frank Sinatra School.

The second mural depicts the Statue of Liberty as well as Native American-inspired images that were created and painted by a group of artists from Iowa.

“This is one of the most beautiful ways to keep a wall clean and gives the community something bright to look at, rather than a blank wall,” said Anthony Meloni, executive director of the New York Anti-Crime Agency, an Astoria-based nonprofit organization that was founded in the mid-1980s to combat crime in the community.

Vallone said the wall under the elevated Amtrak overpass at 31st Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue was previously blank.

“This completes the transformation of this overpass from a dark, dangerous, graffiti-covered, puddle-filled cave to a colorful, bright and safe addition to the neighborhood landscape,” the councilman said.

Vallone had complained to Amtrak during the past two years that its scaffolding on 31st Street was unsafe. In February, the railroad removed the scaffolding.

In addition, he had called for Amtrak to correct conditions that were causing stagnant water to accumulate under the structure for a number of years, which he said created dangerous and unsanitary conditions for pedestrians.

The railroad and the city Department of Environmental Protection installed a new drainage system around the overpass to contain water seepage and prevent it from running down the sidewalk. Amtrak also renovated the brickwork to prevent pieces of the structure from falling off.

The councilman funded the New York Anti-Crime Agency to commission murals for the walls underneath the overpass.

The agency sorted through 30 submissions for the wall and worked with artists during the course of its transformation. In two years, the group plans to update the murals.

The total cost of the murals was $3,000, a spokeswoman for Vallone said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:30 pm, October 10, 2011
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