In the “bad” old days, people would drive to Shore Boulevard in Astoria Park, and instead of seeing the beautiful skyline that we enjoy today, would be invariably drawn to the 13 story, at its track base, behemoth full of graffiti that was the base of the Hell Gate Bridge, and the whole experience was ruined. The talk would invariably start of crime and dirt and filthy New York. No visitor could get past the thousands of graffiti tags and the locals had become inured and desensitized to it.
In 1992, the New York Anti Crime Agency, with the help of the US Marine Corps RSNY, managed to change all that. On one very busy day in the spring of that year, over 100 NYAC volunteers, Marines and Police Officers cleaned 250 stores in Astoria/LIC and wound up painting the whole base of the Hell Gate Bridge clean of graffiti. Thousands of square feet were finally cleaned and for the last 21 years, alongside the NYC Parks Department, and with the blessing of Amtrak, NYAC has cleaned and maintained all the base bridge columns from Shore Boulevard to Steinway Street.
Over two decades, there have been hundreds of cleanups, thousands of locations cleaned and dozens of murals painted. Nowadays, very few people remember any of that mess and just remember/recognize the beauty that is Astoria Park, the view that encompasses the East River and Manhattan and the majestic bridges that are the Triboro and the Hell Gate and the unique attractiveness of the whole scene.
Still, this beautiful, historic bridge lacks lighting.
There are three main reasons this needs to be remedied:
*Safety is foremost, in even light mist or fog the bridge is basically invisible, there are only three little lights for the whole massive span and that’s ridiculous.
Historical significance: our city and neighborhood have a unique historical jewel in our midst, neglected for decades. Why not make it a visual gem also, especially in time for its 100th anniversary in 2016?
*Community Pride. This bridge needs to be lit up and become a focal point of the skyline of New York, like so many other iconic structures of our city.
This would not cost a lot and would not even involve any land use or architectural issues. NYAC would work together with many neighborhood organizations such as the Astoria Historical Society, Central Astoria and Parks groups.
We want our Congressional reps, Carolyn Maloney and Joseph Crowley, to help us make this a reality. Involve local people and media in a design competition to see what the best design should be. The bridge’s time as a forgotten stepchild can’t be over too soon.
Let us know what you think, please contact the New York Anti Crime Agency by email at Meloni25@iasny.org.
Director, New York Anti Crime