One Belle Harbor resident has helped her community paint a brighter future.
Local leaders unveiled a new mural on Beach 129th Street on Wednesday to signify the revitalization of the neighborhood nearly a year after Sandy, following the efforts of Colleen Brady, who lives in front of the artwork.
Brady rallied the community to create the mural during the summer on the commercial strip near Cronston Avenue, which replaced an older, smaller one.
“I’m a resident here, I work on the block and I just thought of what we could do to bring the art back, freshen it up,” Brady said.
This spring she got the idea and rushed to community leaders to get the ball rolling on refreshing the mural. Elected officials acknowledged her plan and quickly contacted New York City Small Business Services (SBS) for financing.
SBS Commissioner Robert Walsh, who secured funding, and elected officials saw the artwork as a symbol for the regrowth of businesses and the community.
“Sometimes you just need a good symbol,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder. “This mural is exactly that, this is a sign to people coming here that our shops are open for business, that Rockaway is going to be back again and that no storm is going to keep us down.”
Officials called local artist Geoff Rawling, who painted the original in 1996, to draw the new mural. Rawling kept the same message as the initial artwork “community minded merchants,” but expanded the mural to use the entire wall and drew a beach theme with surfboards and a child playing with seashells in the sand to represent the seaside neighborhood.
“The beauty of this is now is that it’s beautiful, but in the winter it’s going to make people feel better,” Rawling said.
The mural is also the first project that the new Beach 129th Street Merchants Association helped to get accomplished. The old mural helped businesses owners welcome people into area, but many believe the restored version will help to reenergize them for the future.
“Ten months after the storm there are still businesses that have not reopened,” Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said. “Some have, but businesses haven’t gotten back to where it was before. This lifts spirits.”
Before photos courtesy of Colleen Brady