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Ridgewood civic gets $1K grant for street cleanup

Ridgewood civic gets $1K grant for street cleanup
A shopping cart sits overturned on an overgrown, garbage-strewn stretch of foliage along Shaler Avenue in Ridgewood. Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

A group in Ridgewood plans to transform a garbage-strewn eyesore into a community greenspace after receiving an award earlier this month.

A civic association received a “Love Your Block Award” Dec. 3, which comes with a monetary grant of $1,000 and free city services that it will use to spruce up the railway corridor running along Shaler Avenue between Cypress Hills Street and Glenridge Park.

“We’re excited,” said Mary Parisen, co-founder of Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions, or CURE. “Our goal is to transform neglected public land.”

The grant came from the Citizens Committee of New York City, a nonprofit that is funded through the mayor’s office and private donations. The committee takes applications from various neighborhood groups around the city that want to improve a street or block, then gives out awards to the best ideas, one of which was CURE’s, according to Saleen Shah, the director of the program.

“This is a very good group,” Shah said. “We knew that if we gave them a grant that they would do a really good job.”

The land in question was overgrown and full of dead trees, and was not only neglected but actively made worse by local businesses and residents who dumped refuse into the area. Parisen said she has found televisions, plumbing equipment, landscape waste and mountains of garbage in the foliage.

“We’ve pulled everything out of there,” she said. “I don’t know who is dumping televisions, but it was an ongoing mess. And without any sort of permanent change, it would have still invited the dumping.”

Parisen said that after multiple failed clean-up attempts, she hopes the upcoming project will be the one that finally sticks.

CURE will use the prize to clear out the garbage and brush from the area and then plant some new trees. The group will also clean up graffiti in the area and distribute fliers to inform the neighborhood.

But they will not do it alone. One of the perks of the prize is that several city agencies like the Parks Department will help with the tree projects as well as several other local agencies.

CURE was one of 50 organizations that received the yearly award for 2010, according an assistant director of the program, and it did not come easy. About 160 groups applied.

Shah said that money is good, but the city services provided to the agencies are more valuable than most people think.

For instance, if residents want to fix a broken sign or put in a speed bump on their street, they have to contact the city Department of Transportation, which then sends an engineer to study the problem before anything can get started. It can take a while.

But after CURE proposes its plan, all the red tape can be bypassed. And that is especially pertinent since the makeshift garbage dump is on city property.

Other city services that are popular in the program include rat extermination and tree pruning education. Most of the services will be offered as a one-time deal, but an ongoing program by the city Sanitation Department helps catch and write tickets for companies that illegally dump waste in neglected areas like the railway corridor along Shaler Avenue.

CURE, an amalgam of other civic agencies, advocates less-intrusive train traffic through several Queens neighborhoods. It will have several months to iron out the specifics of the plan before the day of the project, which is slated to take place May 14.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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