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Students shine in Whitestone Bridge drawing competition

By Alex Robinson

Five elementary school students were honored by City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) Monday for winning an art competition to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge.

More than 300 students submitted artwork for the contest, which was organized by the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association.

“Coming up with the Top Five was close to impossible,” Welcome to Whitestone President Devon O’Connor, told the winners at Vallone’s office. “But you guys did it and they’re amazing.”

Participants were asked to make a piece of artwork on a standard piece of A4 paper depicting the bridge. The pieces also had to refer to the bridge’s 75th anniversary in some way.

O’Connor received an overwhelming number of submissions from almost every elementary school in Whitestone.

The winners were Joanna Li, Mei Jiang and Athena Koutsothanasis, who are all fourth-graders at PS 79, along with Nicholas Berry, a fifth-grader from PS 193. They were each awarded Council citations, $50 gift certificates from Welcome to Whitestone and a $10 gift card from Dunkin’ Donuts.

“This great city is only as great as the kids that are in it,” Vallone told the winners as he gave them their citations.

A fifth winner, Ellie Choe of PS 209, did not make it to the event.

“Every day I go to school, I look at the Whitestone Bridge. It’s big. It’s bright. It’s huge,” said Mei, who opted to use paint on her piece. “Once I got the notice for the drawing contest, I thought it would be a fun experience.”

The Whitestone Bridge was built in 23 months and opened April 29, 1939, for the World’s Fair. It was planned by Robert Moses and built to provide drivers with a way to get from upstate New York to Queens without going through Manhattan.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to host a number of exhibits to mark the anniversary, which will display historical photos, drawings, scale models and old film footage of the bridge. The first will be June 22 at the Queens Historical Society.

“I can’t tell you how much fun I had looking at all the drawings,” said Ray Webb, the MTA director of Bridges East, who judged the contest with O’Connor and Vallone. “The students had a blast and realized the importance of the bridge to their community. For them to be able to capture it all, whether in paint or pastel drawing, was fantastic.”

O’Connor is working with the Queens Library Whitestone branch to turn the remaining submissions into a display. The contest was the first the young civic association had held and O’Connor hailed it as a success.

“For the first contest we did, the turnout was amazing,” he said.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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