Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

The mural that greets Long Island Rail Road passengers as they enter the St. Albans station has seen better days, and neighbors are trying to return it to its former glory.

Painted on the south side of Linden Boulevard in 1982, the mural depicts the neighborhood and its residents throughout the years, such as the arrival of the railroad in 1888, the Presbyterian Church built in 1907 and the establishment of the VA Hospital — then known as the Naval Hospital — in 1951.

Curiously, there is an image of the Concorde, the noisy supersonic jet many in southeast Queens may be more than happy to forget.

The date marking Everitt’s General Store on Farmers and Linden boulevards is obscured by damage to the surface that pockmarks the length of the wall.

There is another mural on the north side of Linden showing the jazz greats who used to call St. Albans home. It was originally painted on the raw surface of the underpass, but in 2003 it was redone on panels affixed to the wall.

The mural on the south side is painted directly on the exterior of the LIRR underpass, and after two separate restorations — one in 1988 and another in 2001 — it is ready for another.

Sharon Johnson, vice president of the St. Albans Civic Association, said part of the problem is that water runs down from the top of the wall, and she would like to see the LIRR address the water issue before restoring the artwork.

An LIRR spokesman said that one point the railroad installed gutters in an attempt to divert the water seepage from the overhead bridge decks.

“More recently, an inspection by the Railroad’s Engineering Department determined that the only long term solution would be the complete waterproofing of the bridge decks, a project that would cost an estimated $700,000 to $900,000,” said LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena. “At this time, the MTA Capital Plan does not include such a project so the LIRR does not have the money to pay for that work.”

Johnson said that before the wall was painted, it was covered with graffiti and the mural became a source of civic pride for the neighborhood’s residents.

“I think there’s so many things about St. Albans, so much history,” she said. “The community is proud of all its residents and that was a creative way to highlight some of the more prominent figures in St. Albans.”

During the second restoration of 2001, muralist Joe Stephenson, whom Johnson said was from New Mexico, worked with children from PS 36 on Foch Boulevard to give it new life.

Marie Booker, a member of the St. Albans Civic Improvement Association, which has co-sponsored the mural since its inception, said she would like to see it restored by a local artist.

“We have artists in our community. To get someone outside of the community is ludicrous, especially when we have them right here,” she said.

Both associations were in the process of raising funds and seeking volunteers to help bring the mural back to what it once was.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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