Seeing a need to clean up an area of Middle Village that is littered with overgrown weeds, residents, volunteers, local politicians and a city agency all lended a helping hand to chop down the vegetation on Saturday afternoon.
Nearly a dozen volunteers donated a few hours to clean a long stretch of overgrown weeds that runs from 70th Avenue to 68th Road in the southern area of Middle Village.
Who exactly is responsible for maintaining the stretch of grass has been disputed for years.
It is located adjacent to a few residential neighborhoods and fencing that belongs to All Faith’s Cemetery. The residents say that the property belongs to the cemetery and they should be taking care of it. All Faith’s says that the area is considered city property and the Department of Transportation (DOT) is in charge of cleaning it up.
Nevertheless, the volunteers, all of whom are from Middle Village or one of the surrounding neighborhoods, were happy to launder a property that has been considered an eyesore to the residents that live close to it.
Richie Polgar, who resides in Maspeth, said he was glad to help beautify an area even though he doesn’t live in that neighborhood.
“It’s good to get the neighbors out and work together and have some pride in where you live,” Polgar said. “The neighborhood looks better.”
Middle Village residents Peter Ilse, 12, and Thomas Crowley, 13, were the two youngest clean-up volunteers.
They said that while cleaning out the weeds, they found a lot of vodka bottles, cans and bottles of beer and even a can of tomato sauce.
“When I first looked at it, it was just a mess,” Ilse said.
Both kids also expressed their glee to have a role in cleaning up the overgrown vegetation.
“We’re fixing it up and making it look better,” Crowley said. “That way, the
drivers passing by have something better to look at then a pile of weeds.”
Although he was happy about Saturday’s cleanup, one Middle Village resident still expressed concern for that area and how it’s taken care of.
Pat Noonan, who previously spoke to The Forum about the overgrown weeds just steps from his home, said that he would like to see that property cleaned up more consistently rather than once or twice a year.
“How sad it is that people in the community have to take care of this mess when they’re paying enough taxes around here,” Noonan said.
He added that although he believes that the cemetery is ultimately responsible for the property, whoever is in charge should be cleaning it up more often.
“If they [the cemetery] own the property they should have the guys do it, if the city owns the property, someone should be down here cutting this thing apart, taking it apart and getting it over with,” Noonan said.
Dan Austin, president of All Faith’s Cemetery was among the contingent from the establishment in helping with the cleaning, maintained that the area belongs to DOT and they are helping despite it not belonging to them.
“This is an example of the city getting other people to do their work,” he said. “We wanted to show the community that this is not our property but we’re willing to help you out.”
Although the cleanup done on Saturday should suffice in the short-term, there is also a need to look for a long-term solution to the property.
State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who along with Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) organized the cleanup, said that he would send an e-mail to DOT about the long-term plan for that property.
He said he had asked in an e-mail to the DOT for them to do two things to that stretch. One would be to turn the space into a sidewalk, which would include a curb and sewage draining. The second, which Addabbo says would be a quicker solution, would be to grant the property to the cemetery and allow them to fix it up and extend the fencing to include that area.
Austin said that, if they were given that extra space, they would have room for an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 additional graves.
“The bottom line is it’s a benefit to the community,” Addabbo said of the cleanup. “We need a long term solution and that’s what we’re working towards.”
He said that there has been no response to the the e-mail sent to DOT on Monday.
A DOT spokesperson said that it has not received Addabbo’s e-mail, but the property is scheduled to be resurfaced sometime this year.
By Luis Gronda