Kensington resident Debbie Wallace doesn’t see trees or flowers in the vacant lot around the corner from her house.
Instead, she sees—and often feels—mosquitoes, rats and litter.
But if a tree doesn’t grow in Brooklyn, Wallace had an idea: Why not paint one?
That’s what a group of area residents plan to do in front of 31-35 Church Avenue, a longstanding vacant eyesore between Chester Avenue and Story Street.
Members of the newly formed West Kensington Community Action Group—with help from local retailers like Foodtown, Shannon Florist and Nursery and Paint’s by George—are planning to soon paint flowers, gardens and trees on a massive canvas.
The group effort will then be set beside the barren lot—a museum-worthy juxtaposition meant to publicize their cause.
Those living nearby have long complained about the litter and vermin the lot has generated.
Wallace, a retired nurse who lives on Chester Street, said she can’t even enjoy her own garden because of the lot.
She said the lot, once home to a gas station, has been a problem for over a decade.
Assorted city agencies, including the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Sanitation (DOS), and Community Board 12, have been called, she said, with little resolution.
While the owner, listed on city records as an entity known as 31 Church Avenue Realty LLC, has received summonses, the lot’s cleanliness has not improved much, Wallace said.
The entity, whose contact, according to the Department of State, is Joseph Bistritzky, could not be reached at press time. Bistritsky is the CEO of the Maramont Corporation, a pre-packaged food distributor that has held contracts with the city’s Department of Education.
The 28,275-square-foot lot, listed as “the largest development site in Borough Park,” is being marketed for sale at a price tag of $6.5 million.
It is listed as being “minutes from downtown Manhattan,” and having 28,500 to 57,000 buildable square feet. “Choose your use,” the listing reads.
Wallace said she hopes the mural will spur action.
“We want to make people aware because they are burying their heads in the sand,” she said.
Tom Gray, the district director for City Councilmember Bill de Blasio, said he has been working with residents on the issue, and is keenly aware of their frustration.
Gray said the city lawmaker’s office allocated $25,000 this year to the Doe Fund, a not-for-profit group that provides job training and other assistance to the homeless.
Members of that group clean up and down Church Avenue four days a week, from Ocean Parkway to Dahill Road. At Gray’s request, on behalf of the residents, they now continue along the length of the avenue.
But inside the lot is another matter, Gray noted.
“Sanitation would have to get a warrant to go in. We have had them go in on issue violations,” he said.
Wallace isn’t ready to give up.
Her dream is to have a community garden and perhaps even a community center at the location.
“Everyone has high hopes,” she said.
©2008 Community News Group
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