BY LYNN EDMONDS
College Point got a little tender, loving care when College Point Boulevard, the area’s main street, received 35 planters to enhance the business district and attract customers.
Tom Palma, Chairman of the College Point Board of Trade, said the beautification project was one way of fighting for the area’s small businesses to remain competitive in today’s tough economy.
“Small Town USA is dying and we need to do something,” he said. “The cleanliness and appearance of any shopping district has a direct involvement with how the businesses do.”
The plants, called Upright Yews, look a bit like small pine trees, and were placed along College Point Blvd. between 14th and 20th Avenue. Their watering, cleaning and pruning will be undertaken by local florist “Philip Hass Sons Florist” and paid for by the grant for the next two years.
Steve Haas, who owns the plant shop, said the species was carefully chosen to survive the New York winter.
“Last year we tested different types of plants, Boxwood and a different assortment, and the Yew held up the best, and that was a rough winter last year,” he said.
Hass said it was easy for plants to become dehydrated in the winter when the soil freezes.
To counteract this tendency, he sprayed them with an oil that stops the trees from losing moisture through their needles.
The florist added that he liked the effect of the planters.
“It looks good; they look nice on the street. Since there’s no trees on the street, it helps,” he said. “We hope they hold up.”
The money to pay for the project came from a previously unclaimed government grant. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) helped the College Point Board of Trade to extend the deadline for using the grant. At the time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was getting ready to re-absorb all unclaimed grant money back into state coffers.
Pepsi Cola stepped in by putting up the money up front, which the stipulations of the grant required. The company put up about $27,000, Palma said.
Steven Kucerak, Director of Operations at Pepsi Cola, said the company was pleased to participate. “We’re grateful to be able to help the neighborhood,” Kucerak said. “We are here to help the community if we can.”
The bottling plant in College Point services New York City, Westchester County and Long Island.
Individual businesses also put up their own funds to access remaining grant money for store improvements. The are eliminating solid front gates, replacing awning, painting facades, and replacing store front windows and lighting with the money.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana