BY JON CRONIN
Last Thursday on the eve of Forest Hills Stadium’s inaugural summer concert series, artist Andre Trenier finished up his spray painted portrait of Althea Gibson under the LIRR trestle on Continental Avenue.
“Oh my Gawwwd, this is so beautiful,” a passer-by exclaimed as she made her way to Austin Street. “It was always so dirty,” she adds. Others gawked, took photos, patted Trenier on the back and complimented his talent.
Trenier had already painted a yellow background over what most would agree was a dirty wall under the trestle neighboring the iconic Forest Hills community and cobble stone Station Square.
Over the background, along with Gibson, he painted tennis greats like Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and Douglaston’s own John McEnroe, in honor of the West Side Tennis Club’s great history.
Across the street from the tennis greats’ mural, an artist duo named Crisp and Praxis painted punk rock legends and Forest Hills natives, the Ramones.
The man behind all this is Noah Sheroff, who runs the non-for-profit 501 (See) (Streets) as a way to beautify the five boroughs. Looking around at the murals, Sheroff said, “It also works as a graffiti deterrent.” This isn’t the first project the non-profit has undertaken.
They’ve created murals Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and even Mt. Vernon in Westchester, where Trenier painted a mural of famed hip hop artists Heavy D and the Boys for a park that was named after them.
Sheroff, who has no art background and a Master’s degree in public administration, coordinated the programs first project in July 2014 across the street from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. There artists painted mural of the Yankee legends.
Sheroff said he reaches out to locals, civic organizations and politicians and asks if they are interested in the beautification project. In this case, he reached out to Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi’s office (D- Forest Hills), they liked the idea and few days later, he was contacted by reps of Forest Hills Stadium.
Jon McMillan, general manager of Forest Hills Stadium, said of the project, “We use that underpass all the time, and it’s truly the worst place in Forest Hills, maybe all of Queens. It should be a place where Forest Hills, the Gardens, the West Side Tennis Club, and the Stadium meet, but instead it’s this pigeon-infested nightmare. Mike and I wanted to fix it, for our patrons but mostly for the neighborhood. We called everyone we knew, Melinda Katz, Karen Kozlowitz, Andy Hevesi, CB6, the 112th precinct – anyone who would listen basically. Everyone was supportive and helped us along our way. We’re part of the community, which gives us a real sense of responsibility. The underpass is an indefensibly awful spot; we knew we could improve it and so we did. If we’re a catalyst for making that space safer, cleaner, and less frightening then we know we’re making a positive impact.”
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin