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The writing, aka graffiti, is on the wall—the walls of buildings, storefront gates, mail boxes, fire hydrants, light poles, traffic signal boxes and more—it is everywhere! But it doesn’t have to be.

You don’t see it on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street or in neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Red Bank, Cedarhurst or Manhattan Beach, because they won’t tolerate it. We, however, have gotten used to it.

About two years ago, a group of neighborhood residents and shop owners formed the Kings Highway Beautification Association (KHBA). Our mission statement is “to improve the quality of life on Kings Highway, from Ocean Parkway to McDonald Avenue, and our neighboring streets.”

We have committed to affect change and we are happy to present the following report:

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When graffiti consumes an area, it causes negative ripple effects. It attracts trash on the sidewalks; sewers get laden with grease and grime; garbage overflows, attracting rodents and roaches, and an unsavory odor permeates the area, especially in the summer. It doesn’t take long for crime and drug dealers to find their place in this environment. This is the definition of urban decay and this is what our group of public activists is fighting against.

In comes Mr. Bruce Pienkny who saves the day for us. Bruce Pienkny is the President of City Solve Inc. and he literally has been cleaning up graffiti and grime from commercial streets all over the metropolitan area. While NYC provides special graffiti trucks that paint over vandalized gates at no charge, and we thank them for all that they have done for us, we still needed more done, and on a regular basis. Bruce analyzed the street and determined that almost all of the graffiti was decades old. He told us that cleaning it off and keeping it off could be accomplished by wiping out any new “tag” lines immediately. Vandals will go elsewhere if their tag line doesn’t stay indefinitely.

We engaged City Solve and they have recently removed, or painted over, all graffiti and have also power-washed the sidewalks on the entire highway at a reasonable cost. It is now up to each shop owner to maintain it.

Over the past two years, KHBA has reached out to our political leaders for assistance in this major undertaking and we are pleased to report that they have all been very cooperative. We met with Councilman Domenic Recchia who guided us on how to interact with our city agencies. With Mr. Recchia as our mentor, we were able to secure a grant for seed funds and to get Kings Highway repaved. He is continuing to work with us on other major improvements which will be announced in the near future.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz worked with us to get a grant for over $200,000 to replace the existing lights with antique lamp posts that will add beauty and charm to Kings Highway. He, along with his assistant Oswalt Heymann, continues to give us significant support .

Our Commissioner of Parks, Julius Spiegel, along with Councilman Recchia, embraced our idea of converting the asphalt, zebra stripe triangle on Kings Highway and East 5th St. into a green street mini-park. This lush year-round garden with new trees is another step to make our environment eco-friendly. It has also eliminated dangerous U-turns and as a bonus, created six new parking spaces. A new stylish, curved sidewalk was constructed on the East 5th Street side, which permits a safer crossing from Avenue R to Kings Highway.

Our chairman, Joseph J. Sitt, along with Sara Mamiye conducted a tree planting campaign. They were able to procure 48 new trees, planted throughout our neighborhood. This adds character, provides shade, cleanses the air and beautifies our streets. If you would like to have a tree planted in front of your house, at no cost to you, please email us at info@kings-highwayba.com, compliments of the NYC Parks Department and Mayor Bloomberg.

Many residents in the area have been complaining about unwanted circulars being thrown onto their property nearly everyday and then, adding insult to injury, getting sanitation tickets. The unsolicited advertisements cause litter and are a nuisance, with many houses receiving several of each publication—at the front door, the side door, the gate and even the garage entrance. Once again, we learned that you can do something about it—thanks to Jacob S. Kassin, who was so annoyed that he followed the delivery workers to their trucks and got detailed information on five different distributors.

Jakie, along with Margie Bijou, worked feverishly with letter writing and phone calls and the circulars have stopped coming to all the home owners who sent letters or signed a stop-order request. Contact us at (718) 906-1313 if you want to be added to this list.

We have ordered 18 new, heavy duty, attractive litter receptacles from The Victor Stanley Co., which will replace the wire mesh baskets. This project costs over $20,000. They will have the NYC & KHBA logos and are available for sponsorship at $1,000 each with your product, bank or store name prominently displayed. Contact us if interested.

Special thanks go to the Sephardic Community Federation committee and to Executive Director David Greenfield for their support and guidance and a grant to launch us.

Our most challenging task has been to work with the shopkeepers, restaurants and landlords on the Highway. Some, who do not live in our neighborhood, think the status quo is just fine. We don’t share that view. We deserve a first class shopping street and we believe our persistence is beginning to affect positive changes. We won’t stop until we make Kings Highway a model for us to enjoy and others to emulate.

While we are proud of our accomplishments, we still have an agenda of things that need addressing. And this is where we need your help:

The entire Highway needs new attractive and safe sidewalks. We plan to install planters, benches, large street clocks and thermometers. We envision uniform awnings with neat signage.

Another important project and a major expense is the installation of cameras to deter crime and vandalism. This would also entail a monitoring station and personnel to help apprehend perpetrators.

There is an ongoing discussion of whether to keep the parking meters as they are, or to switch to the newer muni-meter system.

It is impossible to run our Association without financing. Our city and state officials are contributing the majority of the funds but it is not enough to complete all our goals. Even a small donation can help us make big changes.

If you would like to be a part of this transformation and make a contribution, please make your tax-deductible check payable to KHBA and mail to P.O. Box 230505, Brooklyn, NY 11223; or contact a member of our steering committee: Irene Mamiye, Richie Adjmi, Morris Missry Esq., Sara Mamiye, Joey Shamie, Talia Toussie, Julie Betesh, Margie Bijou, Caryn Sitt, Sarah Hidary, Chairman Joseph J.Sitt, and co-presidents Linda Ebani and David J. Hidary.

We believe that it is our civic duty to improve our neighborhood for our children and grandchildren. It has proven to be a difficult task, but worth the effort as we see the fruits of our commitment. We are paving the way for other neighborhoods in our community to follow. Join us on this journey to a better quality of life.
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