Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thoughts on the final day of 2011...

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential." 
–Ellen Goodman, journalist

I’m not sure at what point in lives we stop embracing the cinematic hype of New Year’s Eve, and start waxing philosophical about closing the chapter on another year passed.

Even though I can’t pin down the exact age this transition happened (though if I had to hazard a guess, I’d put it in the 20-30 years old range)…and despite the fact I admittedly struggle to even stay awake til midnight…even though I have zero clue what auld lang syne even means…there is still something about New Year’s Eve that will always have a certain introspective charm.

(I mean, if nothing else, it gives me carte blanche to indulge in the whole dramatic nostalgia thing without inciting exasperated head-shaking from my daughters!)

When I think about everything that’s happened this year, it reminds me of one of those days when I was younger, where somehow I could fit a week’s worth of events into the span of one evening. One of those days where the time continuum seemed to dissolve against the backdrop of youthful energy.

Similarly, I feel that while 2011 managed to fly by (what year doesn’t, really?), I marvel at how much transpired in the last 6 months alone.

When Judy Rudnic and I teamed up to start the West End Beautification Committee, we never expected it to elicit this much response from the community, but we have been delightfully overwhelmed by the generous support and selfless help from the West End community.

So as I spend the last day of 2011 reflecting on everything that has happened in the last year, there are certain things that come to the forefront of my mind…

Like Beautification Day, for one. I remember it being approximately 712 degrees outside. And I also remember how the summer heat didn’t deter the selfless volunteers who showed up to spend the day digging up the dirt at the tree bases that felt like solid rock due to years of neglect and planting flowers along Beech Street.

I remember Tidy Day on September 27—when families young and old plus resident and Legislator Denise Ford took brooms in hand and tackled the litter, discarded trash, and sidewalk weeds up and down Beech Street. Then the next day planting 100 mums donated by the AOH.

I remember when WEBA went from being a subcommittee of WENCA, to being its own incorporation. Of course, the separation from WENCA didn’t go as easily as one might have hoped (what break-up ever does, really?), but Judy and I realized early on that if we were to effect any change in the West End, that it needed to be done without the political motivations that often steer WENCA’s leadership.

(Unfortunately, the lovely West End Beautification logo that my daughter contributed to our cause, was lost in the metaphorical WENCA divorce proceedings. But just like Abe Lincoln wisely once said, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” They can take our logo, but they’ll never take our spirit! Stay tuned for details on the launch of the new WEBA logo to symbolize the start of the new year!)

I remember how our diligence led to the city’s agreement to repaint fire hydrants. I remember working with Joseph Keller (Long Beach Patch editor) and meeting Anthony (Seabythecity.com editor), and more importantly, I think about their incredible support which has been paramount throughout the creation and development of WEBA.

And while Judy and I may have not won the Patch’s Person of the Year selection, just finding out we were nominated was touching beyond the telling of it.

It also made me realize that the need for revitalization efforts in the West End have not gone unnoticed. With the help of our team members, our neighbors, and this wonderful city itself, West End Beautification has gone from being a vision...and is on its way to being a reality.

We have been gratified by the overwhelming support of the West End residents. We look forward to joining with you over the year ahead to continue these revitalization efforts.

So, while I may not be the biggest fan of New Year’s Eve hoopla, joining with Judy Rudnic to form West End Beautification Association has allowed me to reflect on this year with satisfaction and look forward to 2012 with great anticipation and excitement.

There is a sense of renewal, strength, and resolve in our city. There is a reawakening in the West End of what our community can be.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Long Beach Patch reports on the Good Neighbor Award

Thank you (as always!) to the Long Beach Patch for their continued support and dedication to furthering the beautification of the West End! :)

Original article here.

West End Businesses Earn 'Good Neighbor' Grades

The West End Beautification Association recognized 64 West End businesses with two different honors.

By Emily Wood

Judy Rudnic, who works in lower Manhattan, wanted to bring programs implemented in New York City to the Long Beach community.

So in an effort to make the West End business district more attractive to both patrons and residents alike, she and fellow West End resident Mary Ellen Pollina kicked off their new “Good Neighbor Award” program this fall.
Rose & Eye displays its award in a window.

The duo are co-directors of the West End Beautification Association (WEBA), formerly a committee of the West End Neighbors Civic Association (WENCA) that became an independent non-profit organization in October. The idea for the business beautification program spawned from several goals they identified at a prior WENCA meeting.

“We wanted to begin by focusing our cleaning and greening programs on the Beech Street commercial district,” Rudnic said.

The “Good Neighbor Award” program ran from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1, during which time businesses were monitored over three weeks and rated anonymously several times by volunteers using a criteria system. Some of the criteria included keeping sidewalks and nearby streets clean, covering garbage cans and removing weeds, among others.

The letter grade rating of Manhattan’s restaurants inspired the idea for the beatification program point system, Rudnic said. “We based our criteria only on streetscape considerations and primarily on Long Beach sanitation code requirements,” she said.

Each activity was assigned a number of points and businesses needed to obtain a minimum of 70 points — out of 100 — in order to qualify for the “Good Neighbor” award. To receive the “Good Neighbor Above and Beyond” award, businesses also had to maintain outside plants and an attractive window display.

Overall, 57 businesses got the Good Neighbor Award, with seven receiving the esteemed “Above and Beyond” award, including Shine’s, The Station for Hair, Rose & Eye, The Beach House, Gourmet Nuts n’ Sweets, Seaside Celebrations and Bahia Social Club.

Judy McBride, owner of The Station for Hair. explained that she has decorated her windows and tended to the garden outside her store for 22 years, so it was wonderful to be honored with the “Above and Beyond” award.

“If everybody does their part the entire community as a whole will look better,” she said.

McBride noted that the West End has seen other beautification efforts in recent years. “It has become a really nice part of town,” she said.

Michael Muratore, co-owner of Rose & Eye, with the recognition. He said that WEBA’s efforts to beautify the West End are a “great thing” for the area.

Pollina said she definitely thinks the project will continue to make the West End a better neighborhood. “Because it will unite the residents and merchants in one goal—to make our community the best it can be,” she added.

Rudnic said that local residents have “definitely noticed that the West Beech Street business district is getting more attention.”

“When people see that an area is cleaned and well-cared for, they will instinctively be more attentive to litter and picking up after their dogs,” she continued. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Litter Patter and the Scoop on Poop

SeabytheCity.com recently ran a post (or, shall we say, a rant) on the litter and poop situation in Long Beach.

I say, “Welcome to my world!"

Back in July, Judy Rudnic and I presented a proposal to the City Council for two street sweepers (the human kind) that would cover W. Beech St. from New York Avenue to Nevada from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 7am to 4pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

(Full disclosure: Our original concept featured alternate side of the street parking, but we since backed off on that for obvious reasons.)

Street sweepers would be able to keep on top of the litter that accumulates on Beech St. all day during the summer months. Plus, it’s not just about the litter...

It’s keeping the garbage from piling on trash receptacles, sanitizing them, replacing the trash liners, (YES! We need plastic receptacle liners so that the trash cans don’t smell in the summer heat!), and removing errant cans and bottles from shrubs, walls, parking lots throughout the day.

When the Patch picked up this question on its site, several commentators remarked that litter free sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owners.

Yes and no.

The Long Beach City Sanitation Code requires that property owners sweep the sidewalk in front of their property and 18” in the street every day before 10am. Well, that may cut it after Labor Day, but even if every single merchant complied, I guarantee you that before High Noon; the West End would look like Dodge City again.

Not only that, almost half of Beech Street is fronted by city parking lots, a school, library, and empty lots. I want those streets clean when the taxpayers are out there waiting for a bus.

There’s nothing more disheartening than standing amidst cigarette butts and beer bottles when you’re on your way to work to pay the taxes to pay the sanitation dept.

West End Beautification Association (WEBA) presented two options to the City for covering the cost, because we certainly don’t want to go down a road that spells overtime:

  • Summer Specials: Grab two of those guys who are ticketing cars and hand them a broom and a rolling garbage can
  • Bill the Bars: Well, not just the bars. Lots of commercial districts, many in Nassau County (like Westbury, Great Neck, Glen Cove), have programs called Business Improvement Districts (BID). 
A BID is “authorized under state law as a mechanism to provide general public improvements in downtown business areas, such as fa├žade improvements, benches,…..A BID may levy an additional, mandatory tax on businesses that operate within a geographical area….”
    Well, unless I lost you at mandatory tax, let me explain how our modified version would work: We estimate that the annual cost of the street sweepers would be approximately $11,500 for the season (2 men @ $12 per hour x 7.5 hours per day x 4 days a week x 12 weeks), plus equipment costs and insurance. 
    We’ve identified 34 businesses that sell food and/or beer and liquor. Within that number, 12 would be assessed $500 for the season (based on their size), and 22 would be assessed $250. 
And for that modest cost, we could all enjoy a clean, attractive commercial district!

Dropping litter, extinguishing cigarettes on the street, not picking up after your dog becomes easier when the streets are dirty to begin with.

Let’s stop this downward spiral now: take back our community’s dignity.

Get Beech Street clean and green and then step up police enforcement.  

(Whatever happened to those two Segway vehicles that were donated to the LBPD?)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

GOOD NEWS!

Starting Monday, November 21, the fire hydrants in the West End will get a fresh coat of paint.

Supt. of Long Beach Water, Christopher Windel notified me this morning that workers will begin at Nevada Avenue moving east up Beech Street then to Park Avenue.

The state-of-the-art fire hydrant on Arizona Ave.
He anticipates all the hydrant painting will be completed by Thanksgiving.

Mr. Windel pointed out that a new, state-of-the-art fire hydrant has been installed at 38 Arizona and will be the future of the Long Beach water transmission system.

Our Supt. of Water is a true son of the West End. He was born in Long Beach Hospital and grew up on Wyoming Avenue. And now, he has given us one more thing to be thankful for this Thursday.

We are grateful to Mr. Windel as well as Public Works Commissioner Kevin Mulligan for their prompt, professional response to West End Beautification.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's the little things...

This week I noticed our Public Works landscape specialist, Kevin Colgan, planting beautiful white and purple decorative cabbage in the Virginia Ave garden and the Nevada Ave mini park.
 
It cheered me to see how this small improvement gave such a lift to these spots, but more than that, it was a sign that the West End is on the Public Works radar screen.

So while we have their attention: please, please paint our fire hydrants!! 

One West End homeowner decided that the rusty, faded old fire hydrant in front of his beautifully remodeled home was unacceptable. So, he painted it himself.


And in that small gesture gave us one of the best examples of how simple attention to maintenance can drastically improve our streetscapes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Walking the Beech [Street]... (PART II)

Continuing the ideas discussed in this past weekend's post...

Here are a few ideas for consideration:

Proposed schematic for narrow sidewalks
Narrow sidewalks: let’s start with grates for under the trees. This will enable not only a few more square feet of walk able space but look neat, discourage dog pooping and create a safer walking environment (no ankle twisting when the concrete drops off into the tree well). City parking lot walls should be moved back to flush with the building line.

Where traffic light poles impede corner, extend the corner 4 feet into the intersection and move the pole. Yes, this sounds ambitious, but Beech Street still has lots of private resident side yards and without exercising eminent domain rights, the city has few alternatives to make the sidewalks ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliant.


Unsightly sidewalks: Who ya gonna call: Gumbusters! Yes, there’s a cleaning process for removing gum and dirt and as for the cracked concrete and emerging weeds: property owner code compliance officers. This is a once a year project.

Commercial garbage: 2 options: either the City Sanitation pick-up schedule for Beech Street has to be moved to 7am or the commercial business owners need to hire private carters who will pick up garbage by 7am.

Litter, etc.: This is partly a code compliance issue and partly not. Let me explain: Unlike Park Avenue in the East End, Beech street has lots of area that is NOT fronted by commercial property: the library, the schoolyard, the city-owned parking lots. Not to mention lots of empty storefronts and one empty lot. In the off season, the streets are relatively clean.

But in the summer, it is impossible to keep up with the huge amount of cigarette butts (did you know that cigarette butts comprise almost 70% of all litter, more on that on another day) and trash that accumulates all day long. In September, West End Beautification launched a Good Neighbor Award incentive program to encourage business owners to comply with sanitation codes and present attractive streetscapes.

We also recommend summer street sweepers. (See our proposal here.) Specifically, two summer sanitation specials (not sanitation employees) who would work from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 8am to 4pm.

Sweeping gutters, removing abandoned bottles, cups etc. from walls, bushes, parking lots, removing bags of trash piled on top of receptacles, wipe down trash receptacles (which, by the way, should have liners so they don’t smell in the summer heat.) The cost for this is estimated at approximately $15-$20,000 per year. More details on that to come.

Gathering place: The only place on Beech Street that offers any possibility at this time is the Welcome to Long Beach area on Nevada Avenue. I recommend a complete overhaul of that site (which is looking more than a bit tired since it was first dedicated almost 40 years ago.

New plantings, lighting, perhaps a small fountain, irrigation, benches, tables for playing cards or checkers, and pavers. Let people purchase pavers and benches for inscriptions to offset the costs.

Of course, while we’re dreamin, I’d like 2 bike bollards on every block, new trash receptacles with cigarette butt extinguishers on top and new cobblestone curbs.

Now, if I could just find a magic lamp…

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Walking the Beech [Street] ... (PART I)

I grew up in the Bronx and moved to the suburbs of Westchester and Rockland Counties when my children were born. But the allure of the big backyard soon gave way to yearning for the walks to the local deli, or to the bakery for the first fresh, hot rolls of the day.

Meeting up with neighbors, current or former classmates along the way and catching up with the family news. A vibrant commercial district is the heart and soul of a community. 

And here in the West End, a clean, attractive, walk able commercial district is not just a dream, but a very real possibility. With a little vision, and support.

By all accounts, the West End is an ideal community: from any address you can walk to the Church, the Temple, the water park, the library, public and parochial schools and best of all, the beach., You can even walk or bike to the train that will take you into the heart of the greatest city in the world in less than an hour.

But West Beech Street is still a diamond in the rough, and here’s the rough:

  • Narrow sidewalks, complicated by poorly placed traffic poles and curb cuts discourage, no, preclude strollers and wheelchairs. In his book, The Great Neighborhood, Jay Wallsjasper said, “the true measure of neighborhood livability is whether senior citizens and disabled people can get around comfortably.”
  • Unsightly sidewalks, due to years of gum and dirt accumulation (wondered about those black polka dots?) cracked concrete and emerging sidewalk weeds
  • Commercial garbage crowding sidewalks into mid-morning to early afternoon, smelly in summer, unsightly and unsanitary all year round.
  • Litter, cigarette butts, cups, bottles lining curbs and clogging sewer grates.
  • Lack of important resident-supportive businesses such as butchers, gourmet grocers, bakeries, a bank, dentist, etc. Do you know that in the town of Westbury, LI, the Business Improvement District offers monetary incentives to quality businesses from other towns to open stores in their commercial strip?
  • Lack of cohesive design elements, like business signage (some businesses even suffer from identity crisis: the sign from the former business still remains! Who ya gonna call for this: zoning board? ) period street signs and lights with banners and hanging plants. 

So if part of the solution is identifying the problem we are halfway there.

Tune in tomorrow for a few ideas for consideration.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Introducing your West End Beautification Unsung Heroes!

Unsung Heroes Pat Ripley and Butch Grier
Our community is a garden, and such gardens are not made,
By singing, "Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade.
-RUDYARD KIPLING

I’ve always felt that people come to Long Beach for its seaside charm…but they stay here for its colorful character.

I was reminded of this sentiment last June when we were looking for volunteers for our first Beautification Day. Pat Ripley regretfully was unable to attend but mentioned that she had been doing some work of her own to beautify Beech Street.


This was what drew me in...

But it wasn’t until I talked with Patricia Ripley that I realized how much she enriched the tapestry of life in the West End.

From the moment Pat and her husband Butch arrived at our meeting on their restored vintage Kawasaki Vulcan motorcycle, I knew that this family’s joie de vivre went well beyond their beautification efforts. These are the kind of neighbors that make our community sparkle that much brighter.

Monday, October 3, 2011

New additions to our West End Beautification Photo Gallery!





Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

For more photos, visit the Gallery link of the site.

Email us your own photos and be featured on the website!

Summer Sanitation Protocol Available for Download

For more details on how the West End Beautification Committee is working to initiatives for cleaner streets, download the Summer Sanitation Protocol proposal here. (Adobe Acrobat PDF file)

Examples on what is considered "unsightly and unsanitary" are also available as a downloadable PDF.

Once again, the Committee thanks everyone in the community for their continuing support as we work together to keep our City By the Sea beautiful!

"The Patch" sits down with Committee Chairs for Q&A

The West End Beautification Committee would like to thank Joseph Kellard of the Long Beach Patch for all his support! Last week we met to discuss the goals and values that we hope to inspire in the Long Beach community!

(Original available here.)

The newly formed West End Beautification Committee and their volunteers have conducted two planting projects in their neighborhood, one in June and the other this week. Last Saturday, the group held Tidy Day, a clean-up event in preparation for Irish Heritage Day on Oct. 1. Patch recently interviewed committee co-chairs Mary Ellen Pollina and Judy Rudnic.


Patch: What inspired the West End Beautification Committee and when and did it get started?

Pollina: During this year’s Memorial Day parade I was horrified by the condition of West Beech Street. Here were all these families waving flags and cheering while standing amid discarded beer bottles, pizza boxes and weeds. I asked the City Council to address the issue of the increased litter during the summer months and told them if they would provide the flowers, mulch, top soil and fencing, I would create a committee to plant them under the trees on Beech Street.

Meanwhile, Judy was sweeping the gutters on her end of Beech Street because she couldn’t bear to stand in the litter while waiting for the bus. The Secretary of West End Neighbors Civic Association put me in touch with Judy and the city provided the flowers, mulch and topsoil for the first Beautification Day on June 18.

Last Saturday, Sept. 24, was the committee’s first Tidy Day. Elaborate on the purpose of this day and what was accomplished?

Rudnic: We had regretted not cleaning up and freshening the tree beds for the Waterfront Warriors Parade in July so we were determined to prepare Beech Street for the Irish Day parade. In Ireland there is a tradition called Tidy Town. Groups of citizens clean their neighborhood and compete for the title of most Tidy Town. Our Tidy Day was not a competition but we wanted to capture the same spirit of community. The event was a huge success! A father with his young son, members of the women’s Ancient Order of Hibernians, WENCA, Denise Ford, a local businessman and several neighbors, friends and relatives swept the streets and gutters, removed discarded trash and outdated posters and stickers from streetlights. This week over 100 mums were planted along the parade route thanks to a generous donation from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your first two clean-ups?

Pollina: We’ve learned that the people who live in the West End love their community. We’ve also learned that we need a lot of planning and publicity to generate volunteers. We definitely need the support of the business community and local organizations so that we can continue our cleaning and greening efforts. Oh, and we’ve learned that petunias need too much water to survive on Beech Street.

The committee has developed a program in which businesses can receive an award for their exemplary cleanliness. Please give us more details about this initiative?

Pollina and Rudnic: Our primary focus at this stage in our committee’s efforts is the Beech Street commercial district. We want it to be clean, green and safe in order to support our current business owners and attract the additional businesses that our community needs: a bakery, gourmet deli, fruit market, bank, etc. We want strolling down Beech Street to be a pleasurable experience, and for that we need the involvement of the businesses.

So we developed the concept of a Good Neighbor Award and one of the members of WENCA, Jerry Romanoff, offered his help in developing the program. Each of the businesses received a packet that describes the benefits of participation and the criteria for the award: litter free sidewalks and curbs, proper garbage preparation, weed free sidewalks, clean windows, etc. Participation in the program is free and those who comply will receive a Good Neighbor award sticker that will be presented in November to display during the holiday shopping season.

What are some of the committee’s long-term goals?

Pollina and Rudnic: We want a street sweeper on Beech Street working all day from New York Avenue to Nevada Avenue from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We want Gum Busters to come and remove those black polka dots on the sidewalk. We want a local artist to create mosaic murals on the walls of two of the city parking lots. We want grates at the bases of the trees to allow more walking space on the narrow sidewalks. We want more bike racks so folks don’t tie their bikes to the trees.

We will have clean-up and planting days the weekends before Memorial Day, the Waterfront Warriors Parade and Irish Day. We’ve acquired the domain name www.westendbeautification.com and we’ll be working on some fundraising activities for next year.

What our community has been saying...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Welcome to the West End Beautification Site

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”-Joel Barker


How would you make your community better?

Do you imagine a parking garage on New York Avenue? A bench at every bus stop? A well placed piece of art or mural?

The Co-chairs would like to hear about your visions for the West End.

We invite you to join us in this journey to make a positive difference in the West End, and to make our community the best it can be: clean, safe, fun, and beautiful.

Mary Ellen Pollina, Co-Chair
mepollina@gmail.com

Judy Rudnic, Co-Chair
Judyrudnic469@yahoo.com