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 ( 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 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?)