Queens Students Turn Graffiti-Covered Underpass Into Map Of Neighborhoods

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Spring break is a time to unwind and relax for most teens, but this week has been nothing like that for a group of high school students from Queens.

As CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, the students have been painting over graffiti with a work of art all their own.

One outspoken woman who has lived in Forest Hills since 1947 said the neighborhood is “turning into a slum.” She said lately, people just toss trash right into the streets and scrawl or spray graffiti onto signs, lamp posts and underpasses.

An underpass on Fleet Street, right on the dividing line of Forest Hills and Rego Park, was covered with graffiti recently.

“We were driving around with my mom – this underpass was filled with graffiti,” said Alice Aronov, 16.

Aronov is a junior at the Baccalaureate School for Global Education. She tells CBS2 seeing the graffiti made her sad.

“There’s little kids coming by here every day. There’s a school over there,” she said. “It’s very detrimental to how they see their neighborhood.”

Aronov decided the location littered with graffiti was a perfect fit for a school project, and she teamed up with her classmates at the start of the school year to make it happen.

“It was just like this empty place,” said high school junior Natalia Blagic, 16. “It was dirty and there were vines everywhere.”

They created a design for a map honoring their neighborhoods, and over February break, they braved the cold to prime the wall.

“Imagine freezing hands. You’re holding a metal tool; you’re trying to like pound into the walls to get the paint off,” said Anielka Espinosa, 16. “That hurt.”

But despite the paint then, paint on Friday proved Espinosa’s dedication. She admitted she could see the silver lining of their work as she put the finishing touches on the Eden Project – one of many community points of interest highlighted on the map they painted of Rego Park and Forest Hills.

Neighbors drive by at a slow roll to see what is going at the underpass, and some offer a thumbs up thanks. Those who spoke to CBS2 were grateful that the students stepped up to beautify a once ugly space

“I think it’s wonderful,” a woman said. “I’m happy to see this young generation doing nice things.”

“Before, when I walk by here, it was always this dark, dirty, wall,” added Chihai Zhang of Rego Park. “Now suddenly, it’s getting, you know, beautiful.”

Students said they got a lot of help from people passing by. Children as young as 6 picked up paintbrushes just to pitch in.

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