2016-04-29 / Community

Kids Help Restore Murals

By Daniel Offner


Student volunteers scrubbing the mural clean. Student volunteers scrubbing the mural clean. Thanks to the help of some student volunteers with Arts in Parts, Rockaway artist Esther Grillo is restoring her mural at the “wave” bus shelter on Shore Front Parkway and Beach 85th Street, back to its original, colorfully vibrant state.

“These are Rockaway icons,” Grillo said. “By having these murals up, it cuts down on graffiti and creates a point of pride for the community.”

The bus shelter is one of four “wave”-like structures on Shorefront Parkway that were originally constructed by Robert Moses as park and ride locations to the 1939 World’s Fair. But, by 1997, the structures were in a state of disrepair. So, with the help of the Rockaway Artists Alliance, Grillo led a campaign to try and rejuve- nate the bus stops with some nautical themed artwork.

After Hurricane Sandy hit the peninsula in 2012, many Rockaway locals were surprised with how resilient the bus shelters were—some even went so far as to say that their ability to withstand the storm is a testament to the foundation of the Rockaway community. However, while still intact, the murals did not go unsullied.


And the real fun began after scrubbing down the mural. Photos By Daniel Offner And the real fun began after scrubbing down the mural. Photos By Daniel Offner Between all of the dirt that was washed up during the storm and the damage caused by skateboarders and cyclists, who have used the mural as a half-pipe over the years, much of the artwork has deteriorated.

On April 27, Grillo and the crew from Arts in Parts — a local non-profit organization that is dedicated to creative learning through communitybased workshops — rolled up their sleeves to scrape and scrub the mural clean of the dirt and grime that had been washed up in the storm.

“I like to bring kids into the equation,” Grillo said, “because then they have a feeling of ownership toward it.”


Grillo’s assistant shows students how to use the scraper to get the dirt and grime off the structure. Grillo’s assistant shows students how to use the scraper to get the dirt and grime off the structure. Arts in Parts cofounder Heather Kramer, a local school teacher at P.S. 104 and P.S. 43, said after Sandy hit the peninsula, a group of like-minded volunteers and educators came together to try and help stimulate young minds through hands-on workshops and community building.

While some students spent their Spring Break vacation away from home, this group of students dedicated two hours of their time to help Grillo clean the mural.

More than 19 years after she painted the mural, Grillo said she plans to be back on May 5, at 10 a.m., when she will finish the restoration of her mural.

In addition to restoring the mural at Beach 85th Street, New York City Parks Department agreed to help provide funding toward the restoration of the “Surfers” mural at Beach 107th Street, after members of the community voiced concerns that plans to rebuild the adjacent Sandpiper Playground, would also include the demolition of the bus shelter.


Student volunteers also lent a hand scrubbing the painting of all the dirt and grime left behind by Hurricane Sandy. Student volunteers also lent a hand scrubbing the painting of all the dirt and grime left behind by Hurricane Sandy. Grillo said that once she finishes restoring the second of the four murals, she will not restore another one until NYC Parks can figure out a way to stop the structure from disintegrating over time.

“I think [Beach 107th] may be my last one until they make it water resistant,” Grillo said. “It doesn’t matter... whoever puts anything up there, it won’t last more than a year.”



One volunteer actually “Scrubbing Bubbles.” One volunteer actually “Scrubbing Bubbles.”

Grillo (in straw hat) was kind enough to even ask the kids to “Wave.” Grillo (in straw hat) was kind enough to even ask the kids to “Wave.”

Taking their job very seriously! Taking their job very seriously!

Esther Grillo’s artwork has transformed a bus shelter into a Rockaway icon Esther Grillo’s artwork has transformed a bus shelter into a Rockaway icon

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