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Residents and Neighborhood Groups Pitch in to Clean Graffiti

More than 100 volunteers turned out on Saturday to clean up graffiti in Sunnyside (Photo: QueensPost)

May 14, 2011 Staff Report

The event, organized by the Sunnyside United Neighborhood Network (SUNN), drew a disparate group of volunteers– from members of the Sunnyside Woodside Boys & Girls Club to attendees of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day saints.  Members of labor union 79 were also out in force, along with Sunnyside locals.

The volunteers met on the corner of 49th and Skillman Ave. at 10:00 am and were greeted with donuts and coffee. The organizers split the volunteers into groups and sent them out with paint cans, brushes and other tools. Each group was assigned a certain district within the northern section of Sunnyside. Their job description was straight forward: find graffiti and paint over it with the appropriate color.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and former councilman Eric Gioia both attended the spring event and participated in the cleanup.

The original founders of the nine-year old group, Julie and Lew Story, received a round of applause when it was announced that they were leaving the neighborhood to retire. Fortunately, the volunteer group has taken root in the community and the organization will not be in jeopardy by their departure.

The group holds two main events each year — a spring and fall cleanup.

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Southie: The opinion is simply my own. I am a visceral person. passionate about community efforts and always applaud and join in the efforts of others. I did not attack but merely defended attacks against a community effort to clean and beautify. I am sure that others in the SUNN organization will chastise me for my lack of eloquence and diplomacy, but it is how I feel. I perceived the comments above to be antagonistic. I am part of an organization but also an individual.

We made an effort a few years ago to join with “forties united” and held a large event at One Acre park, across from the public library and it was a great success. The president at that time was an energetic and wonderful woman, named Vanessa and I apologize in advance if I have the name of the organization wrong. But Forties United is a group that cleans up on the south side of Queens Blvd. Please look them up and see if they can help your area. Woodside on the Move is another organization that cleans up in Woodside. We have joined forces with both these great organizations several times but the logistics of combining forces on a continual basis have been daunting. We also work with the 108th precinct and supply paints and kits to anyone from anywhere that asks. So, I guess the word “Network” in SUNN not only works for our “nice” t-shirts but is a valid emblem of what we do and have done for nearly a decade.


Frank, Thank you for your explanation of your organization and its roots.

I still believe that the name of your organization (Sunnyside United Neighborhood Network) is misleading since you only work in half of the neighborhood. I am happy that your organization’s name looks nice on your T-shirts. That is important.

Perhaps you should re-read your comments attacking others who left their opinions to this story. I am certain that your organization does not wish to be associated with calling your neighbors “silly and simplistic”.


Hi: This is frank. I am a founding member of SUNN and I find all of these comments interesting. Maybe a little history lesson is in order to help out with Casey’s explanation. SUNN is made up a handfull of volunteers. We began in a very organic way, with a bunch of nice people who lived on 47th and 48th street between skillman avenue and 39th avenue who wanted a clean block. We cleaned Sunnyside Gardens because we all lived there. We began by painting mailboxes, stop signs and walls that had been vandalized because those were visible things that we could all readily do. That was in 2002. We grew because we are highly motivated individuals led by Julie and Lew Story who for 8 years gave us the use of their truck, their entire basement to house our equipment and paint and most of all, gave of their tireless energy and time. And, we grew because we attracted like minded people who needed to do something small but positive. We have raised money by selling t-shirts and by getting the backing of first Eric Gioia as a councilman who helped us from the start and who also lives in the neighborhood. And, now councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is helping us. Both of these men are very cool: I fully expect Jimmy to continue helping us paint once his term in office is over, just like Eric is doing. They help us because we showed that we had the intestinal fortitude to do what needed to be done over the long haul.

Now, by reading the somewhat negative comments, I am puzzled by it all. Ann for example who above says:”Where is Jimmy Van Bramer? Why would he support a clean up on just one side of the boulvard (sp) but not the other. why wouldn’t he organize one cleanup that covers the whole area. Doesn’t seem very smart to me.” Ann is being silly and simplistic.

Can’t Jimmy, as Eric is doing and has done, simply support people who have taken an initiative to improve a neighborhood? I have know Jimmy for quite a while and he’s smart and the real deal, just like Eric. So lay off. He’s my neighbor and has been cleaning with us for 9 years, way before he had any political aspirations.

Yasin says:”why only the north side…sunnyside is small enough not to be divided into two.” Okay Yasin, you try painting over grafitti year round with 10 -15 people (and I am being generous at the number). You only see our 2 events. And, then for those 2 events (we started out with 4 events) the organizational logistics are more than daunting: sending teams of kids and adults throughtout the sunnyside area “we care for”, collecting the supplies, planning for accidents, powerwashing bricks, providing coffee, breakfast and lunch and then getting all of the volunteers back again, and accounting for all of the kits that we created the nights before and for insurance reasons getting waivers from all who participate. Yasin, I guarantee that Sunnyside will seem a whole lot larger to you once you know the process.

We were also attacked for choosing the name SUNN (see Southie above). We chose the name because we liked it, simple as that. And it looks good on our T-shirts. Nine years ago when we created the logo, we weren’t thinking of area size–just painting a few mailboxes.

In the final analysis: you are looking at a successful organization that started and continues to work because of it’s members not because we get backing from politicos.

So, start small, adopt a block, a lampost, or a mailbox–anything. Just stop with the whining and help clean. And, Ann, if you start a cleanup campaign wherever you are, I am sure, Jimmy would be right there and support you too.

Thanks for letting me vent. I just expected a few more thank yous for the people who have been giving up their weekends for years. But, now that you know that we are just a bunch of neighbors who do a lot of hard work, you will come to our events and help clean. Or, will you just go to the beach or stay home and read and complain about us the next day?


Notice the empty store- Plaza Mexico – that the volunteers are standing next to. It has been vacant for a very long time and that is sad!


Ann, I agree with you completely. Lets find out what is going on with this clean up and brammer mabe this web site can call and see what happened with this clean up and how it affects our area on both sides and get all our questions answered including Yasmin who wants a clean south side and deserves better


Where is Jimmy Van Bramer? Why would he support a clean up on just one side of the boulvard but not the other. why wouldn’t he organize one cleanup that covers the whole area. Doesn’t seem very smart to me.


Southie , Maybe Casey will comment further with his ideas of oranization or that Yasmin can adopt her block with her neighbors. But why does not sat clean involved entire town why is it broken in two. that does not sound right either

I am glad Yamin said something


I just checked the Sunnyside United Neighborhood Network’s website and found that the South side of Queens Boulevard is not part of the area they “care for”. According to the site, they work from 39th Street to 52nd Street from Barnett to Queens Boulevard. They have a nice color-coded map of the north side with contact info for each zone. Which is their choice I suppose. It does seem bit strange for an organization called Sunnyside UNITED Neighborhood Network.


Casey, thanks for your comments and suggestion. Where do concened residende pick up supplies and are their youngsters that can help us with this work if we are not able to do this on our own. Is their a phone number and a address. Or is this done just on the clean up days you promote this event.

I am glad you are using sunnyside post web site for your comments.
At least our town knows what is going on here. It is very important to get our new out.

Thank you very much for your time



I am a board member of Sunnyside United Neighborhood Network. I am also a resident of the South Side of Sunnyside. We are definitely interested in beautifying the south side. I would like to encourage you and any other proud South Siders to “adopt-a-block”. This is really what keeps our neighborhood clean–concerned residents like you picking up supplies from SUNN and painting over tags as you see them. When tags are painted over quickly, the taggers get discouraged. Active neighborhood volunteers are the key to our success!

Please keep an eye on our website for information on how you can get involved now as well as information on our September event!


Yasin excellent point why not call brammer and tell him where the graffitti is and let him do the south side as well.

Interesting they always meet on the noth side of the blvd. Does not seem right .

Yasin lets fix it


Nice job – until it gets soaked in graffiti again! I wish somebody could get these creepy kids on camera in action.


why only the northside?sunnyside is small enough without being divided in two.the southside needs this badly!!!!


I applaud our civiic groupos for this clean up and our past and present council leaders for working together and our volunteer for their time and passiion this is what makes our town great. Keep up the great work we are doing.

Great Job by this site for giving us the 1010 news as usual

too bad sunnyside shines does not get involved in this community event we need unity to make us strong


PS. Whatever one’s politics, we can all agree that graffiti is bad for our quality of life and should be stopped at every opportunity.


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