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Sunnyside Graffiti Clean-Up Group to Downsize

Lew and Julie Story

Feb. 6, 2012 By Christian Murray

The Sunnyside United Neighborhood Network (SUNN), best known for cleaning up graffiti across a large chunk of the neighborhood, is scaling back its operations.

SUNN will no longer be holding its spring and fall cleanups, which used to attract as many as 100 volunteers. These cleanups would typical cover most of the northern section of Sunnyside and volunteers would include representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints to members of labor union 79.

However, in recent times, the 12-year-old organization established by Julie and Lew Story has experienced a decline in “neighborhood participation.”

“The group was formed to bring the community together and to make the area nicer,” said Frank Caropreso, who is the de facto leader of the group, since the Storys left Sunnyside last year for Oklahoma. However, “most of the work is now being done by outsiders.”

The core group, which is now comprised of about 10 Sunnyside residents, will conduct smaller paint jobs—such as clean up mailboxes and lampposts– at varying times during the year. It will also back up the graffiti removal program introduced by councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in 2010 (ph: 718-383-9566).

Van Bramer implemented a $30,000 anti-graffiti program in 2010, where certain streets are cleaned on a monthly basis by a city contractor. These streets and avenues include, Skillman Ave., 43rd Ave., Roosevelt Ave. and Woodside Ave. Furthermore, the public has a hot-line service to call should they spot graffiti and want it cleaned.

Caropreso said the group had received city funding in the past; however, the paperwork to receive it had become so arduous that the group decided not to reapply. Additionally, “Jimmy’s graffiti program has made SUNN no longer as relevant,” he said.

Caropreso said the city funding did help maintain a $250 per month garage space where it would keep its commercial power washing equipment and paint.

The group is looking to sell the power washing equipment—unless it can find space to house it. Some of the paint will be kept in the basement of Caropreso’s house.

While the group is cutting back, Caropreso said: “In an emergency, SUNN will always be there. If there is a swastika painted on a synagogue or a church is vandalized we will be their fast.”

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I am deeply saddened that this will no longer take place. I currently reside in suffolk county on long island and looked forward to this event. I am a laborers local 79 member and a good friend introduced this to me 4 years ago. I have met so many great people in Sunnyside. I wish you all the best!!!!

John K. Wilson

Mr. Caropreso,
You said, “The group was formed to bring the community together and to make the area nicer.” Then, you inform us that “most of the work is now being done by outsiders” due to a decline in “neighborhood participation.” Concurrent with this development, your friend, Councilman Van Brammer, implemented a $30,000.00 government-run anti-graffiti program. That there seems to be a correlation between the no-to-low-cost volunteer effort ramping down, and the relatively expensive government effort ramping up, is supported by another of your comments: “Jimmy’s graffiti program has made SUNN no longer as relevant.” In my opinion, that’s a bad exchange; and, a net loss for the neighborhood.
My larger point was not about “usurpation” so much as it was about expansion of an already bloated city (and state) government being a very bad idea—particularly in a time of fiscal belt-tightening.
A third point, about the conflict of interest inherent in government reps throwing $ around their districts (“bringing home the bacon”), is something that falls on deaf ears, apparently.
That being said, however, as a resident of the neighborhood, I’d like to thank you, again, for all your hard work to improve the quality of life here in Sunnyside. God Bless you, Mr. Caropresa.

Frank Caropreso

First of all: thank you to all of the appreciative neighbors who took time to thank us for all of the years of working to keep Sunnyside cleaner and to all of the neighbors who joined us over the years.

So to update: We’ve had a last minute reprieve as far as space goes to store our massive powerwasher, chemicals and paints (the rest will be in my basement). The donation of space frees us to spend our money on consumables such as paint, rollers, brushes and pans. We’re still hoping to sell the powerwasher to give us as much money as possible to buy more necessities.

And, thank you Jeremy, (see above comment) for re-aligning the focus of this blog away from grammar usage, blog appearance and the negativity of Jimmy Van Bramer bashing and back to SUNN.

In defense of Jimmy (which he doesn’t truly need me to do), he and his partner Dan Hendricks, have been helping us paint, powerwash, and scrub since day 1– over a decade ago; long before any political aspirations. He came out in his little Mets hat and toiled like everyone else. So, to say that he usurped SUNN is ridiculous. Rather, I feel, we inspired him to create something better and more long lasting, ie: his anti-graffiti initiative. And, in a time of government cut backs, he secured funding for cleaning the neighborhood. He is both a friend and a neighbor first and then a councilman to me.

Back to SUNN and to thanking Julie and Lew. So, we leave the power-washing behind for now but we are still tackling eyesores. For instance, this Saturday, at 10 am. I will be painting the walls under the 48th street and Barnett avenue train underpass. It’s a mess. I will have lots of dreary battleship gray paint, rollers and pans with me. So, to all of the bloggers who responded to this article and to those who wish to put their paintbrushes where their cyber thoughts are, I challenge you to join me.

Finally, to elder Miranda and his kids at the Church of Latter day Saints, a most personal and heartfelt thank you. I know that it is part of your mission to help. But, those kids have always brought so much life, joy and fun to all of our events that it’s a pleasure to feed them endless amounts of pizza as a reward. Whenever I forget why we do this, I see them and can’t help but feel good. I’ll never forget the picture of them one year helping young Muslim children paint over graffiti on the storefront mosque on Skillman Avenue or of all the elders helping to paint with the gruff guys from labor union 79. –frank ‘the de facto leader” of SUNN.

Jeremy Kareken

There’s no replacing Lou and Julie. They were amazing people who really knew how to organize and motivate. I appreciate the government stepping in, and I imagine the return they get in programs like this almost pays for itself in terms of property taxes.

But yeah, John, I agree that it’s best when the community does the work! Jimmy *is* a real leader and has put many many of his own hours into scrubbing and painting at SUNN as well as pushing it. But he’s a Demmycrat and they’re used to bringing home bacon, so we can’t judge him too harshly. 🙂

John K. Wilson

David B,
Thanks, sincerely, for your commendation. We certainly do have a fundamental difference in our views of how government should function. I believe that you come by your opinion honestly; and, I appreciate your ability to be respectful. I respect you in return. I just believe you are wrong.
David, this is not a “collectivist” nation. We are a nation of individuals. The U.S. Constitution was the first governing document in the history of the world to limit its own power to protect the individual—at the expense of groups. James Madison, in Federalist Paper #51, which was written specifically to the people of NY, wrote of the need to furnish checks and balances between the various departments of government—so that no one part of it become too strong. But, it also speaks of the need to limit the powers of the whole of government itself—with the people having more checks on government than government has on the people. In what is probably the most famous quote from all the Federalist papers, Madison says,

” If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

David, you see government, in our local case involving graffiti, nimbly responding to an “expression” of the will of the people. I see it as exerting itself, expensively, into a situation citizens had already in hand—at almost no expense. You see government as a solution. I see it as a necessary evil…which will grow into a monster, if we let it. In this local case, the”elbowing” government is seeking to make people dependent upon it.

I’m not a huge fan of Gerald Ford, for many reasons; but, he did say at least one very true thing: “A government big enough to give you everything you need is big enough to take away everything you have.”
We almost certainly get the government we deserve, as so few bother to inform themselves and participate. But, because so few are participating, there is no “collective will”…only a few who are intelligent enough to recognize the opportunity, and shameless enough to want power for its own sake. I am unhappy with our collection of local politicians because they pander to Special Interests—mostly public sector unions. But, I pander to a special interest group, too: the individual.
Limit government to basic services and the maintenance of an ordered, civil, society; and, let individuals be “allowed” to keep the vast majority of their own property (their wages), and dispose of it as they see fit, not government.
Not only is that liberty, it is more efficient, and is less expensive. If our local politician were a real leader, he would have used his “bully pulpit” to commend and highlight SUNN, and attract more volunteers. He would then have explained that such organizations are saving the state tax money needed for higher priority matters in a time of economic crisis. That’s what I’d have done.

David Brown

John K,
I was anticipating your post on this subject, you are commendably consistent in your views and your posting of them.

Again this illustrates the fundamental difference in our views of the role of government. While you see Government as a monolithic “other”; I see it as the collective expression of the will of the community. While you see the government “elbowing out” volunteers, I see the volunteers as raising awareness of a problem and our government responding to the need. As a society we’ve pooled our resources (by paying taxes) and those resources are being applied in a way that benefits us collectively. This is certainly more fair then leaning on the few individuals who are good enough to volunteer their time.

I wish Government was always this effective… and thank you again to SUNN for the years of work.

Bliss & Skillman

John, I had an unfair advantage. I have just recently completed a refresher course in basic composition to help me look more professional out in the blog-o-sphere.

I usually resist correcting others’ grammatical errors because it is not my place, but this was irresistible under the circumstances of you having gone there first. Thanks for playing along and seeing my comment with the sense of humor it was delivered in. Some folks who post here can be really touchy!


Roxy you are right… the blogs have better spaced than before and even the the about and other are changed a little and spaced better and makes it easer an clearner to read

Great brain and eyes Roxy


This just demonstrates how easy it is to blog criticisms about things being done versus taking part in them.

John K. Wilson

You may be right!
I do wrestle with this contraction, As I understand it, the apostrophe is only used in the possessive form— the actual contraction—the joining of “it is” is written as “it’s”. I could have it backwards.
I trust you to check that for me and let us all know…either way.

AND, I made another error: the sentence above should read, “Any Government program will take tax money away FROM even more essential services…”

If only posters had the ability to edit their own posts!

But, Bliss&Skillman, “picky”? I try to be grammatically correct for the sake of clarity; and, out of respect for this forum and ITS readers.
Just replyin’

Bliss & Skillman

John K. Wilson
• 1:40 pm

I made an error: “is cost” should be “costs”…

If you’re getting picky about your errors, it’s “its” instead of “it’s” in re: “it’s future” in the sentence prior.

Just sayin’ ;c)

John K. Wilson

Many thanks to SUNN for their efforts over the years; plus a big wish for it’s future re-growth. Volunteer efforts trump a government program every time. Volunteerism is cost nothing (save for the time donated by the volunteers) and does indeed foster community. Any government program will take tax money away even more essential (basic) services, contribute to public deficits, keep our taxes high, and create the illusion that only government can do what people could, should, and used to routinely do for themselves. In addition, politicians engage in a nasty conflict of interest by using taxpayer money to buy votes by supporting whatever program THEY choose. It is self-aggrandizing of the worst kind.

“Jimmy’s graffiti program has made SUNN no longer as relevant?”

I don’t think so. Seen from another perspective, Government elbowed its way into a situation where citizens were engaged in creative civic-minded self-reliance, made mere volunteers feel inadequate, and reasserted it’s dominance. Government’s only desire is to grow bigger; everything it does, it does to foster that goal.


Newer to the neighborhood, but I give thanks for anybody trying to keep it clean. Thanks for all your hard work.


Thank you sunn for all your hard work and dedication to our town.. too bad no one picked up the slack and continued your labor of love… what a shame… our trown can use your services…in a way we still need your spiriti of heart to keep up moving..


SUNN is providing sunnyside residents with paint and supplies for regular maintenance for those who are interested in helping to keep Sunnyside clean. Please email me if you are interested.

-Board Member, SUNN

Just Looking

Thank you, SUNN, for all your work over the years. You kickstarted the movement toward neighborhood pride long ago and the spirit of your work lives on in the councilman’s program. Thank you.


Graffiti vandals who are caught should be stripped naked and given a 100 whacks on the butt with a bamboo stick.


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