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By: Frieda Schweky

Over the past several years you may have noticed that Kings Highway from McDonald Avenue to East 4th Street has improved immensely, and Ave P and Ave U have followed suit. These blocks have been revived, after suffering from urban decay, graffiti, and litter, which once threatened to consume these neighborhoods. While many people may notice the improvements, not many understand just what, or who, were behind these changes. Since its start in 2006, the Kings Highway Beautification Association has worked tirelessly, serving as community activists, reaching out to our state and city elected officials, as well as to city agencies and departments to accomplish various goals.

The reason this civic association was created was because one of its founders, Linda Ebani, was shopping along Kings Highway as she normally would, and when she stepped out of the grocery store it occurred to her just how horrific these blocks were, and that this was not suitable for the community. Overflowing garbage cans, graffiti riddled buildings, litter, and a terrible odor are just a few of the reasons Linda felt the need to step up and do something. Linda, David J. Hidary, and Joseph J. Sitt, who donated the seed money, got together to form this association. Their main overall goal was to improve the quality of life for their community.

Before this past summer, the DOT and MTA planned to put a dedicated bus lane along Kings Highway from Ocean Avenue to Bay Parkway. This would mean that several hours of the day the parking spots along the route would no longer be legal for parking, and would become no stopping or standing zones for cars. KHBA decided this was not in the best interests of their district for a number of reasons. Many shop owners were concerned they would lose business, and some vowed to relocate if this bus lane was put into effect.

The KHBA decided they needed to do something drastic to get the attention of the powers at be. They organized a community-wide protest which took place in March 2018. The event was publicized largely on social media and had a huge turnout of over 600 people.The protest was a success, it resulted in the DOT and MTA agreeing to a meeting with KHBA, providing KHBA an opportunity to plead their case. This ultimately resulted in a scaling down of the plan to remove parking spots. This was one of the largest, mostrecent achievements of the association.

The next project KHBA is working on is to make improvements to the park on McDonald Avenue between Avenues S and T. This is the park that Magen David Yeshivah currently uses as a school yard. The park has not been updated since 1985 and has 15-foot tall fencing, not unlike a prison yard. It looks barren, without one tree or any greenery in the entire park. KHBA has made some headway, meeting with the Parks Department at the location, and selecting materials for the upgrades.

These are just some examples of the work KHBA has done to improve their neighborhood. So, the next time you’re shopping on Kings Highway, Avenue P, or Avenue U, take a second to look around, and appreciate the work and attention that went into its beauty.

List of just a few of the accomplishments of the Kings Highway Beautification Association

Linda Ebani worked with Joseph Sitt and Irene Mamiye to engage the Department of Parks to agree to transform the asphalt triangle on Kings Highway and East 5th Street into a green garden. This was a very costly project, which the city funded completely. The result was a beautiful and safe way for pedestrians to cross this large intersection.

Sara Mamiye walked the neighborhood streets knocking on doors, to see and encourage homeowners to have a tree planted in front of their houses at no cost to them. Her efforts lead to hundreds of new trees planted in our neighborhood.

Unsolicited periodicals were being thrown carelessly on porches, which lead to waste and litter.  KHBA nearly eliminated the number of unsolicited magazines and mail tossed in the area.

The PS 215schoolyard, which is in the heart of the neighborhood, was closed to the community for 20 years. The KHBA pushed for reopening it, and now the school yard has been turned into a state park. The park is now open on weekends and holidays.