Today’s news:

LIRR cleans graffiti on Queens bridges

The Long Island Rail Road helped to beautify several of its elevated bridges in Queens last week and residents who live nearby the graffiti-laden structures said they were happy to have the eyesores gone.

The transit agency teamed up with a nonprofit group that enlists non-violent criminal offenders who have been sentenced to community service to clean up 11 bridges at nine sites throughout the borough that have been tarnished with graffiti tags and trash. The work was completed Friday and included several places in southeast Queens, such as the LIRR bridge at 195th Street and 99th Avenue in Hollis, where the volunteers were giving the walls under the bridge a new coat of white paint Nov. 23.

Joe Calderonne, vice president of public affairs for the LIRR, said the initiative was beneficial for the railroad not only because it made the bridges look better, but also because it was done without sacrificing the tight budget.

“Graffiti is a scourge on many neighborhoods and a scourge on LIRR property,” he said. “If you do nothing about it, it sets a bad example for the community.”

Aside from the 195th Street location, the LIRR and NYC Community Cleanup spruced up ´╗┐southeast Queens bridges at 177th Street and Liberty Avenue, 202nd Street and 99th Avenue, Beaver Road and Archer Avenue, 170th Street and 93rd Avenue, Baisley Boulevard and 180th Street, 143rd Street and Archer Avenue, Hempstead Turnpike and Jamaica Avenue and 39th Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard in Bayside.´╗┐

Many of the volunteers in the program were convicted of graffiti-related crimes, according to a representative from the Queens district attorney’s office.

Ben Smith, deputy project director for NYC Community Cleanup, said his organization gets federal stimulus money to pay for the paint and tools. The group will also monitor the sites and clean it up if there are any future tags found.

“We think this community service is incredibly beneficial,” he said.

Carlton Parks, 50, who lives near the 195th Street bridge, agreed. He has been living in the neighborhood for 10 years and has never seen the bridge look this good.

“I think it’s wonderful. I like it,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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