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McKinley students help DOT beautify bike lane barrier

BAY RIDGE —When the New York City Department of Transportation decided to beautify an eight-block-long bike lane barrier on Seventh Avenue by painting a floral design on the structure, DOT found a group of volunteers who were eager to help.

Enthusiastic eighth graders from McKinley Intermediate School were among the dozens of volunteers painting a 1,700-foot-long section of the Jersey barrier on Seventh Avenue on Oct. 23.

It took hours to get the job done. The work area started at 67th Street and extended all the way to Bay Ridge Parkway.

The Jersey barrier, which runs along the Gowanus Expressway Service Road, protects the designated bike lane from vehicular traffic flowing south on Seventh Avenue. The two-way bike lane is part of DOT’s Green Wave Plan, a plan to erect 30 miles of bike lanes a year in the city.

Cheryl Jones, Lisa Mitchell and Lai Tham from New York Cares are hard at work on a section of the bike lane barrier near 72nd Street.

At one point, McKinley Principal Janice Geary and Assistant Principal Donna Nastasi decided to pay a visit to the work area near 67th Street to take a look at how their students were progressing. “It looks great!” Geary said.

Art teachers Roma Karas and Julia Livi supervised the students. “Kids who are interested in art and who also care about the neighborhood were selected to take part in this program,” Livi told the Home Reporter.

Members of New York Cares and representatives from JP Morgan Chase were also out on Seventh Avenue that day, delicately applying paint to the bike lane barrier as DOT officials looked on approvingly.

It was all part of the DOT Art Barrier Beautification Program, which seeks to transform concrete traffic safety barriers into works of art, according to DOT.

The floral design created by artist Cat Willett is repeated as a pattern throughout the eight-block stretch of the bike lane barrier.

The agency issues a request for proposals, asks artists to submit their designs and then selects an artist for each project.

The Seventh Avenue project was awarded to Cat Willett, an artist who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Willett’s design, which is called Strong/Soft as a Cliff Rose,” features bold pink and white flowers and was inspired by a recent trip she took to Norway. “I was hiking in Norway and I looked around and noticed all of the beautiful flowers,” she told the Home Reporter.

Willett said she included wildflowers in her design because of their ability to survive in extreme weather conditions and grow on rocky cliffs.

She was pleased to see so many local students taking part in the painting project. “I really hope it inspires them,” she said.

DOT, which has been operating the DOT Art Barrier Beautification Program since 2010, works in cooperation with the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit and with New York Cares.

Artist Cat Willett said she was inspired by the natural beauty she encountered on a hiking trip in Norway.

The program operates in the fall and in the spring so that artists and their helpers can take advantage of optimal weather conditions.

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