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8 Coleman Square, Howard Beach, NY 11414

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S.T.A.R.S. Is Hands-On in Hamilton Beach

Queens Chronicle
Thursday, June 10th, 2004 - page 4
by Bryan Joiner, South Queens Editor

The Howard Beach-based youth group Striving to Reach and Achieve Success unveiled a new mural at Hamilton Beach Park Sunday that was funded by a grant from the Queens Council on the Arts.

The globe-shaped mural, which is painted on the blacktop near the park playground, was designed by 21-year-old Daniela Masiello, a former S.T.A.R.S. participant who is a senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. The mural has the phrase, "Our Hands Helped Build This Playground" written around the perimeter and handprints within the mural from current S.T.A.R.S. members and neighborhood residents.

It also was designed to bring the community together and Hamilton Beach residents and local civic leaders came out for the unveiling, which was organized by S.T.A.R.S. president and founder Frances Scarantino. The mural is the second project she and S.T.A.R.S. have undertaken at the park in the last six months. It was the brainchild of Masiello and Scarantino and the idea had been floating around for a long time. "It was one of those things we discussed at meetings," she said.

Community members can still put their handprints on the mural and stars will be added around the globe.

The mural serves the dual purpose of beautifying the park and to scaring away seagulls, who drop shells onto blacktopped surfaces before opening them and eating their contents. When the surfaces, usually roofs and roads, are painted, the seagulls avoid the areas.

"The shells are hard to move because they're heavy. Some places will paint seagulls on the ground so the seagulls in the air think there are already some there," Scarantino said.

In November, S.T.A.R.S. received an intern from the advocacy group New Yorkers For Parks, who designed a walking path around the park, which currently has two paths to the beach but no other walkways. The design took two months to complete, and Scarantino is currently seeking funding for the project through grants. She estimated that she applies for four grants per month.

Scarantino uses the park for many S.T.A.R.S. outdoor activities-and the group even cleans the park from time to time. She became interested in refurbishing the park after Frank Charles Memorial Park received a federal grant for $850,000 in 2001. Hamilton Beach Park received $150,000 in the same grant. "Hamilton Beach wasn't mentioned at all. It's kind of a neglected part of the area."

The most modest estimated cost for the project is $435,000 and it could run a tab of up to $660,000. But there is another money-raising issue that is more pressing.

As the sole owner of the S.T.A.R.S. building in Coleman Square in Howard Beach, Scarantino was ordered to make renovations to the youth center in April by the Department of Buildings. The renovations will cost $20,000.

She has raised $5,000 so far through a raffle and bachelor/bachelorette auction and has received a $1,000 donation from the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association. The most urgent matter is making the building handicapped-accessible.

But she's not cutting back on her programs. S.T.A.R.S. is offering a free summer camp and there are still spots available. A new Cadet Corps program will start in the fall thanks to a $3,000 grant from Fleet Bank. The program will be administered by Leonard Canella, a veteran and Howard Beach native. S.T.A.R.S. will also participate in the 106th Precinct's Night Out Against Crime in August.

S.T.A.R.S. has regular programs in everything from youth basketball to hip-hop and traditional dance to peer counseling. For information on these and any other S.T.A.R.S. program, call the center at 718-845-6956.

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