Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer joined the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District (BID) and local business owners last week to announce the neighborhood sign will be upgraded with new lighting. A $15,000 investment from Van Bramer’s office will fund the project.
“One of the things we love about Sunnyside is that we have this great art deco sign behind me that really tells the world you’re here in this great neighborhood,” Van Bramer said. “It’s a terrific landmark that needs a little love.”
The arch, which was built by a local civic organization in 1983, has had trouble with its lights.
“Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t,” Van Bramer said.
Jaime-Faye Bean, executive director of the BID, said the current lights are outdated. The BID will oversee the replacement of the analog system with a digital LED light system.
Faye-Bean said they will also replace the backlighting of the letters, which is currently in neon, to LED lighting.
“Economically, it’s much more energy efficient and it’s cheaper in terms of installing and maintaining it,” she said.
To make the repairs last, Sunnyside Shines will “properly weatherize” the new lights.
“We’re going to make sure those are protected from the tough winters we sometimes have here and everything else that comes our way,” Bean said.
The BID will work with a local contractor “over the next few months” to make the changes.
“These landmarks are a reflection of pride in the community, and a reflection of support for the local economy and local businesses,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to having that renewed, vibrant symbol of everything that goes on here.”
John Vogt, chairman of the Sunnyside Shines BID, said he sees Sunnyside and the arch as a “gateway to Queens.” It’s not only a central meeting point in the neighborhood, but also an attraction for visitors.
“Sunnyside is a diverse community, and this bridges the entire community together,” he said.
Czarinna Andres, owner of Bing’s Gifts on Greenpoint Avenue, said the arch has symbolized the community’s unity and strength. Her shop sells Sunnyside merchandise, which is indicative of her love for the neighborhood where she lives and work.
Andres, who sees the arch several times a day, said she’s looking forward to the lighting changes.
“I think the excitement that this will generate, especially during the holidays, is going to be great for all of the businesses in the neighborhood,” she said.
Van Bramer added that neighborhoods thrive when commercial strips like Greenpoint and Skillman avenues, populated by family-run small businesses, do well.
“People give their entire lives to their businesses, that’s their life savings,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure that these businesses succeed.”