As difficult as it may be to believe, parts of New York City are less developed than many third-world countries. One of those areas used to be on Monitor Street, between Greenpoint and Norman Avenues. The stretch lacked sewers, electricity, sidewalks, even a street. Recognizing the obvious waste, Greenpoint-based film company Broadway Stages set out to bring the strip to life in 2010.
“There was nothing here!” recalled Broadway Stages owner Gina Argento. “It was uninhabitable. No one could drive down the block. It was a big dumping ground for trucks that would just dump debris out here.”
On April 22, 2010, Earth Day, the clean-up began. Volunteers donned “Urban Re-Gen” T-shirts and began removing garbage, pulling weeds and making way for two brand new soundstages. Just two weeks earlier, the roadway had been paved for the first time in more than 50 years with funding arranged by Assemblyman Joe Lentol.
With an infrastructure developing, that construction would eventually bring 450 new jobs to the community. But due to a lack of sidewalks and lighting, the usefulness of the stretch remained limited for businesses and the surrounding residential community. It was now passable, but trucks were still dumping on the unpaved area surrounding the new roadway. And that’s where Broadway Stages’ neighbor ExxonMobil stepped in.
The company installed 1,930 feet of new sidewalk, complete with tree plantings and lamp posts. “[It’s] a great example of ExxonMobil’s commitment to the community and to improving our property,” said Kevin Thompson, Community Affairs Liaison for ExxonMobil. The lights are expected to be completed on Saturday, February 2nd and sewer construction is scheduled to begin this June. “We hope that the community will enjoy the new sidewalks and that they are pleased with the Monitor Street improvements,” added Thompson.
Argento could not have been more thankful or enthusiastic about the developing area. “With the help of ExxonMobil we were able to beautify the block,” she said. “We were so happy to get this area ready to be used. Even though it’s zoned M-1 (light, industrial use), if you go just a block away, it’s residential. It’s an extra street for people to go down and feel safe.”
Argento, whose company has a long history of supporting the local economy – some estimate that around 25% of money spent in Greenpoint comes from Broadway Stages and its clients – noted that the addition of the sidewalks and lights has helped bring more businesses to Norman Avenue. “And the economy, mostly the mom and pop economy is growing, which we’re happy about,” she said. “We want to see more of that.”