Press Releases

Press Release #16-045
Friday, April 29, 2016
Scott Gastel/Jose Bayona (212)839-4850

Tunnel at 88th Road and Cross Island Parkway in Queens Beautified with a Mural with the Help of Thirty Middle School Students

The mural “Our Treasures are Within” celebrates the empowerment of youth

The New York City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Art Program together with State Senator Tony Avella, artist Joel Bergner and the St. Gregory the Great School today unveiled a unique mural within a 100-foot pedestrian tunnel at 88th Road and the Cross Island Parkway in Bellerose Manor, Queens. Over the course of a two week period, the artist with the assistance of 30, 8th Graders students from St. Gregory the Great School transformed the tunnel with a dynamic and colorful mural.

“Joel Bergner’s mural represents the culmination of a great partnership among him, the agency and local partners, especially the students,” said Nicole Garcia, NYC DOT Queens Borough Commissioner. “From priming and prepping the walls to repairing lights and painting the temporary mural, this tunnel has been transformed into an attractive, inviting passageway for pedestrians of all ages.”

“When I first became involved two years ago, this was a dilapidated tunnel in need of repairs. When some saw just a tunnel, Joel Bergner and the talented students of St. Gregory the Great School saw a canvas ripe for inspiration. This beautiful mural is a reminder that infrastructure doesn’t need to simply satisfy a purpose, but can be made to reflect the community it services. ‘Our Treasures are Within’ has transformed a tunnel into an experience for students to enjoy,” said State Senator Tony Avella.

“I had an amazing experience working with the students of St Gregory School in Queens over these last two weeks. Together, we came up with the themes and design of the artwork in workshops, and then painted a giant mural that explored the struggle between negative and positive influences in their community, as well as celebrating the importance of education and creativity. Thanks to everyone involved for making this an unforgettable project!” said Joel Bergner.

“St. Gregory the Great School is very excited to be part of this project with artist Joel Bergner, sponsored by the DOT.  Our students have learned a lot, while giving back to the greater community through a service project that will benefit all who use the pedestrian tunnel. Our students were able to use their talents to design and create a piece of art that will have long-lasting impact for their school, parish, and the larger Bellerose neighborhood.” Said Lynn M. Alaimo, Principal at St. Gregory the Great School.

The mural titled, “Our Treasures are Within,” celebrates the empowerment of youth. Prior to installation, the artist hosted workshops with the students to develop concepts and designs for the mural. Through sketching and discussions, the students and the artist collaboratively created a mural that illustrates youth overcoming life struggles with positive influences such as education, community and creativity.

In addition to working directly with the artist, students were able to paint their own details throughout the mural within the large forms.

The pedestrian tunnel is located under the Cross Island Parkway, providing a key access point for residents, including many of the St. Gregory the Great School students across the highway.

Since 2014, Senator Avella’s office has been in touch with DOT on maintenance, including repairing lights and repainting the walls. This temporary mural is the latest iteration of ongoing efforts to maintain the tunnel and make it inviting for the community to use.

New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program

Launched in October 2008, the New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program invigorates in the City’s streetscapes with engaging temporary art installations. The Program partners with community-based organizations and artists to present murals, sculptures, projections, and performances on plazas, fences, barriers, bridges, and sidewalks for up to 11 months. Projects are presented within four program tracks: Arterventions, Barrier Beautification, Community Commissions and Art Display Case. For more information, visit

St. Gregory Tunnel Artist: Joel Bergner

Joel Bergner (aka Joel Artista) is an artist, educator and organizer of public arts-based social action initiatives with youth and communities around the world. He works in acrylic and aerosol, creating elaborate paintings and public murals that explore social topics and reflect a wide array of artistic influences. Joel has facilitated community mural projects in Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East, juvenile detention centers in the US, and the shantytowns of Kenya, India and Brazil. He has worked with street children, people with mental and physical disabilities, and with refugees fleeing from conflict. Joel brought Palestinian and Israeli youth together in Jerusalem to create collaborative murals promoting peace and reconciliation. His work has been published in several books and has been covered by various media outlets including Al Jazeera, NPR and Reuters. Together with his collaborative partner Max Frieder, Joel directs the Artolution, a network of community-based public art initiatives around the world led by local artists and educators, communicating with one another through the arts. For further information, visit

St. Gregory the Great School

St. Gregory the Great School, located in Bellerose, NY, is a Catholic elementary school. Under Principal Lynn Alaimo and a professional teaching staff of 25 lay teachers, the school services children in Pre-K & Nursery to eighth grade. The elementary education curriculum centers on Catholic principles within a faith filled learning environment. St. Gregory the Great School follows the New York State curriculum and strives to meet or exceed all New York State Learning Standards. For further information, visit

Mural of a face on brick wall
The mural “Our Treasures are Within,” celebrates the empowerment of youth
Artist standing at top of ladder painting a mural on a brick wall
The artist hosted workshops with the students to develop concepts and designs for the mural