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Don’t Fret: We’re Golden, Long Beach Boulevard

Stay Golden. Picture courtesy of Eric Gray.

I have often spoke of the simple art of beautification. From simple streetscaping to large park overhauls, the actual complexity of the projects doesn't interfere with the fact that it's a simple idea that sparks it all: beautifying our neighborhoods.

And the vast impact that even the smallest of touches can make--for example, the creation of a public art piece out of used CDs on a fence outside Berlin in the East Village--often compensates for the lack of realizing the larger dreams we all have--say, perfectly scaled, walkable sidewalks complete with shade, seating, and recreation.

It should be no shock that Eric Gray (yet again) has opted for this approach to beautification. After all, he continually looks at ways to lift up streetscapes to higher levels, albeit cost efficiently, so that pedestrians and residents alike feel not just more comfortable but proud of their neighborhood.

"I personally believe that the small details do matter--especially in the Long Beach, a place which struggles from a perception problem of being rundown," Gray said. "I'm also a realist and know that I am not in a position to make larger streetscape improvement projects happen, the ones which I would really like to see come to fruition such as adding more pedestrian lighting in the East Village on Broadway and 3rd."

This time he focused on... hydrants. Yes, the fire ones that line everyone's neighborhoods. Looking at our drab'n'dingy yellow water hydrants, he was particularly inspired to alter them after visiting cities that play with the color of hydrants to add vibrance to what is seemingly an outta-sight-outta-mind city tool.

Since Pine Avenue will be getting its own streetscape improvement later this year, Gray looked to the sad-but-true-and-ignored Long Beach Boulevard.

"I looked at how Long Beach Boulevard takes you right through Downtown, past the Found Theatre, and leads you up to the Terrace Theatre Plaza," he explained. "This to me is notable of a true city.  On top of that, our Fire Department rocks of epic proportions.  I looked at what could be enhanced on Long Beach Boulevard and remembered [the hydrants]."

Debating colors in his mind--red, silver, keeping them yellow--he opted for going for the gold. Literally. Polished and shiny like a coin, reflective to the point of being mistaken for ice hanging around a neck, gold hydrants now line Long Beach Boulevard in all their decadent glory.

The price tag? Gray popped 'em: $1560, with half funded by the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the other half by the DLBA. One can help but chuckle at the hypothetical of what the city would have spent...

Of course, Gray is not so quick to criticize and remains ever the optimistic.

"If you have an idea that you think is doable from a financial perspective and you feel would make a positive impact on the city," he encouraged, "talk to your city council office, talk to the local business association, or talk to your neighborhood association and start working your way through the city channels to get your project done. There are many helpful people on the way and things are just waiting to be enhanced in Long Beach."

And even an agreement coming from this cynical optimist (yup, I'm a contradiction), even outside the exorbitantly cheap cost, and even outside the nifty way in which it was funded, it comes down to two things: it was simple and it was simple.

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