by Murray Schneider
“Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Children and parents, sans Tom Hanks in red cardigan and sneakers, gathered at 10 a.m. on Nov.24 at the foot of the neighborhood’s lower Detroit Street steps to kick off the inaugural step-a-thon run, a fundraiser to beautify a Sunnyside neighborhood landmark.
An early fall chill had surrendered to a shirt-sleeve morning on the Detroit Street cul-du-sac that begins at Hearst Avenue.
It was the Sunnyside, after all.
Stephen Martinpinto, president of the Sunnyside Association, and Pam Parker Souza choreographed an event that began by assembling six children at the bottom-of-the-stairs starting line. The youngsters were tasked with running up, then down, the 70-lower steps for 15 minutes, while an adult used a Sharpie to pen each elementary school contestant’s arm with the number of completed laps.
“We want the kids to go first,” Martinpinto announced to some 35 adults. “We don’t want them to embarrass the grownups later.”
Martinpinto lives on Melrose Avenue and Sasha — his nearly 7-year old Australian cattle dog mix — followed suit 30 minutes later, jogging the 112 upper steps. The duo completed several laps .
Neighbors Suna Mullins, Rosaura Valle and Daryl Browne, as well as a dozen or so other participants, laced up and joined them for 15 minutes. After numerous turnarounds, Browne re-crossed Monterey Boulevard and descended the lower steps. He’d labored hours preparing the upper steps for the morning athletics, working 10 hours pushing a broom to ready the stairs.
“They’re clean enough so I wouldn’t fall,” he said.
The step-a-thon raised money for the Upper Steps Landscaping Beautification Project. The final take was still being calculated at press time.
“We’d like to use the money raised for native plants, such as lupine, poppies and yarrow, as well as mosaic tiling,” Martinpinto said.
A swath of earth parallels the upper steps that rest adjacent to a Sunnyside apartment building. It’s there the planned landscaping will be placed.
“I see lots of exhausted people,” Martinpinto said, before awarding prizes to step-a-thon winners.
The clock now approached the two-hour mark. Sasha circled Martinpinto’s legs. Parents began collecting their belongings, their children tagging behind. By noon, goodbyes echoed; hugs and handshakes exchanged.
You don’t have to attend a multiplex to experience “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” It’s easy to locate closer to home, even easier to take in when it’s in your own backyard. It’s on either side of Monterey Boulevard, near a series of steps named for a motor city where automobiles stop and the 23-Monterey and the 36-Teresita break to a halt.
When you arrive, though, slip on a pair of sneakers.