ASTORIA — Greek gods are descending on the Hell Gate Bridge.
Lady Pink, a well-known graffiti artist who has lived in Astoria for decades, is summoning the spirit of Zeus, Poseidon and others in a new mural at the Hell Gate Bridge that she is painting with teens from a local art school.
The 65-by-13-foot work, on the wall of the bridge at Steinway Street and 23rd Road, depicts the Helenic deities and other mythological gods, creatures and themes, aiming to honor the area's Greek heritage and ward off graffiti that has plagued parts of the bridge for years.
The mural, painted with the help of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, is part of an initiative started more than a decade ago by the Astoria-based New York Anti-Crime Agency, which also fights against graffiti in the area.
“We were looking at all this graffiti at the overpasses and we had to clean them maybe 60 times a year,” said Antonio Meloni, the founder and executive director of the agency. “It was just redundant work.”
So Meloni came up with the idea of painting murals with historical themes. The project involves children from local schools and high-quality Astoria artists.
With the permission of Amtrak, which uses the bridge, murals have been painted over the years on several Hell Gate Bridge overpasses, including one on Shore Boulevard, 31st Street and on Steinway Street, across the street from the one that is currently being painted.
The last one, “Welcome to Astoria,” presents a mix of ethnic themes, including an Egyptian pharaoh and a European knight, referencing the cultural heritage of the area. It was also painted by Lady Pink and kids from the Sinatra High School.
Lady Pink, whose real name is Sandra Fabara, said she was excited about creating another mural in Astoria.
“They don’t teach painting murals at school,” she said. “It means a lot to me to hand down my craft to the younger generation, to inspire these young people.”
Along with her husband, Roger Smith, who is also an artist, she spent a few weeks discussing the ideas and drawing sketches with teenagers who were enthusiastic about the project.
“I love painting,” said Maria Shinas, 15. “It’s a good chance to do some community service and do something I love.”
When murals are painted by recognized street artists, “the kids wouldn’t hit it,” he said. ”So not only is it pretty, but it also stays clean.”