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Man beautifying Upper West Side with tree boxes

May 1, 2012 4:47:28 AM PDT
If you're looking for proof that one person can make a difference, look no further than the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The area is more beautiful, thanks to the green thumb of a man known simply as Costello.

Costello runs a successful dog walking business, but five years ago, when his building asked residents for ideas on how to spruce up the entrance, his creative side blossomed.

Most days, you can find him tending to his mini gardens, flower boxes built on top of what he calls a tree box. It protects the trees from the dogs and provides a creative space for the vibrant colors of spring flowers. You can see his handiwork all along West 102nd Street.

The handmade fountains at the entrance to the Broadmoor, where he has lived the past 37 years, is what started it all, changing the face of the neighborhood.

"People have begun to take detours from where they were going, just to walk down the blocks here to take a look at the flowers in the morning," Costello said. "And it gives you such a wonderful feeling to walk out of your front door in a New York City apartment, and the area reminds you of suburbia. What a great feeling that is."

Those who live in the neighborhood are in awe of what Costello has been able to create.

"He really has woven himself into this neighborhood," resident Janet Metz Unger said. "And walking up and down the block, you feel so lucky because you don't know what you're going to see next."

It's not just what he does, it's who he is.

"Everything he does, it's for the love of it, and it's for the love of the neighborhood, the love of the block, really," resident Evan Salama said. "He's really incredible."

And word is spreading. Costello has now created more than 30 tree and flower boxes in a five-block area.

When Costello started, he did his flower boxes for free. But now, people are so impressed with his work that building owners have approached him to ask him to beautify their building. For those jobs, he get paid.

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