Tag Archives: New York City

Improving Your Neighborhood, One Mailbox at a Time

Keeping your street beautiful may seem merely like a cosmetic concern, yet statistics show that the cleaner, more well-maintained, and –yes— leafier a neighborhood, the more benefits enjoyed by all.

According to “Broken-Window Theory,” well-kept streets help deter crime. Now, there’s a new study  conducted by Kees Keize at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, that proves this theory  true. A few interesting tidbits:

  • Researchers left a cash-filled envelope sticking out of a mailbox with the money in plain view of pedestrians. One mailbox was covered with graffiti, while the others were clean. A quarter of the people walking by stole from the graffiti-covered mailbox whereas only 13% took the envelope from the clean one.
  • On a wall where people leave their bikes, researchers posted a “No Graffiti” sign and then left flyers on each of the bicycles.  Next they added graffiti to the wall despite their own warnings. Of the 80 bicycles monitored, 69% littered the wall with graffiti, as opposed to just 33% on the wall without.

Inspired, we decided to go beyond tree guards and join the U.S. Postal Service’s Adopt-A-Mailbox program in which citizens take responsibility for painting and maintaining a nearby mailbox. Here’s how it worked for us in New York City:

Our sad looking neighborhood mailbox.

Step 1.  Become A Post Box Care Captain. Contact your local post office to find out about the program. In New York City, you can call Cherry Liu at the US Postal Service (email: Cherry.C.Liu@usps.gov), who will provide the application form to fill out and return. Within one week of submission, Ms. Liu called us back with our approval and information about where to obtain the materials.

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

380 W 33rd St., Room 4061

Step 2. Pick Up Materials. In New York City, we went to 380 W 33rd St. to Room 4061 (Entrance pictured above), where I received a can of blue paint for my mailbox and green paint for my relay  box (these ones serve as holding areas for mail so letter carriers do not have to carry all of their routes at once). I discovered that to care for both relay and mailboxes, you must adopt two of each. In addition, you are required to specify your adoption territory (i.e.:  East 75th to East 77th between Park and 5th Avenues). Not only is maintaining boxes very close to your house much easier, but you care more since you’ve got to look at those boxes every day.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Rather than a drop cloth, we just used some old cardboard.

Step 3. Keep It Tidy. To avoid dripping paint all over the sidewalk (very counterproductive given that we’re combating graffiti!), put down a drop cloth or just use cardboard boxes to protect the sidewalk as well as nearby cars. Cover the key hole with tape to ensure no paint gets inside.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program and starts sanding local mailbox

Step 4. Smooth Things Out.  Sand any rusted spots if necessary.

Curb Allure joins Adopt A Mailbox Program by painting a local mailboxMailbox Roller

Step 5. Start Painting, Already! To get this part right, we suggest painting over the graffiti with a brush and then again with a roller. This way, you get nice even strokes.

Mailbox Wet Paint Step 6. Don’t Forget The Wet Paint Sign.  Ack! No one wants to ruin your work of art nor do they want green paint on their shorts.


Step 7. Enjoy Results. Repeat.  Look at the glorious fruits of our labor!

The idea behind “Adopt-A-Mailbox” is that people take better care of their surroundings when they have a sense of ownership. They’re 100% right. When we finished sprucing up our mailbox, we were practically glowing with satisfaction. We think we may have spotted the trees nodding with approval too.



Holiday Gifts That Grow (Literally) & Support Urban Forest Protection

urban forest protection by donating to NYC urban forest organizations


Urban Forest Protection Donations

The holidays are a time for giving. So, if you’re strapped for ideas on those last minute gifts, consider donating to a cause that matters to your loved ones and supports urban forest protection.

At Curb Allure, we have dedicated ourselves to the belief that trees and gardens are the lungs (and souls) of our communities. If this resonates with you or someone you love, here’s a list of wonderful organizations that could use your donations for urban forest protection. We know first-hand that each of these groups make a real difference, namely in our hometown New York City. 


In 1976, New York City faced severe spending cuts to all forestry and tree-related community service. In response, concerned citizens launched TreesNY, which has since developed an impressive list of urban forest protection programs to fulfill its mission “to plant, preserve and protect New York City’s urban forest through education, active citizen participation and advocacy.”  Programs include Citizen Pruner Tree Care Course, Greening the Bronx Reforestation Project, and Youth Environmental Literacy. Its most recent program, FruiTreesNY, has begun planting orchards throughout the five boroughs. Visit website: www.treesny.org  

New York Restoration Project

Founded by famed entertainer Bette Midler, the New York Restoration Project has been “transforming open space in underserved communities to create a greener sustainable NYC” since 1995. NYRP offers a wide-range of programs, such as Hurricane Sandy outreach, Gardens for the City, and environmental education in NYC public school. Today, NYRP is perhaps best known for joining forces with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to launch Million Trees NYC, whose goal is to plant one million trees across the five boroughs by 2017. So far, this tremendously popular initiative has put over 800,000 trees in the ground. Visit website: www.nyrp.org

City Parks Foundation

Have you ever enjoyed a SummerStage performance in Central Park? Then you’ve already benefitted from the services of City Parks Foundation, created to “provide free and accessible arts, sports, education and community-building programs within NYC parks.”  Aside from super-fun activities like performances, free tennis lessons and youth summer programs, City Parks also fosters environmental outreach by hosting the annual conference Partnership for Parks for community groups and It’s My Park Day volunteer events. Visit website: www.cityparksfoundation.org

Alliance for Community Trees (AC Trees)

The only national organization on our list, Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees) is “a vibrant network of over 200 nonprofits and agencies that promote the environmental, economic, public health, and social benefits of trees and urban forests.” Not only is AC Trees responsible for planting 15 million trees with 5 million volunteers, but it also provides grants and awards to members; raises awareness about trees and urban forests through its National NeighborWoods® Month   in October; and advocates for policies that protect and sustain trees and urban forests for the benefit of people and communities. Visit website: www.actrees.org

Based on our experience, donors cannot go wrong with any of these nonprofits to support urban forest protection. However, we are curious about who’s making an impact in your community. What’s your favorite tree, garden or parks organization? We’d love to hear. Happy Holidays.