North Shore resident calls on neighbors to boost effort against blight

By Alex Petroski

The 7 Cents Club of Commack is not a household name, but it might be one day.

Ed Mikell, a retired Commack resident, said he created the 7 Cents Club of Commack hoping to attract, as he puts it, “anyone interested in promoting Commack community pride.”

Promoting community pride might sound vague, but for Mikell it is specific and direct. He is tired of seeing the streets of the town he has called home for nearly a half-century covered with trash and he is ready to do something about it, he said.

Mikell said he plans to focus his efforts to clean up Commack on a small segment of Crooked Hill Road for now, which runs north and south for about four and a half miles almost right down the middle of Long Island. He described the site of his inaugural, and to date his only completed 7 Cents Club of Commack project, which he did by himself back in September.

“It’s the first time that I decided to do anything like this,” Mikell said. “I had a free afternoon. There were about 10 people standing in the middle of that garbage. I said, ‘this is just terrible.’”

The Crooked Hill bus stop in Commack shines after Ed Mikell helped to rejuvinate it as part of a community effort to clean up his neighborhood. Photo from Mikell
The Crooked Hill bus stop in Commack shines after Ed Mikell helped to rejuvinate it as part of a community effort to clean up his neighborhood. Photo from Mikell

It is hard to discern who should be responsible for the bus stop in question that now features a white bench and a brown, metal garbage can with white lettering that reads “7 Cents Club of Commack,” compliments of Mikell’s wife Linda.

The garbage can was a spare that Mikell spotted in the corner of a field on the Suffolk County Community College Grant Campus, along with about 20 other identical ones. Mikell said a maintenance worker was more than happy to help him load the can into his car to be transported to the site. Mikell wouldn’t divulge where the bench came from because he didn’t want to endanger the generous party’s employment.

And while cleaning, Mikell had found seven cents on the ground, hence the name of his volunteer project.
“He comes up with these ideas every once in a while and they usually turn out to be quite amazing,” Linda Mikell said, adding she wasn’t surprised when her husband came to her and described his plan, rather than searching for someone else to do the dirty work. “That’s the way Ed is.”

There is no question over who is responsible for the bus stop now. Mikell said he has an arrangement waiting with Cliff Mitchell of the Suffolk County Public Works Department to claim the spot, along with a larger segment of Crooked Hill Road, as part of the Adopt-a-Highway Program.

To proceed he needs signed waivers from his team that he can bring to the county, which will then provide him with gloves, sticks to pick up garbage, bags, reflective vests and anything else that the club might need.

The program requires a commitment from applicants to tend to claimed areas once a month, 10 months a year for two years.

Mikell said he is willing to commit to this cause for the foreseeable future, and thanks to his nearly 50 years of business experience, he is prepared for possible expansion. He has what he called a “project control” system in place that will help him track the sites of cleanups, when they were addressed, by whom and when follow-up was done.

“My whole thought about this was if it works in Commack it’ll work in Kings Park, it’ll work in Hauppauge, it’ll work in Wyandanch,” Mikell said. “It will work in every town and all that needs to be had is a person like me in every town who cares, who will go out and organize and structure it.”

Since he began dropping flyers in Commack mailboxes and hanging them in public places about six months ago, Mikell says he has yet to hear back from anyone interested in lending a hand. The lack of enthusiasm from others in the community has disheartened him, he said, but it has not deterred him from finding applicants in other ways.

Mikell has since enlisted the help of a few neighbors from his street, including retired mechanical engineer Nicholas Giannopoulos.

“We’d like to have the community look halfway decent,” Giannopoulos said. “Basically I think everybody should contribute to the community to make it better. If you live in an area that you like to live in, everybody should think along those lines.”

Mikell returns to the original site regularly to make sure that his efforts were not wasted. On one occasion, he noticed someone sitting on his bench at the bus stop and saw garbage next to the can. He asked the woman why she didn’t put the garbage in the can. She responded defensively and said it didn’t belong to her.

“I’m not blaming the woman. I was just making a comment,” Mikell said with a smile. “She’ll sit there and allow that to be there instead of just picking it up and putting it in the garbage. I think people are just busy as all hell. If you don’t have one job you have two.”

Mikell has a big job ahead of him with Crooked Hill Road alone. He pointed out about 15 to 20 spots that needed attention from someone. There is no doubt in his mind though as to where the attention will come from.

“People say ‘it’s the town of ‘X-Y-Z’ — you’d expect it from that town.’ Well I don’t expect it from any town.”

If you would like more information about the 7 Cents Club of Commack you can contact Ed Mikell at 7centsclubcom@optimum.net.