A Tree Reborn
For over a century, a majestic oak stood on a quiet suburban street in Richmond Hill, Queens, soaking in the sun and pleasing a number of residents of the immediate and surrounding area. It had beautiful leaves and a number of strong branches, and for several years had stood firm against the elements. On September 16th, 2010, however, a tornado that ripped through the neighborhood proved too strong for the old tree, and within minutes, it had fallen across a few yards, smashing only an old fence in the process. The residents were sad to see it go, saying "It's like losing a member of our family." Shortly before the NYC Parks Department came to tear it down, Clark Whitsett noticed something different in his yard. "I pay attention to trees, and all of a sudden I noticed an oak sprouting in my yard. There was only one tree it could have descended from - that 300 year old oak on the corner." A few years later, that same small oak has grown to 20 feet tall, and eventually, the Parks Department would like to see it replanted in the old oak's original spot at 112th Street and 84 Avenue, providing the neighborhood once again with shade and beauty for all to enjoy.
"Street Cleaners" stars Maurepaz Auguste, born and raised in Newark, himself a former member of the notorious Bloods gang. At the age of 20, he was forced to re-prioritize his lifestyle after a gang-related accident nearly cost him his life. He was forced to see the world as a new man; consequently, he focused his abilities on more positive solutions. A high school drop out, he went back to get his diploma and focused on boxing and the martial arts whole-heartedly. He felt the training in these disciplines gave him focus and avenues to pursue, sparking his spirit of ambition. Auguste then set out to open a gym for the under-privileged children that seek the same help he received. Thus, he named his foundation "the Warrior's House", opened up a gym in Amsterdam to rehabilitate at-risk youth, and is scheduled to open three more similar gyms in Spain and one in the US. "Street Cleaners" plans to showcase the opening of his latest facility in New York City.
Spend five minutes with the legendary Robert Pace, Jr. – “Mister Bobby” to you and me – and you’re bound to walk away with an ear-to-ear smile after he’s regaled you with one of his tales. He may be small in stature (we’re being generous if we list him at five feet, two inches) but he’s lived a very big life by most standards. This 75-year old “character” (in the truest sense of the word) has sung a lifetime full of opera, drove a lifetime full of limos, and told a lifetime full of stories.
While Mister Bobby may occasionally drop a recognizable name (Frank Sinatra, Jackie Kennedy, Albert Anastasia), it’s when he talks about the Bronx neighborhood he grew up in that solicits the biggest smiles. Bobby takes us back to a time when the community surrounding Arthur Avenue watched out and took care of their own – when “community” really meant what it is supposed to mean.
If you sit down long enough, and get through enough stories, Mister Bobby will start to chew your ear about our country’s national anthem. As a boy, Bobby sang the national anthem in the park that is now today’s Yankee Stadium. As much as Bobby loves his community, a love of his homeland shines through when he describes his “quest to restore the national anthem.” Bobby is not shy about his quest – before his journey on this earth comes to an end, he would like to “bat for the cycle” and sing the national anthem just one time at Yankee Stadium, and take whatever proceeds he can muster from the appearance to helping today’s music students understand the importance of our nation’s first song. This film will follow that journey, and document all the faces Mister Bobby inspires along the way.