“It is a dream come true,” she said. “I have so much passion, while some people had no faith,”
At least eight feet in height, the three varieties of Cryptomeria, Green Giant Arborvitae, and Leyland Cypress, will remain green year-round and add a graceful touch to an area that has not been landscaped in several decades.
Overlooking the embankment is Tennis View Apartments, a co-operative that Guasto has called home since 2000. She was raised in Suffolk County, has lived in Colombia and Brooklyn, and teaches Spanish in a public high school. As an actress, she is a member of SAG and AFTRA.
In 2007, homeowners received a letter from the LIRR stating that representatives would identify overgrown trees for removal.
“The LIRR wanted to be proactive in order to avoid the possibility of deciduous tree leave residue falling on the tracks,” said Guasto.
So Guasto founded the co-op's Embankment Beautification Committee with neighbor Russ Gundlach in 2008, initially attracting over 40 members.
Since then, she has worked with Borough President Melinda Katz, Madison House Presents concert manager Mike Luba, co-op board members, Forest Hills
Gardens Corporation, and LIRR public relations.
In June 2011, she organized an on-site rally with residents, who witnessed a healthy century-old Oak tree reduced to a stump. They held signs thatn read “Keep the forest in Forest Hills.”
“I experienced sadness and anger, but channeled those emotions to volunteer and collaborate with my neighbors to beautify our community,” Guasto said. “I explored methods of acquiring funding, scheduled meetings, and approached homeowners living alongside the LIRR who signed a petition of nearly 150 signatures.”
She also attended Community Board 6 meetings.
“I learned how our system operates, and as a culture not enough of us volunteer to create the society that we want,” she said. “Pick something you’re passionate about and contribute to the community, but don’t complain. Every individual can make a difference.”
Despite not knowing many of her neighbors at the time, Guasto was able to galvanize those around her through passion, positive energy, and hard work.
“No man is an island, and by working cooperatively with our community with respect to our best interests, we can move mountains,” she said. “Or in this instance, we can get 44 Evergreen trees planted.”
Guasto believes trees are a metaphor for life.
“Trees offer great beauty and provide oxygen,” she explained. “Trees are a lot like us and represent how healthy our society is. Trees connect the ground to the sky, and we have to be grounded and have a connection to the earth. When we pollute and neglect our land, it affects everything around us that is living and growing.”
In September, Tennis View Apartments residents celebrated the co-op's 100th anniversary at Forest Hills Stadium. Guasto was recognized for her efforts.
“I was inspired by my mother’s stories about my aunt Victoria, an organizer of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and my uncle Pete, a chairman of rank and file for the Longshoremen Union,” she said. “So it’s in my DNA to be a community organizer.”