Last year, four brave staff souls headed to Staten Island to scout sites for New York Cares Day Spring. Yesterday, four more again ventured across the Verrazano Bridge. Although some of the faces changed, the goal was the same: find the best way to help parks in Staten Island clean up and get ready for spring on April 20th.
Our group met downtown at 9:00 a.m. (except for myself who came sprinting to our rented van 15 minutes late) to head to Staten Island to begin our day. Adrian Wilton, Disaster Recovery Manager and native Staten Islander did the driving, Service Events Manager Kim Wilson coordinated with our parks contacts, and Community Programs Manager, Katherine Kienitz, was on board to discuss ongoing programs. I rounded out the group as our New Media Manager to document it all.
It quickly became clear that having a born and raised Staten Islander would prove helpful both in navigation, interesting island facts, restaurant recommendations, and making connections with new Community Partners. Adrian started with our organization after Hurricane Sandy hit, as our disaster manager for the borough. In addition to running Sandy relief projects, she’s been working hard to make connections with other nonprofits so we can expand our ongoing programming and bring additional volunteers to the borough. One exciting opportunity she told us about yesterday includes building a community garden in the parking lot of the Staten Island Mall.
But to the task at hand. Our first stop was Schmul Park, which has a big trash problem. Past the baseball field is a great open space followed by woods and a pond that would be a great spot for birds and nature watching – if it wasn’t currently being mistaken for a landfill:
The trash is layers deep, and volunteers who don’t mind getting dirty would have a great time pulling out all of the refuse and filling up bags and bags of trash. It would definitely be a big job, but a rewarding one.
Our second stop was at Willowbrook Park, where the park contacts showed us areas where they want to plant along the pond. The park also has a carousel that is set to open in May, and there’s a lot of work that goes into prepping it for the season. We got really excited at the prospect of cleaning up fake cheetahs and free carousel rides with our volunteers.
After a fantastic lunch break at a local Staten Island diner, we headed to Mount Loretto Park. Part of the park lies along the shore, and was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Trees were still down, cliffs were eroded, and a lot of debris still sprinkled the shore:
On our way to our second Mount Loretto site, our park contact told us some history of the area. The park is surrounded by fields that are still prepped for farming, even though no one farms them anymore. The reason is that a lot of residents still live in the area who used to work the land, and they want to keep the historical use of the land intact. Working on a beach surrounded by historic fields? Sounds like the perfect Cares Day site to me.
The second part of Mount Loretto was also hit hard by the storm. What used to be a wooded forest has been turned into a garbage dump with matted debris washed up from the water and downed trees.
Next, we continued traversing the island on our way to Faber Pool and Park. We’ll be coordinating a group of corporate volunteers to come and paint a mural along the pool before the site opens for the summer.
As the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, we headed to our last stop of the day: South Beach Park. A lot of sand still covers the soil, and it would be our volunteers task to rake it away in order for plants to thrive. There are even some sections of the beach that aren’t yet safe for volunteers to visit because it was so badly damaged by the storm.
Every year on Cares Day, our volunteers do an amazing amount of work. But this year is different. After seeing the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy on our neighborhoods, both in Staten Island and beyond, it’s clear the work done this April 20th will have a bigger impact than ever before. Make sure you get your team together, and sign up today.
By Susan Torres