From Industrial Wasteland to Riverside Oasis


ConSERVE NYC Volunteers Get the Queens Waterfront Ready for Spring

New York City just can’t seem to escape the wintry weather this season, but that doesn’t stop SCA ConSERVE NYC volunteers from working to get the city’s public lands in shape for spring. After one rescheduling on account of snow, 80 volunteers braved snow flurries again on March 28th at Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens.

Once an industrial wasteland, the docks of Long Island City have been revived over the past few years to create an apron of greenspace on the waterfront. While the shipping cranes and gantries that give the park its name remain as a tribute to the waterfront’s industrial heritage, Gantry Plaza State Park now offers 12 acres of open lawns, peaceful riverside paths, and spectacular views across the East River to Manhattan.

Over the course of the rough winter, dead leaves and litter had collected in garden beds around the park, and salt had leached off nearby streets. ConSERVE NYC volunteers gathered under the iconic gantries and got to work distributing 15 pallets (that’s 900 bags) of new mulch to restore the soil. Fifty-pound bags of mulch were no sweat for SCA volunteers, and by the end of the morning, they had installed 23 tons of mulch around the park.


“This was one big job and one cold day,” said Angelo Chilelli of New York State Parks. “But SCA leaders were like orchestra conductors — one bag here, two bags here, three bags there! And somehow it all got done.”

Heading up the projects were members of SCA’s Hudson Valley Corps and SCA’s Conservation Leadership Corps. Participants also included volunteers from Aviation High School, Babson College Alumni, Baruch College, Benjamin Cardozo High School, Brooklyn College, City College of New York, Columbia University, Global Kids, Hunters Point Park Conservancy, International High School at Lafayette, Jericho High School, Lehman College, Millennium High School, National Parks Conservation Association, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Park East High School, St. John’s University Alpha Phi Omega, and Stuyvesant High School. 

After a morning facing swirling snow and chilly winds off the water, volunteers warmed up with hot pizza generously donated by Ray’s Pizza in Manhattan. “My classmates didn’t want to come out today because of the weather,” said Shoab Ali, a student at the International High School at Lafayette. “But a little snow doesn’t matter to me. The city is beautiful in any weather and I just want to be out here.”


See more photos from SCA’s March ConSERVE NYC event.

Register for the next ConSERVE NYC event for Earth Day!