On the morning of November 2nd, with transportation still down across New York City, over 100 volunteers — including SCA alums — made their way to Hudson River Park on the Manhattan waterfront to help with the clean-up effort. Some peddled up on bicycles, others came on foot from as far away as Brooklyn and Queens. “We’ve really been overwhelmed by this response,” said Nicolette Witcher, Vice President of Environment & Education at the Hudson River Park Trust. “This soon after the storm, we thought we’d get maybe a handful of volunteers. But now we have over a hundred people out here, and it’s really amazing how much they’re getting done for the park.”
The Hudson River Park Trust and SCA began a new partnership this year, with HRPT hosting eight Conservation Interns over the summer, and one ten-month AmeriCorps member as part of the Hudson Valley Corps. SCA members led a variety of environmental education programming for park visitors, from guided nature walks to fishing trips to summer camp programs, introducing New Yorkers to the Hudson River’s many resources. But when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City last week, the Hudson River Park’s five miles of waterfront on Manhattan’s west side took the brunt of the storm surge. The floodwaters reached four feet or higher in many areas of the park, submerging the piers, rushing into park buildings, and sweeping away plantings and playground equipment. When the surge receded, leaving behind piles of mud and debris, the park was also left without power to aid in the clean-up.
But none of this fazed the volunteers who came out en masse for Friday’s service day. Sharing the brooms, shovels, and rakes that were left undamaged by the storm, they set out to remove broken branches, gather trash and other debris, and sweep away the dried mud. As the volunteers worked their way north from Pier 25 toward HRPT’s main offices at Pier 40, the park’s paths, lawns, and landscaped beds gradually emerged from beneath the debris.
Selene Castrucci, an SCA alumna who served on a community crew at Denali National Park in Alaska this summer, proudly sported her SCA shirt as she pulled debris out of the bushes near Pier 25. While Selene admitted that New York City was a far cry from Denali, she insisted that it was all part of the same conservation ethic. “I’m just a high schooler,” she said, “but this is where I live, so I thought, why not help out here? And I brought my friends with me too. Wherever you are, there’s always something you can do.”
-Ann Pedtke, NYC Outreach Coordinator