Reclaiming the Urban Shoreline


SCA ConSERVE NYC Volunteers Brave Wintry Weather to Restore NYC Beaches

SCA ConSERVE NYC volunteers aren’t scared of a little rain. On December 6th, 50 dedicated volunteers gathered at Jacob Riis Park in Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens, braving intermittent showers and near-freezing temperatures to help restore one of New York City’s most beloved beaches. 

Known as the “People’s Beach,” Jacob Riis provides accessible recreational space on the waterfront for thousands of local residents in the Rockaways, as well as important shoreline habitat for water birds and other wildlife. During Superstorm Sandy, the park was completely inundated, with surge storm bringing drifts of sand that buried the boardwalk and swallowed up steps, railings, bike racks, and benches.

In May 2013, SCA members joined Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and SCA Founder Liz Titus Putnam at Jacob Riis Beach to kick off SCA’s Sandy Recovery Program. Since then, SCA community crews have been hard at work to restore this critical site. But much remains to be done, and the wintry weather didn’t deter ConSERVE NYC volunteers from coming out to pitch in.

Guided by SCA’s fall community interns, volunteers cleared over 7000 sq ft of invasive species from around the park pavilion (including English holly, which volunteers will be repurposing for holiday decorations), and removed more than two tons of drifted sand to reclaim railings, benches, and bike racks for use by park visitors.

Student groups from William Cullen Bryant High School and the Queens High School for the Sciences led the charge, joined by volunteers from Columbia University, City College, Bronx Community College, the Bronx High School of Science, Park East High School, Jericho High School, Global Kids, and the New York Botanical Garden. In addition, cadets in Company G3 from the United States Military Academy at West Point traveled all the way down to the city to join the cleanup efforts.

NPS Ranger Chris Maila praised volunteers for their dedication in the face of inclement weather. “We always love to get young people out here volunteering,” he said. “And when we have folks who are prepared to work hard even in the cold and the rain, that makes it all the more impressive!”

After a morning of hard work, volunteers gathered in the pavilion to warm up with coffee and hot chocolate and enjoy a hot lunch. But when the time came for the first SCA shuttle to depart, no one wanted to be the first aboard. “We’re out here with our friends doing something awesome,” said June Kim from the Queens High School for the Sciences. “We’ve done other volunteer projects where we had to hand out fliers or hold signs, but this is way better. The rain just makes it more fun.”

See more photos from the December event at Jacob Riis Park.

Join SCA for the next event on January 17th at East River Park in Manhattan. Registration is now open.