NEW YORK—New Yorkers scoured the coasts and cleaned up the litter on Saturday afternoon at four seaside sites across the city, from Pugsley Creek in the Bronx down to Kaiser Park on Coney Island in Brooklyn. With a volunteer force, the Parks and Recreation Department roused residents to do a little spring-cleaning on the seashore.
The weather was not spring-like, with a blustery and biting wind. Nevertheless, about 40 children from 5 to 13 years of age braved the elements and spent four hours on the beach at Kaiser Park picking up candy wrappers, old shoes, and abandoned toys, while also collecting some rocks and seashells.
“I've never been to this beach, but I'm proud to be doing something good for this area,” said Donald Jenkins, who lives in the Bronx but was out at Kaiser Park as one of the volunteer supervisors for the Parks Department. “I've supervised kids before at events like this. Usually they're more concerned with playing than working. These kids are really good; they're playing a little, too, of course, but they're really getting a lot done.”
The children are part of the Highland Park Community Development Corporation (HPCDC) of East New York. The organization brings together dozens of school children, some of whom live in shelters, and gets them out on Saturdays to do some work in the community.
“We teach the kids the importance of team work, of cooperation,” explained Juan Carlos Balanta, a third-grade teacher at PS 290 and a volunteer at HPCDC.
Issaiah Rodriguez, 11, ran up excitedly and said, “[Do] you know what they do with all this garbage? They dig a hole the size of a football field and dump it in there!”
The children did not pick up enough trash to fill a football field on Saturday, but they did fill half a dumpster. Even after hours of work, the shore remained littered with product packaging and debris.
“They like it [the beach], but they mess it up,” mused 9-year-old Dana Howell.
In spite of the cold and the dirty work, the kids said they had fun. Christy Loutre was astounded that her 5-year-old daughter, Jayleen, tirelessly tidied up the beach for the whole afternoon. “I wish she would be like that at home!” exclaimed Loutre. Equipped with trash-grabbing tools, the chore resembled a game for the young group of beachcombers and cleaners.
The big annual coastal cleanup—an international initiative begun by the Ocean Conservancy—will take place September 17. As the summer beach season approaches, however, Pugsley Creek in the Bronx, Kaiser Park in Brooklyn, Rockaway Community Park in Queens, and Conference House Park on Staten Island are now a little cleaner, a little more pristine, and a little less littered. The volunteers went home with a sense of satisfaction at a good deed done well.