Tag Archives: planting

Hands On NY Day 2011: Highland Park Clean-Up

19 Apr
2011

This past Saturday was Hands On New York Day, a citywide volunteer day which mobilizes thousands of New Yorkers to give their city a good ol’ fashioned spring greening. Though the weather wasn’t 100% optimal, the rain held out long enough to  get 70 public spaces cleaner, greener, and ready for people to enjoy all summer long.

Team Give and Get NYC was out straddling the line between Brooklyn and Queens this year, turning over plots in the Highland Park Children’s Garden. It was clear that the garden had endured a long winter and was in need of some TLC. Our site had an army of volunteers that were spreading compost, pulling weeds, and raking leaves, among other things. Our team was tasked with turning over four garden plots that belonged to local public school students. We prepared the soil for planting, which will take place in the next few weeks when the garden is turned into an outdoor classroom of sorts, teaching elementary-age kids how to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

Before

After!

Despite the weather it was a great day, as these events always are. It gives me a great sense of pride any time I can volunteer alongside such a large, diverse group of people; we didn’t know each other’s names, but we shared shovels, fetched compost for each other, and lent a hand when it was needed, no questions asked. I like to think this is what it’s all about to be a New Yorker.

It was also seriously hard, back-breaking labor that I know could not have been completed by the small children and surrounding community who will ultimately benefit from our hard work and the support of New York Cares.

To see more photos from our day in the Highland Park Children’s Garden, check out the G&G Flickr account!

Did you volunteer for Hands On New York Day 2011? Feel free to reply below with links to your own photos and recaps of the day!

Advertisements

Force of Human Nature: Spring Volunteer Activities Outdoors

24 Mar
2011

This post was originally written for offManhattan, an eco travel site featuring destinations out of Manhattan that are accessible sans car.

Whether or not the weather agrees, Spring is officially here. It’s time to put those winter sweaters back into storage and dust off your flip flops. It’s also the perfect time to volunteer in New York City. As the seasons change, so do the opportunities available; there are gardens to be planted, parks to prepped for the onslaught of visitors, and other outdoor projects that are most enjoyable in the cool sunshine of Spring. Below are some ideas for outdoor volunteer projects and activities that you can sign up for right now:

Pick A Day, Any Day

Are you too busy for a big time commitment? Sign up for these one-day volunteer events:

  • ‘It’s My Park Day’ is an bi-annual event taking place this spring on May 21st, 2011. You don’t even have to register: just find a participating park and GO. Partnerships for Parks invites dedicated community groups to organize volunteer projects and free cultural events in their neighborhood parks, in the hopes that people will come out to help and learn more about year-round opportunities. There will be over 150 community organizations and parks participating throughout the 5 boroughs.
  • Hands On New York Day: Join New York Cares and 5,000 other volunteers on April 16th to make our city’s parks and gardens cleaner, greener, and ready for summer. You can join my team or start your own!
  • Million Trees Planting Event: The city’s Million Trees Initiative has an ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade. On April 30th, 2011 you can help them reach that goal by joining them in one of five parks in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and volunteer to help plant 20,000 trees in one day!

Runs Don’t Run Themselves

New York City plays host to a slew of fundraising 5K’s and walks, and all of them need volunteers to help ensure the day goes smoothly. You can help by handing out water along the route, checking in participants, cleaning up after the race, or even cheering! Here are some upcoming runs and contact info:

  • New York Road Runners: Find more races and opportunities here by signing up to volunteer at any NYRR race. All opportunities in 2011 will count as a volunteer credit toward the 9+1 Program for those who would like to receive a guaranteed entry to the 2012 ING New York City Marathon.

Going Green for the Season

There are many organizations that are dedicated to community gardening and environmental education all year long. Now that Spring has arrived, they’ll need help for the busy planting season. Check out these groups for on-going volunteer opportunities with varying commitment levels:
  • ioby (which stands for ‘in our backyards’) connects donors and volunteers to environmental projects in their neighborhoods to inspire new environmental knowledge and action in New York City. They have sponsored projects in need of volunteers to plant veggies, building gardens and educating the public; email volunteer@ioby.org for more info or visit the website.
  • TimeBanksNYC Green April is a month-long marathon of eco-friendly, green-inspired projects. Each Saturday in April, TBNYC will be in a different borough for an environmental community service event. To gain access to the Green April events, attend the volunteer kick-off event on March 30th at the Horticultural Society of NY; RSVP at volunteer@timebanksnyc.org.
  • New York Cares is the all-encompassing, citywide mecca for volunteers. Just sign up online and attend a 45-minute orientation and you’ll be able to access their database of 1,000’s of projects that take place all over the city, from Pelham Bay Park to Gregory’s community garden in Brooklyn and almost everything in between. You can volunteer once, weekly, monthly; whatever you schedule, NY Cares has something for everyone.
  • Slow Food NYC is the New York City chapter of Slow Food, a non-profit, member-supported organization founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life. From time to time they need volunteers to staff events or to help with outreach programs. Contact them at volunteering@slowfoodnyc.org to find out what’s available now; for one, they will be preparing their neighborhood farm in Brownsville on April 16th, 30th and June 4th for the upcoming summer program for 100 local kids.

For more environmentally-helpful volunteer projects, visit my spring greening tips from last year, “Volunteerism in Full Bloom.”

Hands On New York Day

7 May

On April 24th, I participated in Hands On New York Day: a citywide volunteer event organized by New York Cares. Over the course of a few hours 5,000 volunteers weeded, planted, mulched, and painted their way through 69 public spaces, revitalizing New York after a long winter to get ready for spring.

This year my team was placed in Bowne Park, located in Flushing Queens and coincidentally, across the street from my Aunt and Uncle’s house. It’s a beautiful park that spans over 11 acres, where you can find a bocce court surrounded by benches filled with old-school players, a large playground, spray shower, and basketball courts, in addition to a huge pond. In all honestly, it’s a charming park that at a glance looked like it is was in great shape and didn’t need a slew of volunteers trampling the grounds. However, after a brief rundown of what was in store for the day, we learned that there’s always room for improvement.

Arriving at 9:30am, we waited for the New York Cares bus to arrive from the city, unloading about 50 volunteers onto the scene. On the agenda was putting down mulch, raking leaves, picking up litter, and painting benches. Team Give and Get -made up of my family and friends- was able to grab the much-coveted paintbrushes and related supplies, and set out to stake our claim on a set of benches. Armed with plastic tarps and a can of ‘Central Park Green’ paint (really, thats the name of the color), we were all business. Our designated scraper cleaned any rust or bird poop off while the rest of us taped the tarp down to avoid painting things that DIDN’T need a fresh coat..you know, like the sidewalk and grass. After we prepped the area, we went to town painting those benches like nobody’s business. Our team of 8 had no problem knocking out a few sets of benches, so we took an early lunch around 12 to take a break from the sun.

After lunch we decided to try our hands at raking. Much of the easy stuff was already raked into neat piles around the park, to be picked up by the leaf vacuum later in the day, so we turned our attention to a large mass of leaves that no one had touched all morning. Soon after we started, we realized why it went untouched; this pile was about one foot deep and consisted of heavy wet leaves that quite possibly fell to the ground before I was even born. We did our best but even with shovels, it was hard to make a dent. Our efforts were further thwarted when the park site manager came over to let us know that the wet mass we were digging up would clog the vacuum and therefore needed to be bagged up by hand. By the end of the afternoon, blistered and sore, our team had done all we could and had to throw in the shovels and call it a day. You win this time, leaves…

All in all, the day was a success. The grass was cleared of debris and leaves, the benches looked shiny and new, and the smell of fresh mulch permeated the air. It truly was a great start to spring, and I’m sure that the local residents who frequent the park will appreciate the fruits of our labor.

After our day of volunteering, we took a stroll to Northern Boulevard for some Korean BBQ at one of my favorite places: KumGangSang. Along the way we marveled over beautiful gardens in the yards of almost every home we passed and ogled some enormously ornate houses. As we walked down 32nd Avenue, emerging through the trees we caught a glimpse of what looked like a  pagoda-style temple one block over. Upon further investigation, both by peering through the construction gates and online, it turns out that it is in fact a Buddhist temple being built by Korean organization Hanmaum Seon Won.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite things about volunteering in NYC is that it takes me new and interesting places that I probably wouldn’t wander through otherwise. I mean, we found a guy on Main Street manning an automatic cream puff maker! Hundreds of cream puffs in minutes! Who knew?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

A special thanks to those who came out that day for Team Give and Get NYC: Amy Bogin, Dan Sussman, Ronnie Sussman, Meg Dockery, Paul Costa, Sarah Bowlin, and Zoe Schweitzer. Even though I think we’re awesome, there were about 4,992 other people volunteering that day, most of them in other parks and community spaces throughout the boroughs; to see what they were up to all day you can check out New York Cares’ blog for pictures and stories from the field.


Hands On New York Day

26 Apr

What: Revitalize parks, gardens, playgrounds, community centers, and schools

Where: Bronx River Park, through New York Cares

When: Saturday, 830am-2pm

Hands On New York Day is one of New York Cares biggest days of the year. They mobilized about 5,000 volunteers, in partnership with the MillionTrees initiative, and sent them out to about 75 parks and gardens throughout the 5 boroughs. Some people planted trees, others re-painted fences or picked up trash; volunteers were doing whatever was necessary to fit the needs of the park/garden/school to revitalize and beautify the site.

I volunteered to be a registration leader and ambassador; the first job required that I register volunteers as they arrived at the site, give them a t-shirt, collect a registration fee if necessary, and have them sign a waiver. The ambassador’s (also me), were then supposed to collect all of the registration materials, money and any extra t-shirts, and bring them back to the New York Cares office on W. 29th Street. Though I’m sure that  it wasn’t the case at most of the sites, ours had some major issues that caused a late start. The directions that were sent out to most of the volunteers (including me, who was supposed to be at the site early) were wrong, so people had to get back on the subway and go two more stops to the correct meeting spot. It was really confusing; to add to this, I took the wrong train to begin with, so I was already running late. But that’s my own fault for being directionally challenged.

All of that aside, the Bronx River Alliance did a great job getting people registered and into t-shirts before we got there, and throughout the day were extremely helpful and knowledgeable about their park. It was a great day to  be outside and planting trees. This is an annual event, so you’ll have to wait until next year to try this activity out, but there are tons of opportunities during the warmer months to get outside and volunteer. Check out the organizations on my resource page to find something for you; these type of events/activities are great for groups, as you can all work together digging and planting and just having a good time.