Residents beautify Canarsie Park on citywide cleanup day

From left: New York City Department of Parks & Recreation volunteer projects manager Yekaterina Gluzberg, Jennifer Horsford, community organizer, and aide in the office of Senator Roxanne Persaud, with volunteers in Canarsie Park, after a civic engagement to help cleanup, beautify, and maintain NYC's open spaces, "It's My Park initiative."
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Oct. 17, was a sunny autumn day, befitting an environmental drive that brought out volunteers in Canarsie, Brooklyn, to participate in a civic engagement to help cleanup, beautify, and maintain NYC’s open spaces — It’s My Park initiative.

Children joined parents to rake leaves and planted, daffodil bulbs in Canarsie Park, in a partnership with New Yorkers for Parks, Partnerships for Parks and NYC Parks, in support of over 60 parks partner organizations, community and conservancies, for the day of service.

Jennifer Horsford, community organizer aide in the office of Senator Roxanne Persaud, thanked volunteers for helping to maintain the green space, noting that due to COVID-19, the park has become an extension of the home, where family events are now being held.

The partnership with NYC Parks gave kids an opportunity to clean and beautify the environment, said Horsford, who headed a team that included, Sen. Persaud’s Chief of Staff, Maylene Thurton, Yolaine Ridore of the 69th Precinct Community Council, Canarsie Cycle of Resilience Street Team, Clover Dewar, Eudene Mason, representatives from the office of Assemblymember, Jamie D. Williams, and other volunteers.

“I believe it is good to clean and beautify our parks,” she said, noting that many of the volunteers were children who helped to plant 300 daffodils bulbs for a colorful bloom in the spring time.”

The goal, she said, was to get the little ones in the habit of keeping their environment clean.

Seven-year-old Aiden, is being taught how to plant a daffodil bulb, one of many that will help to beautify Canarsie Park in the spring. Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Eagerness by residents to keep their environment clean, has led to ongoing programs to deal with dumping of garbage, that had also caught the eye of Cory Galloway, managing partner of Brooklyn Athletic Club in Canarsie, who came out to support the cleanup effort.

“I hope we are sending a message to the community that we love our park and we want a beautify it. Someone fights for this green space, so we have to show our appreciation and pay it forward,” said Horsford.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation Volunteer Projects Manager, Yekaterina Gluzberg, who provided resources and oversaw the titled “Dig In — It’s My Park” initiative, said with the lost of 1700 workers due to the coronavirus, volunteers are needed more than ever.

“Volunteers, like Jennifer, come to us, and we provide them with the tools and techniques to help them shape the community the way they want it to be,” she said, adding that the parks are spaces of “well-being and wildlife, that share city parks with us, so it’s important to keep them clean.”

“Each of us can take responsibility and pride in keeping our streets clean by putting trash in bins to be picked up by the sanitation department. We have to take that extra step. It is critical,” said Gluzberg who provided rakes, trowels, and flowering bulbs to beautify the park.

According to the Parks Department, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, these spaces have become the center of life in NYC, serving an essential role as critical city infrastructure.

However, despite record-breaking use, funding for NYC Parks was cut by 14 percent in the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget, resulting in significant staff cuts.

Now, New Yorkers are coming together and getting their hands dirty to compensate for the reduction in maintenance and taking care of the city’s parks.

Many of these projects are a part of “It’s My Park,” a year-round initiative that gives New Yorkers the opportunity to care for their local parks. The day is just one step in a sustained movement of civic engagement and advocacy for NYC’s parks and open spaces.

Typically, NY4P distributes daffodil bulbs to community groups for The Daffodil Project every fall. This year, due to COVID-19 safety precautions, “we cannot safely distribute bulbs. Instead, we are continuing The Daffodil Project’s spirit of volunteerism and community engagement on this day celebrating civic engagement in all five boroughs.”

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