planting beach grass at far rockaway

When I leave the apartment the sidewalk is wet from the early morning rain. The sky is now clear and the sun is peaking out from behind a cloud. I am hoping it turns out to be good weather today! I am on my way out to the Rockaways to plant beach grass on the dunes of Beach 180- 115 with the New York City Parks Department.

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The bus stops right in front of Surfside Bagels – the cheese and spinach topped bagel is 4000 calories and delicious and the coffee will give you a jolt to  last the entire day! I wanted to stop here first to get coffee – of course, and then walk to Beach 108 to meet up with the City Parks Department and the other volunteers.

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There are some luxury condos for rent here on the Rockaway Beach – I wish I could rent one for the summer! Anyone who pays the rent can join me!

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The staff for the City Parks Department are really friendly, organized, and ready to get the volunteers working right away. We are armed with one little shovel and beach grass. We are instructed to dig a small hole and plop in two shoots and fill in. It’s simple, easy, and everyone seems eager to start.

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There are a lot of big groups of volunteers so the process goes quickly and soon we have a huge area covered in grass. The beach grass is said to take root and start growing within the month.

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 After event I decide to walk back down to Beach 86th to relax and eat my lunch. The sun has been creeping out slowly all morning and by mid afternoon I’m in my tank top and applying sunscreen. It’s a great opportunity to relax on the beach. As you can see (below) there is a lot of construction along the way. The Rockaway Beach Restoration project has been an ongoing effort since Hurricane Sandy hit the coast and a lot of work has to be done. If you want to read more information about the restoration project please click here.

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I notice that Beach 106 rest area is almost complete. They are installing the cement pathway to the pavilion and new New York City recycling bins have arrived! Thankfully these bins have a cover. There are several trash bins on the beach here at the Rockaways but they are open on the top for birds to dig in and high winds cause litter to fly around on the beach.

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I love going to the beach during this time of year. It’s a peaceful place to unwind. I love watching the surfers and paddle boaters in the water. A few weeks ago I a cute surfer had stopped to chat with me- too bad I can’t find HIM again! :) That was the first time I thought a wet suit was sexy.

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As I was sitting there relaxing I set my phone to record five minutes of the ocean, just to have a reminder to carry with me every day. Some days I could use the sound of the ocean in my headphones from the place I love the most during my chaotic commute on the subway.

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the good friends of gantry

It is 54 degrees on a nice early Spring afternoon and I decided to ride my bike down to the waterfront in Long Island City to Gantry Plaza State Park, which is located along the East River with an amazing view of midtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building and the Queensboro Bridge. This park opened in 1998 to the public and is considered one of New York 179 State Parks.

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The Gantry Plaza State Park has four piers that jut out into the East River that you can walk on, beautiful natural gardens, picnic tables to enjoy lunch, a mist fountain, and grassy area for kids to play.  I love the handmade wooden chairs and benches along the waterfront to sit on to relax, especially after a long bike ride.

When you get to the park you notice the gantries, and people always wonder what they are. These industrial structures were  used to load and unload rail car floats and barges; today they are striking reminders of our waterfront’s past. You will also notice the huge Pepsi-Cola sign on the side that is still standing near the old Pepsi bottling plant. The sign has been removed and restored and is quite an attraction.

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If you would like to volunteer at this park you can join Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park. This group of volunteers meets Saturday mornings throughout the season to help the staff keep this  park beautiful, clean, and well maintained. They also help with planning events and outdoor concerts in this area.

If you would like more information or to sign up to volunteer with Friends of Gantry State Park  please click here. http://friendsofgantry.org/

Also, The Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park has now teamed up with New York Cares and you can find volunteer opportunities on their website as well. www.newyorkcares.org

Apparently the Gantry Plaza State Park is still undergoing renovations and will soon be almost 10 acres along the riverfront so they definitely need volunteers to help in any way that you can!

I love, New York Cares

After moving to New York, I was searching for a new volunteer opportunity, and I found an organization called New York Cares. It is the city’s largest volunteer organization, running volunteer programs for 1,300 nonprofits, city agencies, and public schools. They have almost 56,000 volunteers signed up right now. New York Cares has many different programs and volunteer opportunities.  They also show if the volunteer opportunity would be something good for children, families or groups. After a quick orientation meeting you can go to their website and just sign up for any program that you are interested in at the time that is convenient for you because we both know that life never slows down.

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A few projects I have participated in have been: to clean, revitalize and garden in Astoria Park in early summer, spread mulch and weed flower beds in Riverside Park in the fall, played sports with children with disabilities for KEEN at  the East 54th Street Recreation Center, served water and snacks during the 5 Boro Bike Race,  and helping out at the Long Island City cat sanctuary owned by Bobbi and the Strays. I have had a lot of much fun and gained a lot of experience by volunteering. I have met some amazing people and made a few friends. I’ve learned a lot about the city as well.

If you would like to get involved please go to www.newyorkcares.org and sign up for an orientation. If you want to donate go to http://www.newyorkcares.org/donate_now/. New York Cares also has several opportunities to donate your time to the Hurricane Sandy Relief efforts.

Most of these organizations would be not running without the help of their volunteers. It’s a great and easy way to volunteer your time and give back to the NY community. We all have our reasons to donate our time and we all have different reasons why it makes us HAPPY!

along the hudson river we will go…

Hi! Today I ventured up to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the beautiful Riverside Park to volunteer with New York Cares for their first NYC park project of the 2013 year.

I love Riverside Park! It is a really beautiful city park  along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side with a spectacular view. This park is only 4 miles, 330 acres and stretches from 72nd to 158th streets and considered a scenic landmark. The park has several soccer and baseball fields, a dog park, tennis courts, and a skate park, boat launch, and gardens. This park even has a thick forest near 124th Street that is a bird sanctuary that is popular for local bird watchers.

There is also a Hudson Beach Café on the promenade that is open in the summer, serving burgers and drinks. They set up umbrella topped tables in the summer by the sand and swings giving city dwellers a local beach-like oasis.

The 79th Street Marina is the only such public access facility in Manhattan. In addition to 105 slips for boats, it offers launch sites for kayaks, canoes and sailboats.

Since it was the first project of the season we spent time weeding the vine beds by the soccer fields and picking trash. I’ve volunteered at this park last summer and hiked through the park and noticed it is very well maintained and clean.

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girlvolunteerIf you haven’t been to this city park I suggest going soon! sign up and volunteer today also! It is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy your local park, meet new people, enjoy the warm weather, and give back to your community!

If you would like to read more about the Riverside Park please click here: http://riversideparknyc.org/discover-park/