gathering around the boathouse

On Saturday I hung out with a great group of people! I had soooo much fun!! I joined Green Shores NYC, the L.I.C. Boathouse, Riverkeepers, and the Friends of Gantry at the local East River shoreline in Long Island City in the Gantry State Park for the 2014 Riverkeeper Sweep.

It’s a quick commute for me on the 7 train so I arrive early and enjoy my homemade granola bar and coffee on the benches by the waterfront enjoying the view of Manhattan that I LOVE so much. The forecast had predicted rain but the clouds seem to be clearing and the sun is peeking through the leftover clouds. The L.I.C. Flea is already in full swing with music, food vendors cooking, and booths set up. It’s a great place to try different food, enjoy the waterfront in Queens, and buy some antiques or homemade items.

RiverKeeper_logoI had volunteered with Green Shores NYC a few years ago at a waterfront clean-up in Astoria Park. This not-for-profit organization is run by volunteers only and maintains the eight miles of the Astoria-Long Island City Waterfront from Newtown Creek to Bowery Bay. If you want to get involved with a local organization to participate in community clean-ups or other projects along the waterfront in Queens – THIS IS IT! 

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I am pictured above with Katie Ellman, President and Director of Green Shores NYC at the beginning of the volunteer event and, as you can see I am wearing my “Fight Like A Girl” t-shirt today!

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 We started off the day helping the volunteers from New York Cares and the Friends of Gantry to remove excess mulch off the plants in the garden. Apparently the city used too much of the mulch in this area in the garden beds and it is suffocating the plants and trees.

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As we are working in the garden removing the excess mulch we are also picking up small bits of litter which consist mostly of cigarette butts, food wrappers or small plastic pieces which can blow into the river and kill fish and birds. I’ve noticed a lot of dog walkers and smokers stopping in this park and they should be aware of the damage that pollution can cause. I really wish the city would install cigarette butt receptacles, do not pollute signs or more trash cans in this area. The signs don’t look nice but litter does NOT look nice either.

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After a short break, Martha and I move over to the L.I.C. Boathouse dock to check if there is litter for us to pick up. We notice that this area is full of broken glass (pictured above) because the old double paned windows on the building next to the dock are breaking. There is also some trash stuck to the fence which is blowing over from the L.I.C Flea. Once again, I just think that people should be aware of the dangers of litter when they are eating by the waterfront. I’m hoping that anyone who saw us that day cleaning up will take a moment to think about it.

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We managed to fill only 1 large garbage of trash through-out the day which is a good thing. It is nice to see that this park is relatively clean and well maintained. Most of the litter was scattered on the street under cars and stuck to the fencing.

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After the event we hung out by the Long Island Community Boathouse, which offers FREE kayaking or canoeing! What more can you ask for! If you want to explore the area by water or try a fun summer water sport then I highly recommend kayaking with the L.I.C. Boathouse! The boathouse is run by volunteers also so if you are looking for a FUN place to volunteer you could check this out also!

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The view of the river is spectacular at any time. It was a great day to be outdoors enjoying it. It was my first time meeting everyone from the L.I.C Boathouse and being inside their facility.

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After the event, we got beers from the Rockaway Brewing Company next door. And you know I LOVE anyways Rockaways and this brewery was originated in the backyard of a bungalow in Far Rockaway! They brew the beer in the back and sell it in a small room in the front. A friendly staff, good locally brewed beer, and free potato chips – what a deal!

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Like I said before, I had a fun day. Excuse my lack of writing skills but what else can I say. There are moments such as this at a volunteer event where you feel like you are a part of something bigger than what you had signed up for. You meet local community groups with great people who are passionate about similar interests as you. You are sitting in the boathouse with a group of people drinking a beer laughing, talking and enjoying a summer afternoon like you are old friends. You skip home with a smile on your face. Like I said before, what more can you ask for.

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gardening with the good friends of gantry

I arrived at Gantry Plaza State Park early to sit by the water to enjoy the spectacular view of Manhattan skyline while I enjoyed my cup of steamy black coffee. Since this park is a short commute away from both my apartment and the studio I visit here often. I love to ride my bike down to the water early in the morning and relax on the hammocks and read a good book.

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I signed up for the gardening project earlier in the week on the New York Cares website. We were also teaming up with the Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park, a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining this beautiful East River park since 2001, along with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

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On their website, the Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park state their mission “…is to enhance the quality of life in Long Island City, NY, by promoting awareness of, concern for and participation in the publicly accessible green and open space in the neighborhood and along the waterfront.”

At 10 am we met up with Theresa, our Project Leader from New York Cares and Bill Bylewski, the President of Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park. We signed our waivers and volunteer service agreements that are mandatory to fill out each year to volunteer at this park because it covers a person with insurance in case of an accident.

Each volunteer gets a bright green vest to wear  that were supplied by New York Cares during I Love My Park Days which is a great idea because it shows park goers that volunteers are maintaining the park they are enjoying and to encourage them to ask us how to participate as a volunteer if they are interested as well. And a vest goes on top of any outfit!

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A big THANK YOU to Anne, Irene, and Anika for allowing me to photograph their hard work in the rose garden and allowing it to be on my blog. Everything that is done by the Friends of the Gantry is on a volunteer basis, including all the office work that goes into a non-profit organization.

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As we worked we talked about the park, our lives, and our volunteer experiences. It’s always nice to hear others passionately share their volunteer experiences with me. Some volunteers were new to this park and loved the view and the beautiful gardens. It’s surprising to find out how many people are not aware this park exists. Come to Queens and visit us more often!

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After weeding the rose gardens I strolled over to the outdoor cafe to check out the menu. A fresh pot of coffee was graciously brewed for me. I needed more coffee!  :)