More than 60 parks organizations and community groups are leading cleanups at green spaces across the city this weekend, in response to a growing trash problem at parks. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, park use in New York soared, as it was one of the safest activities available to residents during the peak of the crisis. But the increase in visitors put additional strain on park management, which is struggling to keep up because of COVID-19 related budget cuts. On October 17, New Yorkers for Parks, City Parks Foundation, Partnership for Parks, and NYC Parks are encouraging New Yorkers to volunteer for a day of cleaning and beautifying the city’s parks in every borough.
The citywide day of volunteering comes after the pandemic forced New Yorkers for Parks to cancel this year’s annual Daffodil Project, which typically distributes over 500,000 free daffodil bulbs for people to plant throughout the city’s public spaces. “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,” the group said in a statement announcing the cleanup.
More than 60 parks are participating in the citywide event on Saturday. Volunteers will pick up trash, rake leaves, weed, paint benches, and more. For those interested in helping, NY4P released an interactive map of cleanup events happening on Saturday with links to sign-up.
Note that some events are at capacity and will not be taking new volunteers for October 17. Locations that are accepting volunteers are marked blue.
In August, the city’s Parks Department launched the “Toss Your Trash” campaign to encourage parkgoers to keep green spaces clean. The anti-trash campaign includes ads on LinkNYC kiosks and signs in grocery stores and at park entrances. Parks staff will also be distributing trash bags to visitors to encourage them to throw out their garbage.
“Now more than ever, our parks and greenspaces are places of refuge and we have been working hard despite the ongoing pandemic and budget reductions to keep them clean for all to enjoy, ” NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said in a statement last month. “We are urging all New Yorkers to help out by disposing trash in designated receptacles, or taking it with them when they leave.”
Because of COVID-19, the city cut the Parks budget by 14 percent earlier this year. The agency was unable to rehire about 1,700 seasonal workers this past summer because of the cuts, resulting in fewer workers available to clean the parks.
Last month, the city said it would restore funding to 65 Department of Sanitation litter basket trucks in two dozen neighborhoods and would resume CleaNYC, which supports volunteer groups in cleaning streets and sidewalks.
But local parks organizations have stepped up to fill this maintenance gap, leading weekly volunteer cleanups in their neighborhoods. According to THE CITY, the Sanitation Department saw an increase in volunteers participating in its Community Cleanup Tool Loan Program, which lends brooms, rakes, and trash bags to volunteer organizations. As of September, 74 clean-ups took place through the program, up from 43 total cleanups that took place in 2019.
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