Tag Archive | "Environment"

A revitalized Bronx park shows off at “It’s My Park Day”

A park erected on an old landfill in the Soundview section of the Bronx attracted diverse volunteers to revitalize its garden during the event “It’s My Park Day” on Sunday. Volunteers worked from late morning to early afternoon planting daffodils to attract butterflies and clearing out tall, dense shrubbery to reveal a view of the Bronx River from the Butterfly/Meditation Garden at Soundview Park. The Friends of Soundview Park, supported by Partnership for Parks, coordinated the event.
Volunteers help plant daffodils in the Butterfly Meditation Garden

Volunteers help plant daffodils in the Butterfly Meditation Garden (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

The lush, maintained green space that volunteers visited on Sunday was recently reborn after a neglected past. “It was a dump” with a “dangerous reputation,” said Lucy Aponte, a longtime Bronx resident and current president of the Friends group. Aponte was speaking literally as well as figuratively. The park operated as a landfill from the 1920s to the 1960s. Soundview Park’s trashy history is to be thanked for the far-reaching views it now offers; its landfill days raised the shoreline 30 feet above the marsh elevation. Its potential as a thriving waterfront park came to fruition in 2010 under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Parks Foundation’s Catalyst Program, which aims to renovate parks in underserved areas. With the imminent departure of Catalyst workers at the end of the year, the park’s management will be turned over to Friends of Soundview Park, a local volunteer group. Although the park has come a long way during the four years of Catalyst attention, the Friends group inherits some tough challenges. A vital task for the Friends group is to increase visitors to the park. From the beginning, Catalyst’s Park Coordinator for Waterfront Activity, Carlos Martinez, had difficulty building interest in the park among nearby residents. Events, like “It’s My Park Day,” have the double advantage of revitalizing the park and drawing visitors.
Volunteers add mulch to a street tree right outside the garden (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

Volunteers add mulch to a street tree right outside the garden (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

Luz Quezada, 48, a former Bronx resident now residing in Manhattan, found out about Soundview Park’s event through the nonprofit Fiadasec Federacion Internacional, a community–minded organization based in the Dominican Republic with a branch in New York City. A first–time visitor to Soundview Park, Quezada said she thought the event was an “awesome way to create conversation about environmental issues with children.” She brought her seventh grade daughter Raymi to help plant daffodil bulbs. Quezeda said she “never knew this park existed” and was “very amazed” by the park’s beauty. She said she and her family would be back soon to revisit the waterfront greenway. Four years ago, Community Board 9 expressed concernes about the Catalyst Program's goal of activating the space and bringing more people to such a large park, skeptical that Soundview Park could change its reputation as a dangerous area, Martinez recalled. Today, with a new chairman in charge, the community board still has not thoroughly embraced the project. Chairman William Rivera “hasn’t talked to the friends group” yet, he said, and he expressed concerns over noise levels caused by sports leagues and barbeque parties in the park. Rivera said he is open to addressing his qualms with the Friends and hopes to establish a connection soon. The two newest members of the Friends group are working hard to engage the community in the park’s activities by shooting a video. Brothers Mohamed Kaba, 18, and Mamadou Kaba, 16, hope their video, which includes interviews with park attendees and shots of the park’s views, will “get people to want to donate and help,” Mamadou said. Mohamed took classes at his high school on videography and will post the finished version on the NYC Park’s website page and Facebook page. The brothers’ plan to include old photographs so that viewers can see how drastically the park has changed. The Kaba brothers interviewed Wanda Diaz, 23, who found out about Soundview Park’s “It’s My Park Day,” from a flier during a class trip to Poe Park in the Bronx. She said she enjoyed the event and would take part in further activities.
The Kaba brothers interview Wanda Diaz about her experience at "It's My Park Day" (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

The Kaba brothers interview Wanda Diaz about her experience at "It's My Park Day" (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

To help fund the activities the park hosts, the Friends will take a page out of the Catalyst program’s book and reach out to the Bronx River Alliance, which provides contacts with corporations. Last month’s “International Coastal Clean-up” at the park was sponsored by the outdoor retailer R.E.I. and “It’s My Park Day” was sponsored by TD Bank. The corporations not only provide money for tools and supplies, but also give out T-shirts and reusable bags. Jaime Feliberty, 59, the Friends member in charge of “It’s My Park Day,” said Carlos Martinez, the Catalyst worker, taught their group how to organize themselves to be efficient. He “feels terrible” about Martinez’s departure, and joked that he is “going to tie him up so he doesn’t leave.” Even though Feliberty said there is still much to learn about taking charge of the park’s activities, he noted that the Friends group has a good team of people, including artists Laura Alvarez and Lucy Aponte. Martinez said that the Friends group would continue to receive advisory support from a Partnership for Parks Borough Coordinator. He also said that he would be available for Friends members to contact for help, even as he heads to the next “Catalyst Park,” Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem. The launch into Soundview Park’s future was secured by the Catalyst Program. The park is now poised to enter a new era. The park itself is thriving, with an improved “greenway,” a path that hugs the shoreline and connects waterfront towns, and with coming attractions like an amphitheater, which will provide a venue for local performers, an extensive wetlands area, which will allow the native ecology to flourish, and a dog park. In addition to managing events and recruiting members, the Friends of Soundview Park must widen their outreach to promote their park’s new track, playgrounds, greenways, and gardens. Transforming from a desolate dump to a picturesque park, Soundview Park is poised for an influx of visitors.
A couple sits by the Bronx River, which runs adjacent to the park's "greenway" (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

A couple sits by the Bronx River, which runs adjacent to the park's "greenway" (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

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After Sandy, Hunts Point’s Low Lying Areas Struggle with Flooding

A disaster relief organization in the low-lying Hunts Point area of the Bronx experienced heavy flooding and a challenge to distribute supplies. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

Early this morning, when Tim Reeve opened the storehouse of the disaster relief organization World Vision in Hunts Point, he saw devastation up close: water from Sandy had flooded the building. A delivery truck was submerged in three-feet-deep water. Pink collared-shirts inside plastic bags floated beside cases of pencils and hygiene kits that awaited delivery from the Hunts Point warehouse to hard-hit areas in New York and the region. As emergency response teams rush to rescue residents from flooding and fires, organizations that are gearing up to join the efforts are facing challenges in the storm's aftermath. In Hunts Point, a flood-prone area in the Bronx, organizations like World Vision and major food distribution companies are struggling to resume operating. “At this point, we’re trying to do emergency response, but right now, it appears that we’re in a disaster ourselves,” said Reeve, World Vision’s storehouse manager for New York. Reeve estimates that supplies will be ready for distribution by Thursday and that the warehouse may move to an alternative space. The extent of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on millions of residents from the shores of North Carolina to Maine is still being determined, as floods, power outages and snow continue to displace thousands of residents from their communities. Eight million people in 15 states remain without electricity. The federal government estimates $20 billion in damages from the storm. Sandy hits the industrial zone in Hunts Point, Bronx from Adam Perez on Vimeo. Inside World Vision's office, a fire alarm blared as a project coordinator pointed to a water line three feet above the soaked carpet. A kitchen refrigerator was flipped on its side. Relief supplies were strewn across the warehouse. Reeve did not expect water from the East River to reach the storehouse, which is located near a boardwalk in Barretto Park. But the park’s benches were already underwater as the storm raged and the sea rose on Monday. There were no sandbags to buffer the area from the surge. Chad Narine, an MTA track worker, witnessed an electrical transformer exploding underneath the sidewalk outside of the MTA compound on Tiffany Street around 11:30 p.m. on Monday. “I was standing in the transit yard inside,” said Narine, 34, “when I heard a loud boom and saw a white a flash.” Steam continued to rise from a hole in the sidewalk on Tuesday while an emergency vehicle from ConEdison, which provides electricity, gas and steam, monitored the damaged transformer.

"New York needs to be more careful with powerful storms like these," said Adama Makouyate, an employee at a food-distribution plant in a flood-prone area of Hunts Point. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

New York City's Office of Emergency Management lists the low-lying area in Zone B, meaning it faces a moderate risk of flooding and likelihood of evacuation during storm surges and hurricanes. But the flooding in the area could have a major impact on the entire metropolitan area. Hunts Point is home to the region’s largest-food distribution center. Everyday, more than 15,000 delivery trucks come in and out of the area’s produce, meat and seafood market, which supplies much of the city and surrounding region’s grocery markets and restaurants. In the Co-Op Meat Market, warehouse manager Milton Pinto recalled being stranded with 31 fellow workers before the storm neared landfall. Most workers lived in Brooklyn and the Bronx. They didn't arrive home until 5 p.m the next day.The meat market closed operations on Tuesday for the first time. Raphael Candelario, a worker at New Fulton Fish Market, was one of two employees in the distribution plant while the waves pummeled the rocky shores. Candelario, 47, arrived to monitor the site at 5 a.m. Monday. “Water came up to the plant between 3 to 4 a.m.,” said Candelario. The river's waters also reached the top of a staircase in a pier house next to the market. In a nearby food distribution plant, Sultana Distribution Services Inc., a security guard surveyed damages from the storm. Adama Makouyate, 45, dressed in a red raincoat and black pants, expressed awe at the 22 stone barriers that were blown 10 to 20 feet away from the edge of a lot facing the East River. The barriers, which weigh more than a ton, lined the lot to protect the distribution plant from the surge. Metal fences lay flat on the pavement, indicating the hurricane’s wind power, which exceeded 70 miles per hour. Hurricane Sandy exposed the city’s lack of storm barriers and infrastructural safeguards. During separate news conferences today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed plans to armor the city from storm surges and sea level rise. Cuomo proposed the possibility of building levees in Lower Manhattan. “We have a 100-year flood every two years now,” said Cuomo. “The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level.” Additional reporting by Adam Perez and Jan Hendrik Hinzel.

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Sandy Bears Down on the Battered Bronx

Parks and Recreation workers warned residents about the powerful storm before locking entrance gates in Barretto Park and other recreational spots in the Bronx. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

The Bronx opened evacuation centers Sunday night, as Hurricane Sandy continued its path toward New York City. About two thirds of the 4-square-mile peninsula is categorized as Zone B by the New York City Office of Emergency Management, meaning that residents can expect a moderate possibility of evacuation. Click here to find out where the nearest evacuation center is near you. In Hunts Point, wind gusts, cloudy skies and light rain covered an area where one of the world's largest food-distribution centers operates in a low-lying location facing the East River.  Hunt Point's produce, meat and seafood market supplies much of the city and surrounding region's grocery markets and restaurants. The National Hurricane Center estimates that the storm system will touch down in New York on Monday evening. The city opened 72 evacuation centers in public schools to accommodate more than 370,000 residents living in flood-prone communities. City officials suspended service of the entire city's transit system and issued mandatory evacuations on Sunday as Hurricane Sandy neared landfall. The tropical storm system gains speed and strength as it travels northward to densely populated areas along the East Coast.

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Hurricane Sandy Barrels Northeast, Raising Caution in Bronx Waterfront

Memories of damages from last year's Hurricane Irene frame cautious preparation for a powerful storm system barreling towards the northeast. Hurricane Sandy, known in social networking sites as 'Frankenstorm', is expected to hit the Eastern Seaboard as early as Sunday evening. Residents in waterfront areas of the East Bronx are preparing for the worst: protecting windows that may shatter from debris brought by strong winds and stocking up on basic needs, NY1 reports. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials urged residents in flood-prone areas to be alert and informed about evacuation zones. Severe weather is forecasted to last for several days.    

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