The Canarsie Street Team, a local organization dedicated to improving the environmental health of Canarsie, got a head start on Earth Day 2023 celebrations, one week early. Working in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the group implemented a “beautification project” that spanned a cross section of the community from East 96th Street to East 92nd Street and Flatlands to Foster Avenues.
The initiative, which was unveiled by board members Jennifer Viechweg-Horsford and Clover March on Friday, April 14th, was also supported by NYC Parks Department, NYC Sea Grant, Jamaica Bay – Coastal Resilience, LEAD*N, Action Corps New York, 69th Precinct Youth Officers and Community School District 18.
The cleanup team was comprised of mainly high-schoolers fulfilling community service requirements, but also some senior citizens and even 3-year-old tots. Debbie Louis, President of East 96th Street and Rockaway Parkway Block Association, attended the event accompanied by seven of her young neighbors. She spoke of the importance of having the community, particularly the youths, involved. “We are the watchdogs,” she stressed. “If it’s not us, then it’s nobody.” Viechweg-Horsford agreed, adding, “If we are to address this environmental issue, we must have the young people lead.”
Under the supervision of DEP personnel, the “environmentalists” cleared trash from the streets, sidewalks and storm drains, then stenciled messages “ONLY RAIN DOWN THE DRAIN” and “THIS IS NOT A TRASH CAN” as reminders to not litter.
DEP representative Sara Pecker explained that that type of messaging is important because people need to be aware of what happens to the trash they drop on the ground. “If you leave your trash on the street or throw your pet waste in there [storm drains], it winds up in the waterways. So, you have to keep reminding people that this is what we don’t do,” she stated.
Katie Graziano, a Coastal Resilience specialist, explained further that trash often clogs storm drains and usually results in flooding. She revealed the agency’s plans to implement rain gardens, “a form of stormwater infiltration,” to the community in the coming year.
“This is not just a cleanup campaign,” Viechweg-Horsford stated. “We are intentionally identifying sources of stormwater pollution in our community and working together with DEP and other agencies to protect our waters.”