It’s time to do some spring cleaning. A mass effort spearheaded by some local residents is in the works to bring some tender loving care to the community. On Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, all are welcome to do their part and participate in a peninsula-wide cleanup.
In January, a cleanup effort around Beach 101st and the Rockaway Freeway, organized by Torey Schnupp, Mike Scala, John Cori and Christine James, inspired an effort to do more. Local resident, Christine James wanted to take it a step further, by broadening the effort on a peninsula-wide scale, to unite the community in doing something positive.
Having lived on various parts of the peninsula her whole life, James says she’s often noticed areas that tend to accumulate trash. From overflowing trash baskets or areas that don’t have any, to the beach breezes scattering trash, to people making it a habit of adding garbage to areas where trash already accumulates, James says there are a number of factors contributing to why parts of the peninsula have become messy and could use some “tender loving care.” With the Covid pandemic putting a financial strain on and understaffing city agencies, it seems as of late, the problems have become exacerbated, so James hopes the community can come out strong on Saturday, April 24 to do their part, no matter how big or small.
So far, with the efforts of “Bringing Back Rockaway,” a coalition spearheading the event, it is quickly becoming bigger than imagined. From local school groups to nonprofit organizations, boy and girl scout troops, civic associations, local precincts and others, many are starting to jump on board to help with the mass cleanup effort, and organizers are encouraging even more to join in to make it a success and to create some unity at a time when many are divided. “We’re gonna do this cleanup and we need all to be part a part of it. Everyone needs to work together, and we need unity because there’s a lot of divide here. Let’s bring some unity and get this town clean,” James said.
For several weeks, James has been reaching out to everyone from local elected officials to local organizations to spread the word and recruit people for the mission. She’s also put out requests for areas that people would like to see be cleaned up, as well as taken the time to drive around the peninsula to see firsthand areas that could use more attention. A list of target areas so far includes Beach Channel Drive from Beach 130th heading uptown toward the ramp to Roxbury, the shopping corridors of Beach 129th and Beach 116th Street, the northside of the boardwalk from Beach 126th to Beach 109th Street, Rockaway Beach Boulevard from Beach 121st to Beach 108th Street, the Rockaway Freeway from Beach 108th to Beach 84th Street, Rockaway Beach Boulevard from Beach 107th to Beach 102nd Street, Rockaway Beach Boulevard from Beach 101st to Beach 84th Street, Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Freeway from Beach 84th to Beach 77th Street, Beach Channel Drive from Beach 76th to Beach 59th Street, Beach 67th Street to Beach 30th Street and Edgemere and Seagirt Blvd., the merchant strip around Beach 20th and Mott Avenue, Beach 9th Street from Seagirt Blvd. to the beach. Groups of volunteers will be split up to pick up trash in each area next Saturday.
As word has spread, more and more people have teamed up with James to make this effort a success. One of those people includes Helen Montero, a local resident, community board member, a member of FRANC and staff member for Queens Defenders, who James calls “a powerhouse,” for her efforts to rally organizations on the east end of the peninsula. Montero says when she heard about the effort through Dan Brown of the Queens District Attorney’s office, she instantly wanted to get involved. “We’ve been trying as a community board to merge and unite the different areas of the Rockaway and I felt doing this with everyone would just be amazing,” she said. Using her connections, Montero has been reaching out to organizations such as local nonprofits that serve youth, business associations, the 101st Precinct, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and others on the east end to get on board. “This is slowly becoming a bigger event and I’m so excited about it,” Montero said.
Another “powerhouse” in this effort, according to James is Liz Hanna, who is helping to put some extra focus on Beach 116th Street. “Beach 116th Street has not been looking so good. Liz Hanna brought up fixing up the planters around Beach 116th and has been trying to work on raising money and partnering with Lisena Garden Center to redo all of the planters because they need a lot of tender loving care,” James said. Through the Rockaway Businesses Need You group, Hanna has been raising money through gift card raffles to help support the effort. Local organizations like The Graybeards and Rockaway WISH have also helped and Hanna plans on requesting donations from businesses on the block to help out. With the funding, Lisena will be tasked with redoing the planters around the block with mini spruce evergreens, hopefully ahead of next Saturday’s cleanup, and there may be other efforts in the future for a community planting in which volunteers can plant colorful perennials in the planters to bring some beauty to the block.
James says she’s excited to see the effort shape up and encourages others to join, whether it’s by volunteering in one of the target areas, or cleaning up their own block or yard. “I feel like our community comes together during any kind of crisis or to help people and I thought why don’t we all come together for this event. I really think it’s a peninsula wide issue and I think it’s important that we all get involved. And with all the divide, I think we need something right now to show we’re united. We really need to get back to being there for each other. Let’s get this cleaned up. Let’s show people what it looks like to live someplace nice and beautiful,” she said.