Earth Day draws volunteers to Brooklyn Bridge Park cleanup

Volunteers worked to clean up Brooklyn Bridge Park on Earth Day 2022.
Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Volunteers got down to work across the borough this Earth Day, including 25 New Yorkers, young and old, who spent their morning picking up trash and removing dead weed at Brooklyn Bridge Park, so that marine life might find a less hostile home.

Cleaners filled dozens of trash bags with waste they handpicked for over three hours to keep it from ending up in the East River. The North Brooklyn greenspace has an important environmental role this time of year, when high tides bring millions of organisms to the shore.

According to the United Nations, environmental polluting and exploitation is one of the causes for climate change, “the defining crisis of our time.”

“Our trash specifically might not end up right here, but it ends up somewhere, so why not pick the one that is here?” said volunteer Daria Nuchdina, who works at a hotel near the park. “We shouldn’t let it be a matter of picking up trash, we should prevent the creation of waste from the moment we buy stuff at stores, skipping disposable wrappings, bottles and even recyclable stuff that will never get recycled. Millions live in New York and could stop millions of plastic caps from being trash.”

Volunteers worked from 7:30 to 10 am until the park was clean.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Events like Earth Day bring out the best in Brooklyn, said Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy staff at the cleanup.

“Getting to meet volunteers is the best part of the job,” worker Elizabeth Harnett told Brooklyn Paper. “These are people who work together because they care about their community and the rest of the world.”

And while the group is seeing more volunteers than in recent years, the conservancy still needs help, she said.

“We are getting back to the numbers of volunteers we used to have before the pandemic,” Harnett said. “Those who showed up during that time did crucial work, but we need more support.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park has a broad sustainability scheme. Lawns and trees are managed organically and are left untailored to attracts birds and insects, while soil is treated with compost teas and organic matter. Structures within the park feature green roofs that absorb rainwater, provide building insulation, create habitat for wildlife and help to lower urban air temperatures.

The greenspace is also one of the sites where Billion Oyster Project started the Community Reefs Program which, with the help of nearly 5,000 middle and high school students, aims to revive the Harbor’s ecosystem that was once covered by trillions of oysters.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is visited by millions of people each year. Bird watchers have spotted over 120 species along the riverfront park.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Friday’s cleanup of Brooklyn Bridge Park was a part of Earth Day’s Great Global Cleanup, a worldwide campaign to remove billions of pieces of trash from neighborhoods, beaches, rivers, lakes and parks to reduce waste and plastic pollution, improving habitats, and preventing harm to wildlife and humans. The organization announced cleanups will continue until October and applications for volunteering are open.

“Its unfair that some animals cant get out of the river without bumping into trash, some might even die from it,” said Noel Busitina, a 17 year-old first-time volunteer.

First-time and veteran volunteers agreed about the significance of global events like Earth Day, the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in nearly 192 countries to build environmental democracy. Since the inaugural Earth Day on April 22, 1970, more than one billion people now participate in activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.