Picking up the pieces — volunteers help clean out Mermaid Avenue green space

Pile on: Volunteer Phil Kester adds another bag to the pile of refuse taken out of Santos White Garden in Coney Island.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

It really is a community garden now.

Volunteers streamed in from near and far on Nov. 17 to help pick up Santos White Community Garden on Mermaid Avenue between W. 21st and W. 22nd streets, where Sandy’s waters had torn shed doors from their hinges and scattered debris across the neighborhood green space.

“Everything was destroyed. It was just a mess,” said 13-year-old Alyssa Martinez, who journeyed from the Bronx with her mother Melissa to pick up pipes, lumber, trash, and drowned chickens from the patch of grass, flowers, and trees.

The Martinezes weren’t alone: Brian McGinn was among the 30-odd others who helped collect sodden rugs, buried cinderblocks, and ruined Christmas decorations for disposal.

“It was pretty sad,” said McGinn, who has spent the past weeks helping in Prospect Park close to his home, and made the trip to Sandy-shattered Coney with his wife. “Everyday you hear these horror stories of people losing everything, we just had to help out.”

By the end of the day, trash bags piled high on the curb, but both McGinn and Martinez said they know that work is far from over — and said they intend to continue helping where they can.

“You have to let people know, ‘Hey, we know what you’re going through, and we’re with you on this,’ ” said Martinez.

McGinn said he and his wife plan to volunteer again immediately after Thanksgiving.

“Any type of way we can be of help to the community, we’re going to do, because it was so hard hit,” said McGinn. “There’s lots to be done. These places are going to take a long time to clean up.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at wbredderman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman

More from Around New York