Plumb job: Vols clean up fetid beach

One piece at a time: East Flatbush resident Karen Marks came out to Plumb Beach to help clean it up and pick up trash.
Brooklyn Daily
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That’s a lotta garbage!

More than 150 volunteers spent their Saturday morning getting down and dirty cleaning up Plumb Beach on Sept. 24 — filling about 160 trash bags with wood, clothes, and bottles to make a fresher home for all of the wildlife that inhabits the Federal parkland. The do-gooders left the beach a lot cleaner than it was when they first arrived, but there’s always more to do, said Ken Chaya from the organization NYC H20, which hosted the cleanup and educates people about New York’s waterways.

“It was fantastic. We lugged away somewhere between four and five truckloads of trash,” he said. “It’s a very pretty site but often gets dumped on by members of the public and also by pieces of piers that float in with the tide. It needs almost continuous cyclical trash removal, and for years that just didn’t happen. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Then-state Sen. Marty Markowitz predicted in the late 1970s that the Belt Parkway-bisected beach could be a recreation destination with a little tender love and care, but the waterfront park’s ship never came in.

One long-time volunteer was shocked by some of the things she was picking up.

“I volunteer a lot, but the beach cleanup was very interesting — the things we were finding was amazing,” said Karen Marks from East Flatbush. “I was wondering where did they come from? Car parts, lots of bottles, we found some clothing, bags, shoes.”

And among all of the oddities found were several used needles, which are actually a fairly common occurrence on the peninsula.

Organizers were careful to dispose of the medical waste safely, said Chaya.

“We flag them, because we don’t want our volunteers picking them up. Either I might pick them up or National Parks Service, in this case, picked them up and removed them,” he said. “We want to make sure people giving us their time as volunteers are spared any chance of danger.”

And another volunteer traveled all the way from distant New Jersey with his 10-year-old son to help beautify the beach area. It’s a long, traffic-filled trip, but being able to make a difference is worth it, he said.

“We always take a picture before and after, and by the end of the activity, we were so happy,” said Alex Hamabuchi. “People passing by saying, ‘Thank you for cleaning up’ — that is the incentive.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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