Reopen NYC: As New Yorkers pack city parks, trash piles up

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As New Yorkers pack city parks to escape the confines of their homes during the coronvirus pandemic, trash is piling up.

But now, the Riverside Park Conservancy is stepping in to clean up and maintain Riverside Park -- and asking for help to do so.

The New York City Department of Parks confirms that an $84 million budget cut affected seasonal jobs that went unfilled this year, impacting the hiring of 1,700 seasonal maintenance staff.

The result is being down 45% of usual staff during the high season, meaning fewer people to pick up trash, cut grass and perform general upkeep.

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Riverside Park CEO and President Dan Garodnick sent the following letter to area residents:

Dear Neighbor,

"We have been very unhappy seeing the trash build up in Riverside Park - and in parks throughout the city. We know the cause: as a result of budget cuts, the Parks Department today has 45 percent less staff to handle tasks like picking up trash and cleaning. (This means the Parks Department's Riverside Park staff is working twice as hard, but it's impossible for them to keep up, especially with park use now heavier than it has ever been.)

That's why Riverside Park Conservancy is stepping in to help. We have retained the Greenkeepers, a crew from Goddard Riverside, to help us address this growing problem. The Greenkeepers started yesterday, and will be out in the Park from Monday to Saturday, for several hours a day, bagging garbage, picking up trash - and helping us to keep Riverside Park clean. We are already seeing a positive impact.

While we all understand that our tax dollars should be taking care of this, the Parks Department simply does not have the budget needed to do the job. And we will not just sit idly by while garbage flows over cans, and rats have a field day.

This program is going to cost us at least $240 a day, and we want to keep it going as long as we can afford to do it. Will you chip in to help clean up Riverside Park? Every $240 gets us another day of work.

CLICK HERE to donate.

If you would prefer to volunteer to help out, we hope you will join us! Our regular volunteers, as well as the Littoral Society, Community Board 7, Repair The World, and OneBlock are already helping us get a handle on this problem. We also have two big volunteer days coming up - September 19 and September 26 - and hope you will email grassroots@riversideparknyc.org if you are interested in joining.

If nothing else, we hope you will do your part by taking your own garbage home with you. Thanks for helping us keep Riverside Park clean.


Meanwhile, NYC Parks has announced a new multi-pronged campaign this week to address excessive trash being left in parks across the city.

With a simple message: "Show your park some love, New York. Put trash in a bag or can or take it with you," the department is urging New Yorkers to do their part.

"Now more than ever, our parks and greenspaces are places of refuge and we have been working hard despite the ongoing pandemic and budget reductions to keep them clean for all to enjoy, " NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said. "We are urging all New Yorkers to help out by disposing trash in designated receptacles, or taking it with them when they leave."

The anti-trash campaign includes ads on LinkNYC and city bus shelters, and a PSA. Ads will also be posted in grocery stores and park entrances, and barbecue and picnic areas across the city.

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In addition to the new ads, the parks department is creating more than 100 highly visible branded trash corrals at picnic and barbecue areas in heavily used parks.

Staff will also continue to distribute trash bags to parkgoers to encourage them to dispose of refuse in receptacles, in the new corrals, or take out when they leave.

As part of the anti-trash campaign, the department is working with local elected officials and partner organizations to stand up volunteer events to assist with the cleanup efforts.

Several elected officials have already started volunteer cleanups including borough presidents Ruben Díaz Jr. and Eric Adams, council members Justin Brannan, Francisco Moya, and many more.

With volunteer initiatives to tackle trash in parks currently underway, the department is asking anyone interested in hosting or engaging in a volunteer cleanup to contact their local elected representative, friends group, or Partnerships for Parks.

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