Working Together for Clean and Safe Public Space

Halloween fun: Garden volunteers hung bags of candy throughout the woodland garden before planting flower bulbs and finishing with mulch. An inflatable ghost offered photos ops. Volunteers rock!

Streets and Parks Survival Guide

Councilman Keith Powers held a video conference with neighborhood associations on October 22 to address sanitation issues and introduce ACE, a cleaning service funded by his office to help stem the tide of trash in our district.  FDHP directors were  assured that Hammarskjold Plaza will be included in the needs of Council District 4, which  extends on the East Side from 14th Street north to 98th Street and widens in midtown to the West Side. ACE works with men and women who are experiencing homelessness, offering them job training, work experience and a support network to help achieve economic self-sufficiency. 

Budget Cuts = Trash Surge: With over  $100 million in budget cuts to Sanitation and $84 million slashed from NYC Parks, the trash problem escalated during the summer. Parks lost 1,700 seasonal workers who help pick up litter in the warm season. Complaints to 311 about litter in our public parks  increased  from 547 in July 2019 to 1024 complaints  in July 2020 and from 442 to 1158 in August.

Hammarskjold Plaza was largely spared from the garbage contagion, thanks to all who contributed to help fund Raymond, our park custodian. Raymond currently services the park  on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, picking up fallen limbs, leaves and storm debris, discarded liquor and soda bottles, food, soiled toilet paper, syringes, mattresses, cardboard boxes, rugs and more.  His presence has curbed homeless encampments and unlawful behavior. On the days when he is present, the park appears groomed and inviting. In between, the work piles up. FDHP contracts the Doe Fund to empty the Plaza’s 19 trash bins twice daily year-round, placing the bags on the curb for pickup. 

FDHP President Sherrill Kazan noted, “The supplemental service from ACE and Councilman Powers is urgently needed to preserve quality of life  and public health in Turtle Bay and Sutton neighborhoods. Litter is a reality of public space. We have received many compliments on the work Raymond is doing, but he is only one person. The plaza and garden require constant attention. Our campaign to fund a full-time park custodian continues, and we depend upon donations to sustain our work. Many thanks to the Turtle Bay Association for a contribution to FDHP of $2,500.” 

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver launched a campaign on August 28 to involve the public and recruit volunteers. “Now more than ever, our parks and green spaces 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, ” said the Commissioner. “We are urging all New Yorkers to help out by disposing trash in designated receptacles or taking it with them when they leave.” Throughout the city, neighborhood groups have mobilized to pick up trash in streets and parks, helping to preserve quality of life.  Our garden shed is stocked with “grabbers,” which make it easy to pick up litter  without bending over and touching the trash. 

Volunteers Turn Out for It’s My Park Day

We  pledged 10 volunteers for this citywide effort (Oct. 17) and 18 individuals signed up, thanks to the Turtle Bay Association’s e-blast, which bolstered our outreach. FDHP organized the activity in accordance with NYC Parks Covid safety and horticultural guidelines. NYC Parks Deputy Commissioner of Operations Liam Kavanagh made a surprise visit and took an impromptu tour of the Katharine Hepburn Garden, noting the lush variety of healthy plants and volunteers at work. Partnerships for Parks Coordinator Ashley Kuenneke also checked in, making sure tools and supplies had been delivered, including a big pile of mulch, recycled from fallen  trees and last year’s discarded Christmas trees

Volunteers of all ages tied on aprons, grabbed tools and tucked into the earth approximately 1000 flower bulbs, which lie dormant until the warmth of spring signals them to sprout and bloom in a splendid show of flower power from March through May.  CLICK ON LINK TO ENJOY: PHOTO SHOW. 

8 Trees Planted in Empty Beds: Last week, NYC Parks replanted trees in 8 out of 12 empty tree beds on the Plaza. Three of the remaining beds require stump removal and and the fourth (near Citibike stand) is marked to flag underground conduits. The lamp post that snapped off in a summer storm was also replaced. Aside from their beauty, trees are the lungs of the city, absorbing carbon dioxide and other toxic gases through tiny pores (stomata) while increasing the oxygen supply through photosynthesis.

The Trees and Sidewalks program took an $11.75 million cut in the fiscal 2021 budget, as well as $7.2 million in tree pruning contracts and $1.5 million in tree stump removal contracts. 

WORKING TOGETHER FOR SAFE PARKS AND STREETS

1.  If you haven’t donated yet, please click the DONATE BUTTON to help support a full-time park attendant. At present, Raymond services Hammarskjold Plaza 3 times per week  He is our “eyes and ears,” providing custodial care at at time when city services face huge budget shortfalls. 

2. Call 311. These calls are logged into a database and dispatched to the appropriate agency.  Take photos and post to 311 with date, time and location. If the problem occurs  in Hammarskjold Plaza, send FDHP the 311 complaint ticket number and we will follow up.  If the situation is life threatening, call 911. 

3. Organize a block clean-up. You can form a group via Nextdoor.com and work with your Councilman to organize tools and supplies. Notify TBA and other neighborhood associations. 

We welcome your feedback: email fdhp@hammarskjoldplaza.org