Building Community at Jacob Riis Park

Thursday, June 6, 2013
James Coyle

If I were to describe my first week in the field with SCA in three words, they would be “fun,” “tiring,” and “rewarding.” Even though I am using those three words to sum up my week, they don't nearly come close to describing what I've done. Working on our first project, getting to know our fellow crew leaders, and learning the skills involved in being a crew leader have all been incredible. Not to mention that the view from our work site is simply beautiful, with the new World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and Coney Island serving as a backdrop against the bay.

We began our week by examining several of the work sites around Staten Island to see the damage and get an overview of some of the work we would be doing. For our first project we have started work at Jacob Riis Park, at the Riis Landing Site on Jamaica Bay. This area was heavily affected by Sandy, as the storm surge swept all the way over the park from the ocean to the bay, bringing sand and debris along with it. Our work mainly consists of removing sand from areas where it shouldn’t be, clearing debris, and improving access to the beach. We have also been working to save the native dune grass so it can be transplanted to other parts of Gateway National Recreation Area, where it is needed to help stabilize the dunes.

While moving sand by hand is very tiring, it is very gratifying to see the site improve, literally by the hour. It is also very rewarding to speak with patrons of the park and have them thank you for the work you are doing. Today a group of veterans came from the Hope for the Veterans organization for a fishing trip. Having them thank us for our work made it all worth it, and we in turn thanked them for their service to our nation.

Getting to know our fellow crew leaders has probably been my favorite part of the work so far. Everyone in the crew is very friendly, and you can sense the determination they all have to restore these parks. It is interesting to hear everyone trade their stories from the hurricane, since almost everyone in the crew is from the NY/NJ area. While everyone was affected in different ways, the one common theme seems to be that after the storm people came together to help one another. I think that theme still carries on today, as the storm is what brought us all together to help our community this summer. The bonding that occurs when people are working hard together is paralleled by few other things, and I can already tell that by the end of this project we will all be very close.

In addition to getting to know everyone, I've also been learning a lot this week. I've already learned quite a bit about the local ecology, as well as SCA protocols and procedures, and also fun games I can use later when I have my own crew. Diving right into the work, as we have, has created a bit of a learning curve, but I don't think I would have it any other way. I feel the best way to learn something is by doing it, and that is exactly what we have been doing this week. Having the experience of veteran SCA members has also been a great help. Everyone brings their own unique experiences and skills to the table, and that has helped to make the work that much easier.

Right now I'm looking forward to attending SCA crew leader training for the weekend and learning even more. The event will be attended by all the crew leaders from the mid-Atlantic, so I'm excited to meet everyone and have some fun!

Project Location: 

Jamaica Bay, NY

Carolyn Lucey

AEO Crew Leader
Gateway National Recreation Area
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Jamal Garcia

AEO Crew Member
Gateway National Recreation Area
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James Coyle

Leader Team Member
Gateway National Recreation Area
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Molly Lewen

Sandy Crew One Member
Sandy Hook
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Vicki Rubino

Leader Team Leader
Gateway National Recreation Area
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Victoria Pennacchio

SCA Crew Member
Gateway National Recreation Area
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Project Locations

Jamaica Bay, NY
Staten Island, NY
Sandy Hook, NJ
Other Project Sites