2013-09-06 / Columnists

Go Parks!

By Sabina Saragoussi


After the storm: volunteers in winter coats help clear sand and dig out Beach 30th Street Playground. Photos by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks After the storm: volunteers in winter coats help clear sand and dig out Beach 30th Street Playground. Photos by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks Since Partnerships for Parks’ inception in 1995, the program has supported a number of community groups working in parks across the Rockaway Peninsula. Queens park volunteers are always coming up with creative ways to involve local residents and program their neighborhood parks.

Rockaway park volunteers are evoking positive change on the peninsula every day through their tireless efforts, whether it be planning a costume contest for dogs, painting a mural on a jersey barrier along Shore Front Parkway, or planting perennials at an entrance garden in Bayswater Park. Partnerships for Parks provides staffing and resources to support these efforts.

Coming up in October is our annual It’s My Park Day (IMPD), which we’ve made into a month-long festival of volunteering and volunteerism throughout the city. Dates and locations of IMPD are still coming together, but until then you can get your volunteer muscles in shape with some of the events listed on the NYC Parks website.

Probably at no time on the Peninsula, or around the city for that matter, has the spirit of volunteerism been felt as strongly as in those first days after Hurricane Sandy last fall. Thousands came and helped reclaim tons of beach sand, cleared the beaches of debris and contributed mightily to Rockaway’s can-do spirit.

For dog owners, Allied Rockaway Foundation for Animal Recreation and Fitness, better known as Arf-Arf, is a group that provides a variety of funfilled games and activities for man’s best friends at Rockaway Freeway Park’s dog run on Rockaway Freeway at Beach 84th Street. Arf-Arf worked closely with Parks to create a separate small dog run, install “poop-bag” dispensers and a bulletin board to inform visitors of any news and activities.

The group received a Partnerships for Parks Capacity Fund grant in 2007 for maintaining their website and for a pamphlet to inform community members about the run and attract new members. The group organizes exciting events throughout the year including a “Canine Ice Cream Social,” where frozen dog treats are served, a “Canine Costume Carnival” which is a fashion show showcasing adoptable dogs and “It's My Bark Day.”

Members of Arf-Arf were also standout participants in the Partnerships Academy which is a yearlong program for park groups wishing to increase their capacity and broaden their skill sets. Academy workshop topics include (but are not limited to): working with elected officials; planning park events/programs; optimizing social media outlets, and 501(c) (3) nonprofit incorporation. Be sure to look out for Arf-Arf’s “It’s My Bark Day” this coming October.

There are also groups providing arts and cultural programs to the Rockaway community. In 2012, the Rockaway Civic Association received a Capacity Fund Grant to bring new programming and build community, most notably through "Beach Flix," a summer film series with free movies on the beach at various locations.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Partnerships for Parks staff, in coordination with NYC Parks Maintenance and Operations and NYC Service, held ongoing relief projects to clear sand and debris from local parks, beaches and playgrounds. In fact, there was a PFP staffer in the Rockaways every weekend working with corporate groups like Time Warner Cable, Disney and BNP Paribas and various community-based organizations until the sand started to freeze at the end of December. Staff ensured supply delivery for these projects and kept volunteers abreast of Parks’ efforts to restore the beach.

Just days after the storm, volunteers were recruited both locally and from across the city (and in some cases from out of state!) to help with the clean-up efforts. Between early November and mid-December, Partnerships had engaged more than 2,000 volunteers in Queens in more than 30 projects to assist with storm relief, the majority focused on the Rockaway peninsula.

The beaches were open this summer in large part because of the work those volunteers did, which is why we’re saying:

Go Volunteer! Go Park! Sabina Saragoussi is the Director of Partnership for Parks, the volunteer arm of NYC Parks and the City Parks Foundation.

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