* All photos were provided by Amanda Abel.
America’s “Superstorm” may have passed two weeks ago, but its wreckage path remains. New York is no exception: Countless have been displaced from the hard-hit Rockaways, Manhattan subways lines are still on hold and thousands of Staten Islanders still don’t have power. Bayside, Queens saw more wind than rain, and many areas still had electricity— but the environment got the storm’s brunt.
“We didn’t get hit terribly hard, which we’re happy about,” says Bayside Marina employee Eric, “but the trees along the Cross Island Path definitely got it the worst.” Indeed— Many of the popular Parkway’s elms and hickories were uprooted and knocked into the path, much to the community’s dismay. The waterfront grass is also full of litter— some of which traveled for miles. Fall may be a time of transition, but scattered leaves are not usually accompanied by the rest of the tree, or mass litter. Baysider Amanda Abel knows this all too well, and was one of the first ones to help restore the area.
Abel drove down the Parkway the Friday after the storm, and lost her breath at the sight of the wreckage. The true extent of the damage hit her during a routine run through the park the following Saturday. “It was so shocking to see the volume of trash, sewage and seaweed covering the grass and pavement,” she says. “I could just see joggers like me climbing over trees and mountains of debris.” She has an active relationship with the area: During the summer, she either runs or bikes across the parkway before work.
Abel was also struck, however, by the people near Little Bay Park—some organized, some there of their own accord— picking up trash. She went home and returned with a box of garbage bags and a willing friend. Feeling she “owed this to the park,” she spent the next three hours shoveling and bagging garbage along the greenway. Branches were only the tip of the iceberg: there were (and are) thousands of bottlecaps, lots of plastic bottles in all sizes, a few syringes and “more Styrofoam than Abel has ever seen in her life.” Abel’s twenty bags just managed to cover thirty feet of litter on the Crocheron Overpass.
At first very few people stopped to thank the women, but a handful eventually joined her efforts. Most notably, one bicyclist donated his riding gloves to use as work gloves.
Current gas shortages have kept Abel’s efforts in the area, but they are determined and ongoing. “The group is really focused on cleaning the area,” says Eric. “I’ve seen them out there every day for a while.”
The Cross Island Parkway is Fort Totten’s domain, and it marks one of over 26,000 reports of tree damage in Queens, which, according to a New York City Parks spokesperson, “Was hit the hardest of all the boroughs.” The parks services are hard at work evaluating and repairing damage; but down-to-earth clean-up efforts like Amanda Abel’s are a strong place for the job to start, and may ripple into more community involvement.
There is still plenty of work to be done, and local volunteers clean the area almost every day. This attests to Bayside residents’ concern for their environment, and a willingness to own its damage. Abel is currently back at work, but plans continue restoring the greenway each weekend. “The asphalt and I are good friends,” she says. “I hate to see it in this kind of distress.”