Friends of Gantry Park Reach Out To Its Neighbors
In its 14th year helping care for Long Island City’s Gantry Plaza State Park, the Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park is undertaking a community-wide outreach program to recruit new members and volunteers. In this time of shrinking public funding, Friends relies on the hard work and generosity of its volunteers and donors to augment park staff and city agencies who don’t have the resources available to keep the neighborhood’s plant life and street trees at their absolute best. Volunteers from Friends attend classes, become New York City certified tree pruners, and work with landscape architects and the state horticulturist for the New York City region to educate themselves on the proper way to maintain the gardens and green spaces of the Hunters Point neighborhood.
The mission of our parent organization, the Friends of Gantry Neighborhood Parks, is to maintain the area’s expanding parklands and increasing number of street trees as the Hunters Point neighborhood continues to transform into a vibrant place to call home and do business. The group has had a banner year. Friends has partnered with New York Cares, www.newyorkcares.org, New York City’s largest volunteer organization; has signed a Memo of Agreement with The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to become the official Friends group for Gantry Plaza State Park; has launched a new Web site at www.FriendsofGantry.org; and has just been awarded a $2,600 grant from Parks and Trails New York, www.PTNfY.org, for a community-wide mail campaign to introduce the Web site to this fast-growing section of the city. In addition, the Friends’ dedicated group of volunteer, city-trained citizen tree pruners has just marked its 10th year of maintaining the trees that adorn the streets of Hunters Point.
Friends Vice President Bill Bylewski states, “Members of Friends have raised money over the years through corporate sponsorship and member donations. The mulch and garden supplies needed for us to properly look after Gantry Plaza State Park and the smaller neighborhood parks and street trees cost several thousand dollars a year. On top of that, we have ambitious plans for the future requiring more volunteers and donations to keep up with the still-expanding Gantry Plaza State Park and burgeoning neighborhood. If we can raise enough money, we hope to expand our public/private partnership with the state and provide the services of a professional gardener to assist the Friends and Gantry Plaza’s staff. This year’s projects include a restoration and replanting of a couple of beds of ornamental plants. $8,000 would put us in good shape for this – that’s 400 people donating $20 each, which I hope we can achieve through our community outreach. This is an oasis on the East River, and it has thousands and thousands of trees, shrubs and ornamental plants. We hope that our current campaign, our largest and most far-reaching so far, lays the groundwork for what might grow into a conservancy similar to those that work with many of the signature New York City parks. We continually need new people of all skill levels to contribute their time and energy to this much-needed work. ”
Friends has strived to become an integral part of the community. Friends Environmental Education Committee Chair Don Dodelson has worked with the students of P.S. 78 in Hunters Point and P.S. 112 of Dutch Kills and has used Gantry Plaza State Park as a learning tool – as when the students participated in an Oyster Gardening Program off one of the park’s East River piers. The committee also worked with the Queens Public Library to help move forward the construction of a new library facing Gantry Plaza. Don says, “We wish to continue our involvement with the library/community center so that it can become, in addition to its many other functions, a center for environmental activity and learning.”
The City Parks, Green Spaces and Street Tree Committee Chair Jennie Nyulasi notes, “We do street tree pruning, as a group, monthly from April through November. It has to be done, and the city can’t always get to all the trees. Friends of Gantry offers 50 percent scholarships to any member interested in becoming a certified city tree pruner through the course offered by Trees NY.”
As Friends expands to meet the needs of this growing neighborhood, the group looks forward to working with the many community and business organizations of Long Island City, leveraging the Friends’ efforts and continuing to build the neighborhood’s potential as one of the special gems of the city.
Upcoming Friends events include:
• A general membership meeting open to anyone wishing to become involved in the Friends group to be held Thursday, April 19, 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., at the Citylights Building, 4-74 48th Ave., Activity Room, 3rd Floor, Long Island City.
• New York Cares Day, Spring 2012 on Saturday, April 21, 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the gardens of Gantry Plaza State Park, meet at 49th Avenue and Center Boulevard.
• The first-ever statewide I Love My Park Day, Saturday, May 5 at 10 a.m., meet at 49th Avenue and Center Boulevard.
To find out more about these events and the Friends group, to join this organization and make a donation, or to learn how to volunteer your time and get involved with one of the Friends committees, visit www.FriendsofGantry.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.