Led by a local lawmaker, volunteers in Springfield Gardens spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day in service to the community by sprucing up an area park.
In Dr. King’s spirit of community coalition-building, state Senator James Sanders Jr. joined 74 volunteers and the Parks Department to clean up the Idlewild Park Preserve in Springfield Gardens.
The three-hour cleanup began at the northwestern edge of the park at 230th Street and 149th Avenue, extending throughout the 340-acre salt marsh. Volunteers removed more than 60 cubic yards of debris and garbage left in the park, as well as uprooting Phragmites, an invasive plant species commonly found around salt marshes. Work gloves, shovels, wheelbarrows, garbage bags and metal grabbers were provided by the Parks Department.
Though it was cold, volunteers persevered, taking occasional breaks in the Idlewild Park Preserve Environmental Science Learning Center to warm up with coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cookies provided by Barbara Brown, chairperson of the Eastern Queens Alliance.
Brown explained how illegal dumping had persisted throughout her years as chairperson. “Idlewild is an important ecological resource for everyone, not just those in Southeast Queens,” she said. “To have all these people here helping is wonderful, because it’s not something just one person or one organization can do.”
Sanders noted the importance of this day of service, as established by Congress in 1994.
“This is not a day off, but a day on,” he said, emphasizing Dr. King’s mantra of bettering communities by giving back to others. “As Dr. King famously said: ‘Life’s most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?’ and that’s something we should all be asking ourselves today.”