By Rich Bockmann
You never know what you will find on the shores of Astoria Park.
“We’ve found bullets, passports. One time we found a whole refrigerator,” said Antonio Meloni, who for several years has organized volunteers to tidy up the park on International Coastal Clean-up Day.
Saturday marked the eighth annual clean up of the East River shoreline — a team effort by Green Shores NYC, the Astoria Park Alliance and the Anti-Crime Agency.
“The great thing about it is you get these groups with diverse interests that come and really work together well for a cleaner, safer area,” said Meloni, director of the Anti-Crime Agency.
In past years, the volunteers have filled more than 100 trash bags, which the city Parks Department comes by and picks up. For larger items, such as the abandoned refrigerator or the car bumper found one year, a recycling company is called in to make the haul.
There was a strong wind sweeping along the river Saturday morning, so the group played it safe and did not venture too close to the water, that did not mean the volunteers did not get the full experience.
“There’s plenty to clean, so don’t feel as though you’re being cheated,” Katy Ellman told the 25 or so intrepid volunteers as they carefully climbed a ladder down the seawall to the rocky shore, where they found — among the cans and bottles — a huge piece of Styrofoam that stood taller than some park stewards.
David Ragonetti, a 26-year-old member of Fordham University’s environmental law advocates group, found a perfectly good, unused coconut among the rubbish.
“It’s borderline the most unexpected things down here,” he opined.
Meloni, who also organizes cleanups of Newtown Creek and Bowery Bay, said Astoria Park is unique in that it is one of the few places with access to the shore. He said the annual event was started when parkgoers noticed just how dirty the shore was, pointing out that over the years recycling has had a positive impact on the environment.
“There used to be tons of glass bottles. You don’t see anywhere near the amount you used to see,” he said.
Before they headed down to the shoreline to perform their community service, the volunteers laid a wreath at the park’s Veterans’ Memorial to honor those who died on 9/11.
“A lot of the people who were killed were performing service,” said Meloni. “It’s a little something we can do to show kids who may not realize what 9/11 means.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.