Charles Park gets post-Sandy makeover

Photo courtesy of SCA

Howard Beach’s Frank M. Charles Memorial Park at long last got a makeover after Sandy swept through last October.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) joined the Parks Department and the Jamaica Bay Restoration Corps to make fixes at Frank Charles Park still needed after Sandy.

Twenty high school students ages 15 to 19 came out to dig, fill ditches, paint and clean beaches and more over a two-week period in July.

“[The students] are doing meaningful work to try and get this neighborhood back to the level they were at before Sandy hit,” said Diane Stanley, program manager for SCA’s New York City and New Jersey Sandy Recovery.

Half of the students cleaning up in Howard Beach were from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, an area also heavily hit by Sandy. Stanley said the intermingling of the students, along with seeing the different affected areas, is rewarding for them.

The Sandy Recovery program is also working throughout areas of Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey.

In Howard Beach, the SCA, Parks and Jamaica Bay Restoration Corps are moving towards “recovery and resiliency,” Stanley said.

Jayden Nelson, 17, an SCA volunteer, said before starting on the Howard Beach project, he did not know what conservation meant. He discovered it meant “restoring all parts,” and with that, he jumped into the SCA clean-up.

“I thought if I could help somebody else, that would be great,” he said. “It feels great that you’ve contributed to someone else’s home and life.”

Nelson said the residents around the park have watched and encouraged the clean-up team, expressing gratitude throughout the process.

“This neighborhood was destroyed, so now I feel like I’m a part of this community because I get to help restore it to what it was,” said Nelson’s brother 14-year-old brother Treson.

He added that outside of restoring the area, he has enjoyed spending time with his coworkers and meeting new people.

“I’m not a people person, but everybody I’ve met has been great. We’ve been having a lot of fun,” he said.