More than 70 volunteers from the NYC Plover Project will be keeping a watchful eye on the crowds that are expected over the long July 4th weekend at the beaches along the western end of the Rockaway Peninsula.
Brooklyn resident Chris Allieri began organizing the nonprofit organization during the COVID-19 pandemic after seeing dogs running off-leash on the beaches where just under a hundred Piping Plovers nested in the dunes.
“We are the first of its kind volunteer effort to protect the endangered species in New York City,” Allieri told QNS Friday before heading off to the Rockaways for the holiday weekend.” In 2021 we had over 50 volunteers out on the beaches each day connecting with oftentimes clueless beachgoers. We quickly won over some of the iciest folks with a cute logo, temporary tattoos and stickers. We were out at Fort Tilden and Breezy Point Tip, partnering with the National Park Service and we already have double that many volunteers this year.”
In early spring, the tiny birds fly thousands of miles from the warm shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean to the shores of New York Harbor. They make their summer homes hidden within the dunes of the beaches along the western end of the Rockaway Peninsula. With less than 8,000 piping plovers left globally, the birds are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.
“We are expecting huge crowds at the beaches during this long holiday weekend which has a perfect weather prediction. It’s going to be a fun weekend for folks but also a little bit stressful for those of us who are looking after these endangered birds,” Allieri said. “Our approach is not to enforce rules, we’re just there to help people understand that the beaches of the Rockaways are ecosystems, they’re not just recreation areas.”
His organization is comprised of residents of Queens and Brooklyn that have an understanding of the threat of climate change and the challenges faced by the tiny birds.
“I think that Queens folks and Rockaway residents specifically know about climate change whether or not we want to get into the politics of climate change or anything like that,” Allieri explained. We’ve seen it, we’ve seen it with these storms, we’ve seen it with erosion, we’ve seen it with narrower beaches. If you want to see the effects of climate change just watch the Piping Plovers running around the beach hurrying everywhere. It’s almost as if you can see them working hard to protect themselves and their species.”
And that is where the NYC Plover Project helps the tiny birds and their chicks survive.
“As we head into the July 4th weekend, it’s a moment to celebrate our country. It’s a moment of celebration of what we can do as individuals and conservation and wildlife protection in one of these few issues where the left and the right can come together,” Allieri said. “It’s really special that we can go out there and help this underdog, you know the most vulnerable being on the beach as a young Piping Plover and so why not do all we can to protect them.”