Volunteer Opportunities in Manhattan and the Bronx

When considering the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on other neighborhoods, we are very fortunate to have not sustained extensive damage in Council District 8 and we believe that it’s time to give back to others who have not been as fortunate in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Below are volunteer opportunities that could use your help:


  • On Friday, November 2nd at around 12:00 noon, we will be meeting up with Council Member Margaret Chin (District 1), where Hurricane Sandy hit the hardest in Manhattan, at the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation (CPLDC) on 60 St. James Place.  From there, volunteers will be assigned to different tasks to assist downtown. While transit is still a challenge downtown, the M15 Select Bus Service on 1st and 2nd Avenues (which will again be free tomorrow) is a great option to get to CPLDC.


  • The Food Bank needs volunteers at their warehouse in the Bronx. People are needed tomorrow (Friday, November 2) to repack donated food for delivery to emergency food organizations. The volunteer shifts are 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 1:30 – 3:30 PM. For more information, contact the Food Bank’s Triada Stampas at 917-568-3389. Address: 355 Food Center Drive, Bronx NY 10474. It is accessible by subway/bus combo: 6 to Hunts Pt, then the Bx6 bus to the Hunts Pt Market.
  • Lehman College is currently being used as a shelter and is taking volunteers. Address: 250 Bedford Park Blvd, Bronx NY 10458

Additionally, the Parks Department is accepting volunteers to help aid in clean-up and recovery of parks citywide. For those who would like to volunteer, please follow the provided link to submit a volunteer application. When showing up to help, please remember to dress appropriately – closed-toe shoes and clothes that can get dirty are appropriate. Bring a water bottle and snacks (water refills and restrooms will be available at each site). All supplies for the clean up effort will be provided. Children 12 and older are allowed to lend a hand.

MANHATTAN – Click here to register to volunteer.

  • Randall’s Island (Friday & Saturday only)
  • Happy Warrior Playground (West 98th and Amsterdam Avenue)
  • Annunciation Park (West 135th Street btwn Amsterdam and Convent Avenues)
  • Carl Schurz Park (East 87th Street and East End Avenue)
  • Anne Loftus Playground (at Fort Tyron Park – Broadway at Riverside Drive)

BRONX – Click here to register to volunteer.

  • Van Cortlandt Park (1 Bronx River Parkway)
  • Orchard Beach (Park Drive and Orchard Beach Road)

Council Members Mark-Viverito and Brewer Urge New Yorkers to Respect Directive to Stay Out of Parks

Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito (Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee) and Gale A. Brewer, who represent districts on the east and west sides of Central Park, issued the following statement to urge New Yorkers to follow the City’s directive to stay out of parks.

“Hurricane Sandy has had a devastating impact on our city’s public parks, including over 250 downed trees in Central Park alone. As Council Members who surround the park, we are strongly urging our constituents to please heed the directives to stay out of Central Park and all of our parks until further notice. This directive is meant for everyone’s safety. 

“We have already had incidents of people who have tragically been killed by falling trees in the wake of Sandy. Just because the storm is over, it does not mean that branches can no longer shift and fall down. Unfortunately, we have heard reports of individuals trying to defy the directive to stay out of the parks and force their way in. The Parks Department and the Conservancy are hard at work to clean up Central Park and make it safe for everyone’s enjoyment as soon as possible, but in order to do so safely, they need the park to be free of non-essential personnel.

“We are clearly in the process of a long recovery from the storm in areas across the city, including our public parks. This is a time for us all to come together. There are people in neighboring communities who are in desperate need of assistance, and so the most efficient use of our city’s resources has become more important than ever. We ask that everyone please respect directives from the City that are only intended to keep us all safe and allow the clean-up efforts to move forward as quickly as possible.

“Like all New Yorkers, we look forward to the reopening of our parks and thank Parks Department staff, conservancy groups and all those that are helping in the clean-up efforts across the city.”

Free Self-Defense Training Workshop in Central Park

Following the recent disturbing, violent attacks towards women in our parks, Melissa, along with Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and Council Members Gale A. Brewer and Jessica Lappin, will be sponsoring a Free Self-Defense Training run by The Center for Anti-Violence Education. This workshop is open to all over the age of 13, including seniors, although it is geared towards women and the LGBT community. Here’s your chance to learn how to defend yourself – RSVP today & make sure to wear comfortable clothes!

WHAT: FREE Self-Defense Training Workshop
WHEN: Sunday, October 7th, 2012 from 2 – 4 PM
WHERE: North Meadow Recreation Center in Central Park (Mid-Park at 97th Street)
RSVP: events@council.nyc.gov or 212.788.6871

* Training will also be provided in Spanish / También se proporcionará capacitación en español 

New York Restoration Project Winter Planning Meeting and Gardens for the City

The New York Restoration Project will be holding its Winter Planning Meeting on Friday, February 17th at 6pm. Come to La Cabana Restaurant (2277 First Avenue – corner of 117th St. and First Ave.). They are working on getting more trees, vegetables, and garden beds in East Harlem/El Barrio. There will be free tacos and nachos and all are welcome to attend.

In addition, NYRP is accepting applicants for the Gardens for the City Program. This program offers support to transform property accessible to the public. Schools, community centers, and non-profits can receive building materials and support in construction, horticulture, forestry and environmental education. Applications are due by February 15.

Frederick Douglass Memorial Dedicated

Photo by William Alatriste.

On Tuesday, Melissa, Congressman Rangel, Senator Perkins, Councilwoman Dickens, and a direct descendant of Frederick Douglass gathered for the Frederick Douglass Memorial Ribbon-cutting Ceremony. The memorial honors Douglass, an African American abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. The portrait sculpture of Douglass stands eight feet tall and is encircled by a large fountain with ornamental and symbloic features. The design was crafted by Gabriel Koren and Algernon Miller.

The crossroad of Central Park West and 110th street had been designated for Douglass in 1950, but the site laid unimproved for many decades. In the 1990s, there was a renewed public effort to complete the site, which included a series of community-based design workshops organized by the Central Park Conservatory. In 2003 Koren, a Hungarian-born sculptor, and Miller, a Harlem-based artist, were selected to complete the site following an intense design competition sponsored by the Cityscape Institute.

Also in attendance was Tony Award nominee Andre Deshields, who dressed as Frederick Douglass, delivered excerpts from “Oration In Memory Of Abraham Lincoln,” which was made by Douglass originally in 1876 at the unveiling of Freedmen’s Monument in Washington D.C. Melissa was deeply moved by the speech and hopes that everyone will read it patiently and with sincere appreciation: “The struggle against oppression continues today and will endure for years to come. Douglass’ words are an invaluable inspiration to keep fighting for justice.”

Council Member Viverito Responds to NLRB Decision Regarding Central Park Boathouse

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chair of the New York City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee, issued the following statement in response to the decision by the National Labor Relations Board to issue a legal complaint against the Central Park Boathouse and to seek a judicial order that would force the restaurant into contract negotiations with the New York Hotel Trades Council:

“The forthcoming NLRB ruling will substantiate what we’ve suspected all along — that the workers of the Boathouse have experienced severe violations of their right to organize,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Now that the NLRB has weighed in, the Parks Department can no longer remain silent on this matter. I urge the Department to step in and ensure that Dean Poll complies with the findings of the NLRB. If he does not, the City should immediately terminate the contract. We as a City should have clear expectations from all those entities we do business with that the rights of their workers must be respected.  We cannot sit idly by and continue to allow an employer operating on city-owned land to willingly and willfully violate workers’ rights.”

Tomorrow: Celebrate the Launch of Senior Hours at Jefferson Pool with a Pool Party!

Tomorrow is the official launch of hours exclusively for seniors at El Barrio/East Harlem’s Jefferson Pool.  To celebrate, Melissa’s office will be co-sponsoring a Senior Pool Party tomorrow at 9:00 am in conjunction with Age Friendly NYC, the Parks Department and the New York Academy of Medicine.  Senior hours will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 am to 11:00 am during the months of July and August at Jefferson Pool (112th Street and 1st Avenue).  Tomorrow’s Senior Pool Party will include snacks and music, as well as give-a-ways including free swimming caps, t-shirts and locks.

Senior pool hours is the latest initiative to come out of the El Barrio/East Harlem Age Improvement District (AID), which is coordinated jointly by the New York Academy of Medicine and our office and seeks to make our neighborhood more liveable for older adults.  Our AID is the first to launch in the city, and El Barrio/East Harlem is the first community in New York City to have specialized hours for seniors to swim in a public pool.

The idea for senior pool hours emerged directly from surveys completed by local older adults as part of the AID initiative.  Seniors expressed a desire to take advantage of the health and recreational benefits of swimming but were hesitant to do so at times when pools were more crowded with children and families.

Please help us spread the word about tomorrow’s Pool Party and our new senior pool hours!

NY Daily News: Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids

Cross-posted on the NYC Council Parks & Recreation Committee blog.

Ballfields at $120 million Randalls Island largely unused, not attracting neighborhood kids


If you build it, they will come – but not to Randalls Island.

Dozens of new ballfields in the sprawling park beneath the RFK-Triborough Bridge went unused last summer by the kids who need them most, the city parks boss admits.

And with school almost out for summer, advocates are complaining the $120 million revamp of Randalls Island Park in early 2010 created a playground for the rich and took crucial dollars from neighborhood ballfields.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cited the low traffic earlier this year to justify plans for a private sports camp.

“Fields on Randalls Island have gone largely unused during weekday daytime hours in July and August, and thus availability should not be an issue,” he wrote City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in January.

The deal called for Florida-based IMG Academies to operate the camp on Randalls Island after donating $200,000 to the Randalls Island Sports Foundation. But plans for the $895-a-week camp fell through in April, with IMG citing low enrollment.

Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem/Bronx) slammed the pricey park rehab, claiming thousands of trees were cut down to make way for the artificial turf fields.

“Why would you build so many fields and then have a problem in terms of utilization?” she asked. “It was shortsighted and now we’re paying the price.”

“From day one, we were concerned there was no need to build so many” new fields, said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. “Now that has come to fruition. The result is the fields are empty.”

The park boasts fancy golf and tennis centers, but no basketball courts, he added.

During the rehab, the city took heat for a $2.2 million-per-year pay-to-play scheme involving Manhattan private schools. It was struck down in court after East Harlem and Bronx community groups sued.

“The fields were built mostly to accommodate the private schools,” Croft said. And Marina Ortiz, of East Harlem Preservation, called the park “a private playground … designed to bring in revenue.”

There’s a move afoot now to try and spread the word about what’s in the park. Randalls Island fields go unused partly because they are isolated and more people need to be made aware of the space, said Frances Masrota of Manhattan Community Board 11.

A renovated E. 103rd St. pedestrian bridge is set to reopen soon, while the M35 bus runs between the park and E. 125th St. – but few youngsters make the trip.

The Parks Department has assigned a representative to attend Board 11 meetings and share info related to Randalls Island to try to spread the word on what’s there.

The fields are “generally permitted to capacity” in the evenings and on weekends, Parks spokesman Zachary Feder said. The park foundation also offers a free summer program, he noted, and softball leagues
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/06/14/2011-06-14_kids_unaware_or_unwelcome_after_120m_randalls_island_fixup_theres_a_park.html#ixzz1PG07ybD9

Melissa Chairs Hearing on the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Program

New York City Parks Enforcement patch

Image via Wikipedia

Melissa chaired a hearing on the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee on Wednesday regarding the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) program.  The hearing focused on the disparities in the allocation of PEP officers among different parks and communities as well as workplace issues faced by the officers.

PEP officers are unarmed peace officers, who enforce the rules of our parks and are empowered to issue summonses for quality of life offenses, as well as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of weapons.  They also review park facilities for health and safety issues.  There are currently 92 PEP officers to cover over 28,000 acres of parkland, with an additional 83 officers that are contracted by conservancies and other private entities to work in specific parks.  There are often just a few at-large officers on duty at any given time for the entire borough of the Bronx, whereas in a single park in communities of greater means, there might be a dozen.

Melissa and other members of the committee stressed the need for more resources for the PEP program so that these officers can cover more parks, particularly at a time when the City is seeing an increase in crimes committed on parkland.  Melissa also highlighted that the practice of contracting with private entities that are able to purchase increased security from the department while the majority of other parks go unsupervised sets up a two-tiered system in our public parks.

The hearing also focused on the issues that PEP officers face as a workforce. Several officers came to testify about the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, including doing car stops and removing homeless individuals from parks, without the help of the NYPD or the Department of Homeless Services. They asked for greater numbers of PEP officers and more support to help make our parks safer.

In the coming months, the Committee plans to hold another hearing jointly with the Public Safety Committee on crime in parks, which will continue to examine these issues.

Coverage of Wednesday’s hearing:

Melissa Stands with Central Park Boathouse Workers

Melissa spoke at a rally last Thursday for the workers of the Central Park Boathouse, who have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging unfair labor practices and union busting.  As Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee and the Council Member representing Central Park, Melissa has made clear that any union busting efforts will not be tolerated, particularly within our city-owned public parks.

Speaker Christine Quinn, and Council Members Gale Brewer and Elizabeth Crowley also spoke at the rally.  You can watch video of Melissa’s speech above.

Melissa was quoted in a Crain’s New York Business article about the event:

City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents the district the Boathouse is located in and also chairs the City Council Parks and Recreation Committee, called on the Parks Department to do more to pressure Mr. Poll to comply with his contract. She said she “wasn’t really pleased with the response of the [Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe] so far.”

“I interpreted his response as a little dismissive,” she said. “I would hope that we’d have a strong partnership with the Parks Department and this administration on these concessions.”