Members of the Department of Environmental Protection, Coney Island Beautification Project, community leaders, and elected officials launched the Harbor Protectors initiative on Earth Day.
Thursday’s event was held on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, and was attended by hundreds of students from P.S. 188, P.S. 288, and other nearby public schools.
The Harbor Protectors Initiative is a volunteer program co-designed by the Department of Environmental Protection and Coney Island Beautification Project.
The initiative hopes to attract volunteers by allowing them to sign up for specific clean-up projects in their neighborhoods and along Brooklyn’s waterways. Currently, Harbor Protectors plans on coordinating shoreline cleanups, rain garden restoration, and catch basin repairs.
“I grew up in Coney Island and it is still my home,” said Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontius. “Seeing the efforts of this new initiative coming together with a long-standing community organization like the Coney Island Beautification Project gives me great joy and hope as we work to protect the community from pollution.”
She advised the young audience to be mindful of their role.
“It is our job to show we care”Frontius said. “Protecting the planet is every generation’s responsibility, and now it is our turn.”
Councilman Mark Treyger echoed a similar sentiment.
“Earth Day is an important day, but shouldn’t everyday be Earth Day?” he asked. “This is called taking ownership of our community. Even if it’s just picking up trash, every little bit helps.”
Treyger also warned that climate change will only continue to affect Brooklyn, especially communities near the water.
“The effects of climate change are already present in this part of Coney Island,” he explained. “You see it when water overflows from the canal.”
After the speaking portion of the event, the students broke into groups and conducted a cleanup along Mermaid and Surf avenues, removing litter from the neighborhood’s sidewalks and streets.
The Coney Island Beautification Project is a civic organization created in the wake of Super-storm Sandy to encourage community involvement in conservation and resiliency efforts. For close to a decade, the group has conducted flood control, composting, and recycling programs.
“When you nonchalantly throw your potato chip bags, your cookie wrappers, your drink container, on the street, they directly end up in our waters,” said group president Pamela Pettyjohn. “Think before we toss, down the catch basin into the waters and onto the beaches.”