Green Cities

Clean Up Spotlight: Brooklyn Bridge Park


At coastal cleanups in Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, volunteers are essential to keeping the Park livable and beautiful. Blessed with a stunning location, the site is challenged by city sewers, urban trash, and constant tides. On April 11, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy will kick off the Earth Day 2019 Clean Up, hosting a special group of volunteers from Kiehl’s. Volunteers under the management of park leaders work in teams to collect trash from the East River and document what they find. “Coastal Cleanups began in 2015 with an event for International Coastal Cleanup Day,” says Elizabeth Harnett, Volunteer Coordinator at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. “Since then, Coastal Cleanups have become one of our most popular volunteer opportunities in the park, with volunteers coming on a monthly basis to pitch in and lend a hand to keep our beaches and salt marshes clean.”


Waste is poisoning our water sources, harming wildlife, and increasing carbon emissions. Brooklyn Bridge Park has a unique position as one of few urban parks on the waterfront (with actual access to the River), and keeping the river and park healthy has become an important concern for volunteer efforts. Most of the trash comes from city sewers that release into the river (such as trash left on the street that goes down storm drains). The park is made up of multiple ecosystems, including salt marshes, which naturally collect trash, and beaches. There is also a “Rip Rap” rock structure that protects the shorelines from erosion and storm energy.


At the end of each session, bags of trash are weighed. Historically, straws and plastic water bottles have been our most commonly found items, though recently styrofoam has become much more prevalent. “Last year we had our most successful cleanup year yet, with over 2500 pounds of trash collected,” says Harnett.


Volunteers can actually see the difference between the start of the cleanup and the end. Not only do you have a number at the end of the day (i.e. how many pounds of trash removed) but you can also see how much cleaner the park is because of your efforts!”


Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Clean Up is set for April 11 at 2 pm. Events are scheduled, as well as private events school and corporate groups.