Findings and lessons learned from Clean Up Day #1

Clean Up Day / No. 1 / Report — Published June 1, 2015

Our very first of twelve clean up events focused on the southeast section of Greenpoint. This area is mixed commercial, residential and industrial areas. The diverse character of southeastern Greenpoint is perhaps best illustrated by Nassau Avenue, which is home to building supply warehouses in the east, apartments flanking the beautiful Monsignor McGolrick Park at the center, and a bustling commercial corridor up until the street his McCarren Park in the west. Despite the charm and character here, the soil and groundwater in the area bears most of the burden of the pollution left over from Greenpoint’s industrial past.

Supplies courtesy of the NYC Parks Department lined up on the McGolrick Park Shelter Pavilion. Photo by Greg Mihalko.
Supplies courtesy of the NYC Parks Department lined up on the McGolrick Park Shelter Pavilion. Photo by Greg Mihalko.

We partnered with the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance to hold our first event. The Alliance is a group of community leaders and residents working to improve McGolrick Park and the Greenpoint neighborhood. Together, Curb Your Litter and the Alliance brought out over 65 volunteers to clean up the Park and surrounding streets.

Volunteer Leader Erika Jozwiak teaches her group about the zone they will be picking up. Photo by Greg Mihalko.
Volunteer Leader Erika Jozwiak teaches her group about the zone they will be picking up. Photo by Greg Mihalko.

As this was our kick off Clean Up Day, the event was the first time that we tested out our plan for citizen data collection. The project team made several adjustments to our methodology after this initial field test. For example, we deployed volunteers to cover 15-20 block zones within two hours, but we learned that 8 blocks was the average area that could be cleaned in this time frame. Additionally, our plan was to bag and weigh trash by block, but when we tried this method out we found it to be rather wasteful- there was too little trash on most blocks to fill up a whole bag.

Group 1 found a full, unopened Invisalign amongst the trash on Apollo Street. Photo by Carly Langlois.
Group 1 found a full, unopened Invisalign amongst the trash on Apollo Street. Photo by Carly Langlois.

This was not the case for all blocks! Group 1, for example, filled over five 55 gallon trash bags with litter from where Apollo Street dead-ends into Newtown Creek. The group found various treasures in the debris here, including an un-used Invisalign set.

After we finished working for the day, volunteers headed to the Sunview Luncheonette across the street to enjoy lunch courtesy of Vinnie’s Pizza and Cup & Compass. Volunteer Leaders returned to the park to rip open 10% of the bags collected to conduct the first run-through of our litter characterization study.

Cigarette Butts were aplenty in Southeastern Greenpoint. Photo by Greg Mihalko.
Cigarette butts were aplenty in Southeastern Greenpoint. Photo by Greg Mihalko.

We learned a couple of things from the first run through of the study:

  1. There are a lot of cigarette butts on the street– 3,024 were picked up in two zones alone
  2. Some volunteers are more diligent about picking up butts than others :)
  3. Sorting trash takes a long time. Our Volunteer Leaders spent four hours sorting 16 bags of trash

See more photos from this event on our Facebook page!