Airplanes, Whales, and Horseshoe Crabs: Week 2 in the Field

There is always a moment when a team truly becomes cohesive. I think we reached this point during the second week of the NYC Sandy Recovery Leader Crew. The previous weekend, all of the NYC crew leaders attended the New Jersey crew leader training, which is always a wonderful bonding experience. Then, without pausing for breath, the team jumped into the second week of the Leader Crew!

When we couldn’t work during a day of heavy rain, we toured the historic Floyd Bennett Field. We were able to explore the old air control tower, followed by the Historic Airplane Restoration Project in the old airplane hangers! I had a photo taken with an old Brooklyn coastguard plane for my mother, because she and my aunt and uncle grew up in Brooklyn. When I showed it to my mother she posted it on Facebook, and my great aunt responded saying that she and her siblings grew up within walking distance to the field, while it was still an active site. With all these family connections, I feel like I’m here not only for those living here now, but also for those older generations who immigrated to Brooklyn from other countries many years ago.

We also had a visit from Giles Parker, the Chief of Staff of the National Parks of New York Harbor. He took a walk around the site, introducing himself to everyone. He told us that not only are we succeeding in restoring the New York Harbor Parks to pre-Sandy conditions, but we are doing such an amazing job that Riis Landing genuinely looks better than it did before Sandy. He assured us that his hope is for this partnership to continue into the future.

It felt really great to hear this from the Chief of Staff, especially after putting in long, sweaty, rainy, manual labor intense days. My co-leader and I been working hard at keeping group morale up when the work is strenuous and often monotonous, but I’ve also heard some really amazing positive affirmations from fellow leader team members to one another… just another great indicator that these leaders are going to rock at keeping group morale high in a couple weeks when they start their own high school teams!

Our work was also recognized by the captain of the ferry docked at Riis Landing. This coming week, the ferry will open to the public for whale watching tours for the first time since Sandy. The floating ferry dock came loose and floated to Plum Beach during the storm, where it became covered with graffitti. As we helped to repaint the dock, the ferry captain explained the full amount of damage he had endured. During Sandy he lost nearly everything in the first floor of his house, while he rode out the storm on the boat in the middle of Sheep’s Head Bay! When I asked if he was scared, he merely said, “Boats float – that’s what they were made to do.” The captain was overjoyed with the restoration work the SCA Sandy Recovery Leader Crew was able to do, and as a thank-you he will be taking us out on one of his first whale watching tours of the season.

This recovery work at Gateway National Recreation Area is about making a difference in peoples lives, the places they have grown to know, and the places people will visit for the first time…. for the crew leaders, crew members, and the larger community as a whole. Not to mention the wildlife! It’s horseshoe crab mating season, and the crabs were everywhere along the beach while we were working. We flipped a few of them right side up, and will continue working to restore these creatures’ habitat – just as we are restoring the natural and historic landscapes that are so important to the people around New York Harbor.