This Sunday, April 22, marks the 42nd year that the globe has celebrated Earth Day, and it promises to mobilize over 1 billion people in 175 countries. Here in New York, the city is gearing up—the entire weekend, the Grand Central and Times Square areas will be inundated with events, people, and concerts, including a live performance from the cast of “Wicked” and green car fashion show.
But for those who want something more intimate—or are preparing for too many finals to stray too far from campus—can find the perfect compromise in Morningside and West Harlem. “Harlem Park to Park,” a community improvement organization that represents local businesses with an eye for sustainability, is hosting events in local parks—Morningside Park, Marcus Garvey Park, and the northern section of Central Park. Working “in this small pocket of Harlem,” organizer Lara Land, who owns Land Yoga Studio, wanted to create a family-focused, community-focused program to educate Harlemites on ways to live more sustainably while still remaining relatable and fun.
“In yoga, one of our main philosophies is that of … no harm, and that’s what this is all about,” Land said. “There’s a lot of energy focused on Harlem. Any opportunity that we have to better that is worth exploring. We want people to stay uptown and remain engaged.”
Land and her fellows at “Park to Park” hope that events like these can bring a more positive image to parks—and to West Harlem.
“In the past, parks were very scary places, and people couldn’t enjoy,” Land said. “The more that we as a community and especially as families keep going out and owning our public spaces in a positive way, they’ll keep moving in that direction.”
A stroll through Morningside Park always tops Sunday to-do lists in the spring. What better excuse to make it a priority than a schedule of earth-minded events taking place there all day long? Starting bright and early, join Girl Scout troop #3174 in their planting efforts, watch a solar demo, or attend an informal seminar on creative ways to lessen your environmental impact. Morningside might not be the Met, but the Reuse Recycle installation by local artist Ruthy Valdez will feature creatively-composed art with a sustainable aesthetic. Valdez recycled 75 plastic soda bottles, tea candle foils, and metal hangers—everyday items that are often discarded improperly—and transformed them into sunflowers. “With creativity and imagination, we can keep Earth healthy and clean, as well as beautiful,” Valdez said. Despite Harlem’s rich history, modern buildings and new businesses are sprouting up every year, making the establishment of a tight-knit community even more vital, she said. “It’s important to hold meaningful events where people from the community, old and new, can meet and exchange information,” Valdez said. This local celebration of Earth Day will inform residents who might be unaware of current environmental efforts, as well as invite locals to enjoy their natural surroundings. As Valdez said, “People from all over Harlem, from different cultures, will gather and meet for the first time or catch up, opening the opportunity for dialogue.”
Marcus Garvey Park
In an effort to connect community members with the pressing environmental issues at hand, the schedule of events at Marcus Garvey Park plans create awareness through music. After spending the morning planting with United Cerebral Palsy and Friends, meeting students invested in minimizing trash from the Future Leaders Institute, and learning about growing with the Harvest Home Farmers Market, grab a blanket and relax with live music from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you missed their performance in Lerner last week, look out for Tall Tall Trees, a quartet brought together by Manhattan’s downtown music scene who will bring their eclectic mix of indie folk and afrobeat to the festivities. The inspiration for their second album came from a camping trip they took to the Alaskan wilderness, and tells the story of a man seeking to connect with his environment—an ideal sentiment for Earth Day. Kwame & the Uptown Shakedown will also be in attendance, contributing a soulful sound drawn from the diversity of their home city. London-born DJ Stormin’ Norman, founder of music organization Sundae Sermon, will lend his mixing talents to the event. A resident of Harlem for the past 15 years, he hopes to contribute to the neighborhood’s current renaissance.
For the southernmost park included in the Harlem Earth Day celebrations, the “Harlem Park to Park” committee collaborated with the Central Park Conservancy to develop a project to flesh out the idea of “conservancy” in an active way, and to emphasize the diverse ecosystem that’s in New York. To do that, the organizers at “Harlem Park to Park” are heading to the Harlem Meer, a lake located in the northeast corner of the park, for “catch and release fishing.” Participants can learn how to enjoy the tranquility of a fishing trip without damaging their local ecosystem of threatening fish populations. Organizers explain that the exercise will help people—particularly the children at the event—learn to recognize different species found in the lake. “City kids really need as much exposure to nature as possible,” Land said. “It’s all about connecting with the Earth.” A little further down on the Great Hill at 107th Street, the Central Park Conservancy is holding a “Growing Green” concert with award winning musician Maria Sangiolo, whose work is inspired by raising awareness about sustainability and agriculture. The acoustic singer-songwriter’s latest works include fun tunes like “Picking Strawberries” and “Garden Slugs.” “The live music in the park is going to be a great way to end the day,” Land said.