Almost a week after Hurricane Sandy thundered through Morningside Park, downing trees and leaves, dozens of volunteers gathered to clean it up Saturday morning.
Volunteers with garbage bags and rakes cleared away debris and fallen branches on paths through the park and along Morningside Drive between 114th and 122nd streets. A group of about 50, including some Columbia students, started the cleanup and grew as the day went on.
Meanwhile, students have gotten involved in several other efforts to support those most affected by the hurricane, with thousands of students supporting and organizing relief efforts on Facebook and others donating blood at Low Library on Monday.
While Sandy had less of an impact on Morningside Heights than on the rest of the city, it left Morningside Park with what locals called the worst damage in recent memory. Jacquie Connors, president of Friends of Morningside Park, which organized the effort, said that even though the Parks Department had cleared fallen trees and branches on Tuesday, there was still a lot to be done.
“For the next few weeks, people should get involved in the recovery effort,” Connors said.
Columbia students, including Caitlin Watterson, CC '13, and her suitemate Susan Ou, CC '13, helped out.
“We use the parks all the time, so we wanted to help out in the cleanup so people can get back in here,” Watterson said.
Pirapong Jitngamplang, SEAS '14, cleared scattered leaves off park benches at 120th Street and Morningside Drive. Jitngamplang said that he comes to the park to read once in a while, so he thought this would be a good opportunity to give back.
“It's a nice break from midterms, too,” he added.
Marci Muhlestein Clark, GS '08, said she brought about 30 volunteers from the nearby the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Harlem, which holds activities like play groups in the park.
“As a neighborhood and as a community, it was just important to be here,” she said.
While Morningside Heights was largely left intact by the hurricane, other areas of the city suffered massive power outages and floods.
Bridget Black, 28, came from Lower Manhattan to volunteer. Her apartment lost power after the hurricane hit and got it back on Saturday morning. Black said she came to Morningside Park because she wanted to help and because it was accessible by subway, unlike most of downtown.
“I just hope people don't have a short attention span about this,” Black said. “There is going to be a long recovery time for the city.”
Jennifer Collins, GS '84, who lives in Morningside Heights, was at the park Saturday. She said she has been downtown several times since the hurricane to care for her disabled aunt.
“There are still a lot of people without food or water—we have to remember that,” Collins said, snapping a long branch in half on her knee.