“It feels good to help people,” said Antonio Ottenwalder, president of the Roosevelt High School National Honor Society, whose group of 35 students spent a cold and windy Friday morning sweeping up sand and debris in the West End.
Last Friday marked the start of a three-day Earth Day cleanup initiative — and the kickoff event for the Long Beach Comeback Crew — where hundreds of volunteers working throughout the city wore bright vests and hard hats.
“This was the first event of its kind,” said Gordon Tepper, the city’s Director of Communications. “In the wake of Sandy, the city has really come together, and this was a prime example of that.”
The Comeback Crew is a large-scale volunteer effort, aimed at restoring and beautifying Long Beach block by block. Volunteers tackled projects like picking up trash, sweeping sand out of streets and planting and mulching flowerbeds all over the city.
“Last weekend’s Earth Day event was a terrific opportunity for residents and visitors to join the Long Beach Comeback Crew,” City Councilwoman Eileen Goggin said. “The weekend-long event focused on community beautification projects, such as landscape and design efforts and street clean-up. Hundreds of wonderful, dedicated volunteers joined us in revitalizing Long Beach one block at a time.”
Many groups of volunteers from outside of Long Beach formed crews and broke off to do work at different locations. Some crews were informal groups of friends, or small businesses from around Long Island. But some large corporate groups came out to help also, like Starbucks, the New York Islanders, Viacom and Home Depot.
On Friday, a coalition of employees from Home Depots across Long Island could be seen in the West End planting on street corners. Home Depot donated tools and plants to the city as well.
“I just wanted to help out the community,” said Christina Catanzarita, who came all the way from the Jericho Home Depot. “Volunteering feels good.”
That seemed to be the theme of the weekend, with many expressing they came out to support Long Beach in the aftermath of the storm, give back to their community and do some good on Earth Day. Some local businesses found different ways to help as well.