Leaders and volunteers from several prominent Great Neck social organizations joined forces with representatives from the Town of North Hempstead on Sunday, Sept. 22 to help clean Whitney Pond Park in Manhasset and plant new trees in time for the start of fall.
Representing the peninsula were members of Temple Israel, Temple Beth-El and the Great Neck Chinese Association (GNCA). They were joined by town councilwoman Veronica Lurvey, whose district covers communities from Kings Point to Manhasset to Roslyn, as well as members of the town’s Parks Department and Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum.
“This was such a beautiful way for the community to come together and for us to build bridges between different organizations,” Lurvey said. “Parks are places where every resident can come and enjoy being surrounded by nature. Whitney Pond Park is a gem that a lot of people don’t know about, so I’m always thrilled when new people discover it.”
The volunteers set to work at 3:30 p.m. Over the course of the day, they went around picking up trash and debris left by park goers, grooming overgrown trees and bushes and setting down wood chips for a new nature path being installed in the park.
But the most noticeable change in the park is the addition of four new cherry blossom trees, donated by the Town of North Hempstead and planted by volunteers armed with shovels, pickaxes and gardening gloves.
GNCA Secretary Jonathan Chang said the cherry blossoms in particular resonated with volunteers because of the impact their presence will create in the coming years.
“We left a legacy of four cherry blossoms,” Chang said. “The volunteers can come back every year and see this as their impact on the neighborhood. Many of the volunteers had never even been there before, this was their first time visiting the park.”
Temple Israel Rabbi Daniel Schweber praised the work of both Great Neck and town volunteers, and commented particularly on how important it is for the area’s civic and social organizations to work together to help foster a sense of responsibility for the community.
“We share this community, all of us, and that includes the land,” Schweber said. “It drove home to me that this is our home, and our shared home, and if we don’t take care of it and discover what’s in it then we’re at a loss. There’s a lot to be gained from caring for the land ourselves.”
Echoing Schweber’s sentiment, Chang said events like these help bond Great Neck’s sometimes separate communities to one another.
“We have to have a symbiotic community,” Chang said. “This has to work for all of us. A lot of Asians don’t speak English well, so we have to introduce them to what’s happening here. The Jewish community gets to see the benefits of what we can do collectively. It was just a great unifying effort.”