Stop by the Upper East Side’s Ruppert Park and you’ll notice something a lot nicer looking than you might remember. At what was officially billed as Environmental Stewardship Day last Saturday, a diverse group of roughly 100 volunteers planted 3,600 tulips, daffodils and other flowers, shoveled mulch, painted benches, and raked leaves at the park, which houses a playground and sloping green space.
The UES park is slated to receive a major makeover in the coming years. The plans, designed by the NYC Parks Department, include a formal dog run, replacing the unlandscaped northwest quadrant of the park currently serving such a purpose. In the meantime, volunteers are committed to keeping the neighborhood space clean and safe.
“This is our home and it feels good when you maintain it,” said volunteer Asifa Omer.
“This country has given us so much, if we can do our part it’s a good example for our kids,” the 40-year-old immigrant from Pakistan added.
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With rakes and shovels in hand, volunteers of many faiths, young and old, from the Upper East Side to New Jersey, got to work on Saturday morning, joining with local community service organization Muslim Volunteers for New York (MV4NY) to clean up and restore Ruppert Park on 90th Street and Second Avenue.
“The world has so ruthlessly cut down forests and things. We want to reverse that process, and it’s important that we take part in positive action,” said Mrs. Yousef, 82, the oldest volunteer on hand, stressing the importance of environmental protection.
“We have to teach children how to respect nature and how to preserve it.”
The event included eco-friendly crafts for the child volunteers with demonstrations of how to create a Zen garden. At a station set up by Urban Park Rangers, with a table laid out with animal pelts, the rangers showed children how they catch nuisance urban animals like raccoons.
Young people were in no short supply, as three teenage boys shoveled mulch from a pile further up the street into wheelbarrows to be brought to the park.
“Communal bonds are not strong these days,” said Adil, 15, the son of MV4NY founding member Saima Saad, who believes that volunteering is “a nice thing to do for the people.”
Fellow volunteer Ali, 16, agreed: “It feels good doing this kind of work.”
As the event wound down, more than a dozen heavy black plastic garbage bags full of leaves were stacked near the entrance to the park. All in a morning’s work to beautify one Upper East Side park.