Parks and Renovation: City Cleanup Corps spruce up NYC green spaces

Thanks to a new program greenlit by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Parks Department is undergoing a citywide effort to improve and maintain the quality of life in green spaces all across the five boroughs.

On Aug. 11 those passing by Lincoln Center may have been shocked to see flames frothing at the Dante statue on West 63rd Street and Columbus Avenue. This was not the work of some extraordinarily well-equipped vandals but instead, the NYC Parks monuments field crew and City Cleanup Corps staff using a blow torch while undertaking a delicate restoration process in order to ensure the century-old statue will remain standing for generations to come. Using a host of tools and chemicals, park workers hope that after a two-week-long renewal process the likeness of the famed Italian poet will shine in time for the 700thanniversary of the literary icon’s death.

Power washing the park. Photo by Dean Moses

“We’ve had annual maintenance but sometimes they [statues] need a little extra love. We are removing the old lacquer coating that is starting to fail and making sure the patina is nice and even and intact. Then we are going to be doing a protective wax coating and we are also replacing some of the old mortar in the joints on the base that the figure of Dante stands on,” Rebecca Rosen NYC Parks Crew Chief for the monument conservation told amNewYork Metro.

This complex and time-consuming process is not only going to benefit Dante Park, however. It’s part of the City’s summer-long New Deal-inspired city cleanup program that is not only aiming to make public spaces all over the Big Apple more well-kept by power washing benches, removing litter, repainting fences, and restoring statues, this initiative is also creating some 2,500 seasonal jobs within the Parks Department.

Jonathan Cher and Efeh Ibojie are two young, enthusiastic members of the Cleanup Corps who have found a passion restoring New York.

“We go to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. It has been an amazing experience to be able to see different parks and to be able to maintain them,” Ibojie shared, stating that hailing from Queens she has never seen so much of what New York has to offer.

Agreeing with this sentiment, Cher said he has fallen in love with New York while working to upkeep it.

Jonathan Cher and Efeh Ibojie. Photo by Dean Moses

“As a non-native New Yorker, I enjoy going to places I otherwise would never go. It is really cool to maintain little spots of culture all over and interact with people who come by and ask us questions,” Cher said, adding, “For a long time I would not think much of a statue but when you see people working on it you see that these things really take a lot of care.”

In the coming weeks, monument maintenance akin to the one in Dante Park have been taking place in Harlem and will continue in the coming weeks at locations in Union Square, Battery Park, Prospect Park, and more.         

Jonathan Cher is ready to cleanup Dante Park. Photo by Dean Moses