Making the city pretty

Jersey City celebrates Earth Day early with a clean up

Council President Rolando Lavarro helps cleanup as part of Earth Day events in Jersey City.
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Council President Rolando Lavarro helps cleanup as part of Earth Day events in Jersey City.

City residents wearing orange tee shirts, work clothes, and carrying brooms and buckets fanned out throughout Jersey City for the 4th annual Keep Jersey City Beautiful clean up on April 13.

The group was the first to affiliate with the national effort called Keep America Beautiful in the state of New Jersey, and the annual clean up generally coincides with the annual celebration of Earth Day each year.

This year the event came a week before traditional Earth Day festivities, but was part of Keep America Beautiful’s effort to inspire and educate people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community by mobilizing volunteers for civic engagement.

In honor of Earth Day, Jersey City and its community partners held its annual Great Jersey City CleanUP. During this citywide initiative, residents were encouraged to clean parks and streets, for example, perform maintenance on tree pits and planters, and separate recyclables from non-recyclable items.

Through the national group’s leadership, Jersey City has spearheaded other special initiatives under the Keep Jersey City Beautiful umbrella, such as the Stop the Drop Anti-Litter Program and the Jersey City Mural Arts Program.

The first Earth Day took place in 1970, as a national day to focus on the environment. Founded by then-U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, he took action after he witnessed a massive oil spill in California.

Nelson promoted that first day as a national teach-in on the environment and urged the national media to pay attention to the issue. The event became bipartisan when Republican Rep. Pete McCloskey joined as his co-chair. An estimated 20 million people across the nation came out to demonstrate for a healthier, sustainable environment that year.

In Jersey City, officials, educators and others hoped the cleanup day would educate, motivate, and activate people to recycle more and recycle correctly by improving awareness and participation.

A city rolls up its sleeves

This year’s initiative spanned the city. Residents, elected officials, community leaders, and civic organizations rolled up their sleeves to help beautify neighborhoods and build a stronger community by joining forces to plant flowers and pick up litter and debris across all wards of Jersey City.

“We continue to move forward on initiatives that create a cleaner city, one that provides a better quality of life for all of our residents,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “There is nothing better than community members coming together to be engaged and actively improve their neighborhoods. I’m excited to pitch in and work alongside thousands of volunteers again this year to keep our city beautiful.”

The cleanup encourages residents to clean their local parks and streets by picking up litter, planting flowers, maintaining tree pits, separating recyclables from non-recyclables items and more. Since the start of the initiative, nearly 3,000 volunteers have helped to clean a total of 72,000 pounds of garbage and 40,000 pounds of recycling in the last three years.

“This year, we did even more outreach and expect to double the number of volunteers helping the cleanup efforts,” said John Lynch, who is leading the 2019 Great JC Clean Up. “The Great JC Clean Up is just that – a great event that promotes awareness and encourages people of the community to take further action each and every day.”

In the West Side neighborhood, Learning Community Charter School had more than 130 volunteers cleaning up, starting near the Lincoln Statue on Belmont and JFK, then moving up Belmont to West Side Avenue, up Kensington Avenue, and across JFK Boulevard.

“We teach our students every day the value of community, not only as part of our curriculum but also as a way of life,” said Colin Hogan, Head of School for LCCS, a PreK-8th Grade charter school with 630 students.

Part of the school’s mission is its “CIRCLE” values: Community, Independence, Respect, Courage, Leadership and Effort. Hogan said this weekend’s cleanup was a way to take the CIRCLE values beyond the walls of the school to positively impact the people and places in our city.

“Getting out and cleaning up the neighborhood around our school is a perfect way to do that, and I am so proud of the teachers, administrators, students and families who joined us,” he said.

City Prosecutor Jake Hudnut and Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey joined other students in Lincoln Park to do their part. Council President Rolando Lavarro also lent a hand.

In Jersey City Heights, scores of adults and kids scoured parks and playgrounds including Leonard Gordon Park and Reservoir  No. 3.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com