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Grassroots effort to beautify City Island final resting place

Vols remove debris from Pelham Cemetery

A ‘before’ picture of the waterfront of Pelham Cemetery reveals debris.
Bronx Times
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Some much-needed spring cleaning came to City Island through the efforts of a group of volunteers.

They removed debris left by storms from the waterfront at Pelham Cemetery, including pieces of sunken boats, in a community-driven cleanup on Saturday, April 15.

The group gathered to spruce up the cemetery just in time for Easter and during the Passover holidays, said event organizers.

One of the organizers, Izzi DeRosa, who helped coordinate the grassroots effort along with her husband Michael, said that she noticed clutter at the cemetery’s waterfront along Long Island Sound.

“I just thought it needed to be cleaned up,” she said, adding that while the grounds of the cemetery are kept immaculate, debris from severe weather events was deposited along the whole shoreline.

She and her husband posted their cleanup plans on the City Island Civic Association’s Facebook page, calling for volunteers.

Greg Clancy, Pelham Cemetery Association’s president, said that a group of about 25 volunteers took part, including a contingent from the Leonard Hawkins American Legion Post #156’s Sons of the American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary.

“It only took a little bit of organizing to get City Islanders going,” said DeRosa, adding that volunteers from off the island helped as well.

Some good Samaritans who could not attend but who were aware of the event donated garbage bags, and City Island’s IGA supermarket donated water, said DeRosa.

The NYC Department of Sanitation sent over a truck to pick up the refuse, so it didn’t remain in front of the cemetery’s fence, she said.

The cleanup was important for the maintenance of the relatively small cemetery, which is prone to fall and winter storms.

“We have a seawall down at the edge of property where it meets the beach, and all kinds of stuff washes ashore,” said Clancy.

Parts of sunken boats, marine engines, large pieces of timber that had been dislodged from waterfront docks, and other debris was among what was removed, he said,

DeRosa said that there was also a lot of plastic hauled out, both maritime and non-maritime related.

“You think of local cleanup and you think of beer cans…but there were big pieces of boats,” said Clancy, who added what was removed was not typical household trash.

It is difficult for people who are not familiar with the waterfront storms to picture it, but the amount of debris that sometimes washes up can be incredible, said Clancy.

For Clancy, whose parents and grandparents are buried in Pelham Cemetery, the cleanup was an indication of the kind of respect he believes it is important to show cemeteries.

It also was extremely helpful for the cemetery, which is governed by a volunteer board of directors, because some of what was hauled away was visible from the gravesites, he said.

Clancy, who is active with several local civic groups, including the Hawkins Post, said volunteerism makes communities and our nation a better place.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Updated 5:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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