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Just in time for spring! Nonprofit leads clean up of Coney Island beaches

Beautify Brooklyn, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring the borough, will host a Coney Island beach clean up on April 8th — and use the trash to make creative art projects afterwards. 

The organization is inviting volunteers to spend the afternoon tidying up the southern Brooklyn beach, while learning about the harmful effects of having trash in the environment.

According to Robert Elstein, founder and director of the group, volunteers can play a critical role in protecting oceans from the pollution of hard plastics. 

“Obviously the beaches are a part of Brooklyn and one of the nicest places to visit. They’re even nicer if they’re clean so it’s something that benefits our lives but it is also beneficial to our environment,” he said.

The group will meet on the Coney Island Boardwalk Garden, and then disperse into teams to clean up different parts of the beach for 45 minutes.

Afterwards, they’ll reconvene to make art projects out of the plastics they find, as the trash found during beach clean ups is different from typical trash — as it’s been cleaned and smoothed down from the ocean water and sand. 

“It seemed like kind of just a waste of raw material so I started to think of a way we could reuse some of it to create sculptures,” Elstein told Brooklyn Paper.

The group leader will teach participants how to make Flotsamals — mobiles with a driftwood base and wires holding together various collections of plastics, shells and corals.

Elstein will teach volunteers how to make Flotsamals, mobiles made with the plastics they find.

Elstein will teach volunteers how to make Flotsamals, mobiles made with the plastics they find.Photo courtesy of Robert Elstein

“By having a work of art that you can bring home with you and hang up in your window it’s just kind of a reminder that we’re all needed to solve the climate crisis,” he said.

One local says Coney Island beaches have never been in worse states. According to Craig Hammerman, Brighton Beach resident and co-president of the Coney Islander’s for an Ocean Side Ferry, it will take the work of volunteers and government agencies to keep the southern peninsula’s landscapes in good condition.

“Our beaches have never been filthier. The boardwalk is covered with so much sand it looks like a dust bowl. Each year we get less and less attention from the city. Thank goodness we still have volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves,” Hammerman told Brooklyn Paper. “But volunteers alone cannot do the job either. We need an effective, working partnership with the city to plan and care for our beaches and boardwalk. Neither the city nor the community can do this properly working alone. We can do better. We must do better.”

The clean up will be on Sunday, April 8 at 2 p.m. Sign up on the group's website.The clean up will be on Sunday, April 8 at 2 p.m. Sign up on the group’s website.Photo courtesy of Robert Elstein

Elstein hopes this will help people think of ways to reduce their plastics use and think about what they could do beyond a couple beach clean ups a year.

“This is a really fun way to meet people in the community. It’s appropriate for all ages,” he said. “The more people that come out to the clean up, the cleaner the beach is gonna be on Easter [and] the cleaner it’s gonna be throughout the spring and the summer.”

To sign up for the clean up, visit the Beautify Beach website or use the sign up form.

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