By Jordan Davidson
Special to DNAinfo.com New York
INWOOD — A Northern Manhattan gem has become a tattered mess in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Storm surges and wind uprooted trees, downed limbs, and carried away a dozen 100-pound planters holding shrubs at Swindler Cove during the height of the storm last Monday night.
Since the storm, staff and volunteers have worked to clean up the New York Restoration Project’s (NYRP) Swindler Cove Park and Sherman Creek near Dyckman Street, a natural habitat along the Harlem River and one of the city’s largest wetlands.
The surge from the river lifted the planters and carried them a block north, leaving them strewn across 10th Avenue near the Dyckman Houses, which also suffered flooding during the storm. NYRP workers were forced to use a Bobcat tractor to bring them back to the intersection.
“I just came here because I knew there was a lot of destruction, and I just wanted to be helpful,” said K.C. Byrnes, 61, a schoolteacher pruning bushes at the intersection late last week. Nearby, Americorps volunteers in bright blue NYRP shirts cut downed trees with a chainsaw.
Byrnes worked with a group of volunteers to clear branches and leaves from the Harlem River Drive bike path.
“We’re out here helping the community,” she said. “So, I slept well last night.”
Swindler Cove Park and the Riley Levin Children’s Garden, just south of Dyckman Street, are normally open daily, but since the storm padlocks and chains have kept the gates sealed. Several poplar trees collapsed in the garden, creating a hazard for any visitors and a daunting task for cleanup crews.
The large compost pile that took in the food scraps donated by Inwood residents at the Isham Street Greenmarket on Saturdays was washed away. The city’s other large compost piles in Gowanus and Red Hook are also gone.
Jason Smith, NYRP’s campus director for the Sherman Creek area, nonetheless found positives in the storm’s damage, saying that Sandy helped clear invasive species trees that don’t necessarily belong in New York City.
Smith said he believes the wetlands NYRP created will play a vital role in protecting the city as climate change brings more powerful storm surges in the future.
“This is not the end of the world from an ecological point of view,” he said. “It’s very resilient, and we’ll clean it up.”
In fact, he saw an educational benefit to the storm.
“Part of what we do is to teach people about climate change and native plants,” he said. “We help people make connections to the day-to-day issues of flooding, power loss, food prices. Those are all connected to the ecological world we live in.”
With additional reporting by Catherine Featherston.