The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Hudson River Park Seeks Volunteer Gardeners

By Mathew Katz | April 10, 2013 6:52am

CHELSEA — The Hudson River Park is looking for some volunteers to do its dirty work.

The cash-strapped park hopes to find an army of unpaid gardeners willing to flex their green thumbs in gardens along the West Side.

With the new Neighborhood Gardener program, the park aims to train locals to take care of a small segment of the 5-mile, 550-acre park, near where they live or work.

The laundry list of duties is extensive, with participants required to "get dirty...perform physical labor" and "be willing to work in nearly all weather conditions."

Responsibilities also include "weeding, pruning, mulching, cutting of grasses, addition of soil amendments, cleaning of vegetation beds, and pest identification," according to a job description.

A similar group of dedicated volunteers worked on gardens in the area of the park from West 26th to West 29th streets last year, spurring the Trust to expand the program throughout the entire park.

If the unpaid work seems more rigorous than your typical day of volunteering, that's because it is.

"Because they'll be working on a sustained basis, they'll be able to do more or less a higher level of work," said Hudson River Park Executive VP Noreen Doyle.

"It does read like a job description, but what we really care about the most is the effort people are willing to put into it."

The volunteer Neighborhood Gardeners will have to perform many of the same lower-level duties as a paid seasonal landscaper, which the park began to hire in April and pays $15 an hour for 40 hours a week, according to a job listing on the Hudson River Park Trust's website.

Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates said the extensive list of volunteer duties would likely be part of a paid job at another park in the city.

'It's fine for people to want to volunteer and do things in parks, but this is past the level of supplementing," he said.

"I've seen it a million times, it looks like a job posting from any other park."

While she admits that the program is a money saver, Doyle said it was not an attempt to offload work that would otherwise be paid.

"We have a full-time gardening program of staff and more seasonal gardeners than we have ever had in the past," she said.

"They're not doing certain types of work our staff would be doing. We're not expecting people to get out on lawn mowers."

The park will have 15 seasonal gardeners this year to complement its year-round staff of five.

The volunteer gardeners will have to work alongside park staffers and other volunteers for a total of six hours a week, from April to October. Each volunteer is expected to have prior experience in planting and landscape, as well as garden maintenance.

The cash-strapped Hudson River Park faces an estimated $80 million deficit over the next decade, and has launched an all-out campaign to raise more funds, including establishing a business improvement district around the park, building a beer garden on Pier 62, and pushes to redevelop Piers 40 and 57.

The Neighborhood Gardeners will get some reward — if not a financial one.

"Neighborhood Gardeners will receive a Hudson River Park Trust Volunteer t-shirt and have the enjoyment of working in one of New York City’s premier public green spaces," the job description reads.

"In addition, qualifying volunteers may receive benefits such as enhanced access to the Park’s public events."

Interested volunteers can email volunteer coordinator Mark Cheever for more information on signing up for the program.