Rockaway youth group to plant Sandy garden

A pedestrian walks along Rockaway Beach Boulevard near Beach 114th Street several days after the superstorm. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Work is never done for the Rockaway Youth Task Force, which plans to mark the approaching one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy by breaking ground on a community garden and holding a day of service.

“We are encouraging local high schools to take part in serving their community,” said the organization’s 23-year-old founder, Milan Taylor, of the event Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The 3 acres of shared space on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 58th Street will be used by peninsula residents to grow their own produce. The task force plans to get started on putting in raised beds over the weekend, while remembering how the superstorm sent flood waters surging through the peninsula at a 3:30 p.m. ceremony.

“When Hurricane Sandy struck, we had a core group of young people that were committed to serving the community,” Taylor said about the roughly 20 members, who are all between the ages of 15 and 29.

Their relief work last year started with helping one another as all grappled with not having electricity and then expanded when members reached out to Facebook connections to ask for donations of supplies. The task force set up a distribution center in the community center of the Nordeck co-op development where Taylor lives.

“From there we made door-to-door deliveries, and this all happened within two days,” Taylor said, describing how members first canvassed the neighborhood and then brought back care packages. “We were able to conserve a lot of the donations that we had by giving people what they needed.”

During the 2 1/2 weeks after the storm, task force members teamed up with dozens of volunteers to distribute supplies and check on senior citizens, some of whom lived on upper levels of apartment complexes and were unable to go outside because there was no electricity to run the elevators.

“There was no way possible for them to get down 12 to 18 flights of stairs to go get a care package,” he said. “When they opened up the doors, they were so grateful to see someone who wasn’t trying to rob them or con them for something.”

Once the relief drive ended, the Rockaway Youth Task Force held cleanups to remove debris from the storm and partnered with GrowNYC to create a seasonal Saturday farmers market, at Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 67th Street, which opened up shop July 13 and is slated to end Nov. 23.

Taylor said Sandy brought attention to the Rockaways and additional resources to the area. The group was able to pay for their new office, at 19-20 Mott Ave. in Far Rockaway, thanks to a private donation earlier this year, and in that new space he expects the task force to continue their work in the peninsula.

“That’s what people are supposed to do. When you have the ability to help others, it’s only right that you help others,” Taylor said.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com by phone at 718-260-4589.

Updated 10:24 pm, October 24, 2013
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