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I am Itamar Kestenbaum – a Business student at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

I am taking an extremely interesting course this semester – Oceanography with Professor Kathleen Schnaars-Uvino. Professor Uvino has been very enthusiastic about the topic of the course throughout, and while I had at first just been trying to get through the course to get the credits – I found myself engrossed in the subject of Oceanography and the different components of oceanic life, meteorological and lunar phenomenon affecting the oceans, and the general science of Oceans.

In particular – with my deepening understanding of what causes beaches to erode or to become swampy and littered, I grew uneasy.

When Professor Uvino offered an extra-credit assignment that involved cleaning up a beach – it goes without saying that I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to see what a beach looked like when what we learned about happened in real life. When, after many ebbs and flows in the bay – sediment and debris washed and deposited onto the shore, leaving it a swampy mess.

On Saturday, the 30th of April – the weekend after Earth Day (which has recently extended itself into Earth Week) – the American Littoral Society met up at Breezy Point, NY for the third day of a massive cleanup operation. Most of Breezy Point is actually quite beautiful – and houses several beach and nautical clubs along the thin strip of land parallel to the Belt Parkway.

However, Rocky Point – the beach at Breezy Point that we were tasked with cleaning, had been used as a dumping ground for excess lumber and other debris. But the littering of this specific beach was not onset by humans. The beach, due to poor up-keeping and general desertion, had become the ideal place for sediment and particles to settle in the bay, and nature did its part in creating an appalling marsh where a beach would have been,

When I showed up, the American Littoral Society was already deeply engaged in carrying the lumber and trash out of the swamp and into a large dumpster by the road. There were large representative groups from Bloomberg, CUNY, and the Girl Scouts among others.

Approximately fifty people in total were involved in the operation – and what a difference it made.

When I had arrived – they had cleaned up half of the wood (the piles were about 5 feet high, and 14 feet in diameter.) I jumped right in to help clean up the other half – and by the end of the day only a small amount of wood remained – and the container was completely full.

Aside for the general cleanup – there was a special operation underway closer to the shore, where about ten people were actively and enthusiastically sawing away and hammering together a professional-looking osprey tower completely out of the spare wood that was found at the site!

At the end of the day, the entire group gathered by the swampy shore. There, laying on the mud, was a large pole with a flat surface attached to the top. Two ropes were strung to the top of the pole, and a large hole was dug near the other end of it. Twenty people gathered – ten on each side of the pole, and pulled the rope up at the count of ten, while a few people at the base of the pole guided it into the ground. It looked like the mast of a ship being pulled up by sailors – it was beautiful.

Once it was in the hole, and standing at 90 degrees with the ground, they secured it in with some wooden planks, and by shoveling mud back into the hole. There were cheers and celebration at the success of the osprey nest erection, and group pictures were taken.

Thank you, Professor Uvino, for the opportunity to have this great experience! I know I would have never found myself in Breezy Point, NY cleaning up a beach without your help and guidance!

Here is a great time-lapse of the some of the cleanup and the osprey nest building provided by the American Littoral Society:

Untitled from Irene Roxanne on Vimeo.

Itamar Kestenbaum is a Junior at the CUNY School of Professional studies – working toward his BS in Business.  He also works in Marketing in NYC, and loves hanging out with his wife and son.