Although each entity involved may have a had different motivation for doing it, they shared a common goal: restoring high quality and open green space for residents of the Polo Ground Houses in Harlem.
Last Thursday, Pernod Ricard USA, EarthShare, the New York Restoration Project and the New York Giants Preservation Society teamed up to spend a day around the Polo Ground Houses engaging in community projects. Each project had the end goal of making life around the Polo Grounds more welcoming and encouraging people to spend more time outside.
Thursday’s events were a part of Pernod Ricard’s global “Responsib’ALL Day” initiative focusing on building spaces for local communities to gather in.
The volunteers in attendance all wore New York Giants baseball caps, honoring the team that used to call the Polo Grounds home before moving to San Francisco. Gary Mintz of the New York Giants Preservation Society expressed joy that the cleanup and planting of trees is helping to keep the memory of Willie Mays and company alive.
“It’s a great event,” Mintz said. “Our society is about preserving the history of the team. This is the area that needs to be preserved, and to have over 200 volunteers cleaning this up and making it useful is a marvelous thing.”
Volunteers helped clear overgrown vegetation, removed trash from a nearby community garden in a part of Highbridge Park and planted trees around the same area next to the housing projects bearing the Polo Grounds’ name.
“We have 200 people here,” stated Paul Duffy, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard North America and CEO of Pernod Ricard USA. “They’re coming from our office in Purchase and Park Avenue and they come up here for a day and it’s a great thing. It’s about giving something back.”
Manhattan Deputy Borough President Matthew Washington said that it was important to point out the varied interests of the groups that took part in the event.
“Today, we have the Polo Grounds community, we have the New York Restoration Project and Pernod Ricard,” said Washington. “So you have housing, nonprofit, corporate all coming together to invest in this community. It’s providing wonderful access to the community and preserving clean space that this area deserves.”
New York State Sen. Marisol Alcantara brought the subject back to the economic and racial gaps in the city and explained how green space can only do good for this part of New York City.
“This area of Manhattan has one of the highest rates of asthma,” she said. “There’s high rates of obesity. Opening up green space for our community would encourage more community members to use park space. They don’t have to be in their apartment. They can go out and breathe fresh air.”
Alcantara said that she’s doing similar things with NYRP in park spaces around Washington Heights, Dyckman and Upper Manhattan in general. “I’m very involved in making sure that Black and Brown folks have access to parkland,” she said. “A lot of us don’t have summer homes. I’m a Black Latina. My parents don’t have summer homes. We don’t have the Hamptons. We don’t have homes in Upstate New York or Connecticut. Our parks are where we barbecue and play.”