Congresswoman Promotes Nature and Education at Pelham Bay Park

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, left, talks with Lilliana Mendoza, center, and her sister Mariela.

Local families gathered at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx on Saturday to enjoy the last day of August, while picking up some last minute school supplies.

The Park hosted a “Pelham Bay Nature Day” during the afternoon, bringing together naturalists from across the city — as well as hosting a voter registration drive and donated backpack distribution sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The congresswoman, who represents the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx in the 14th Congressional District, quietly made her way to the park just after noon. Once she began introducing herself and was recognized by others, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez quickly drew a small crowd from the parents, children, and youths in the park that day.

After the initial meet-and-greet, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her staff began the backpack distribution for families in attendance.

“This is a really revered tradition here…across New York City, especially in the Bronx and Queens,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to a number of reporters who attended the event on Saturday.

The brightly-colored backpacks given out at the Nature Day event included school supplies and a note from the congresswoman to the children receiving them.

When asked what she wrote in the notes, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said that they all followed the mantra: “To be kind, to be persistent, and to practice whatever skill they have.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY-14, inspects backpacks being distributed to local families in the Bronx during Pelham Bay Nature Day at Pelham Bay Park.

In addition to voter registration and backpack donations, the congresswoman’s staff also partnered with NYC Wildflower Week to organize nature tours of Pelham Bay Park’s forested areas.

Marielle Anzelone, an urban ecologist organizing the Wildflower Week, said that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s support for environmental justice and reform dovetailed with Wildflower Week’s mission to emphasis the importance of green spaces in urban areas. It is a mission reflected in Wildflower Week’s 2019 motto: “Get to know the nature near you.”

“We are part of nature, and we forget that…[the park] is a legitimate part of our city,” said Anzelone, speaking with a reporter on Saturday.

The young and young-at-heart wait in line to receive a backpack or have their Green New Deal poster signed by the congresswoman.

Pelham Bay Park plays a vital part in preserving green space in the city, noted Anzelone. It is the city’s largest public park — three times the size of Central Park — and contains one of the last salt marshes in the city.

Pelham Bay Park will also play a part in promoting Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s advocacy for the United States to push towards 100-percent renewable energy and the creation of a jobs program focused on the green energy sector — dubbed by allies and adversaries alike as “the Green New Deal.”

The congresswoman showcased a poster for the Green New Deal which depicts a winged statue with Pelham Bay Park arrayed behind it. The depiction is that of the Bronx Victory Column and Memorial Grove, which is located in the park; it was commissioned by the city to honor American service members from the Bronx in the First World War.

The Green New Deal poster showcased by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday. The poster depicts Pelham Bay Park in the background, with the foreground featuring the statue of Winged Victory on the Bronx Victory Column and Memorial Grove.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez cited the inspiration of the Work Progress Administration (WPA) and the art of the New Deal under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the aesthetic choices for the poster and another poster depicting Flushing Meadows in Queens.

The Nature Day at Pelham Bay Park included a number of different naturalist and ecological organizations, including the Bronx River Alliance, the NYC Compost Project, the New York Mycological Society, and the city’s Urban Park Rangers. Representatives from Sarah Lawrence College, the Bronx River Art Center, and the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York also staffed tables at the event.

Joseph Martinez took part in the event with “Jupiter Joe’s Sidewalk Astronomy,” setting up a filtered telescope at the Nature Day event for families to take turns safely observing the sunny sky.

“I’ve loved this since I was 9,” said Martinez, an insurance compliance and project manager from the Bronx, who offers quick lessons in astronomy as a hobby.

Lilliana Mendoza, a Fordham area resident, said it was “a little surreal” to meet Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in person.

“It was very inspiring to see her in the community,” said Mendoza, who briefly spoke with the congresswoman along with her sister Mariela.

Mendoza also appreciated that the congresswoman’s office teamed up with local organizations, helping local residents learn how they can get involved in environmental preservation and advocacy.

Staff from Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s office set up tables to sign up attendees for nature tours, as well as voter registration.

Anthony Gutierrez, a teacher in Hunts Point, said that he was very excited to meet Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and glad that she was organizing to help families get school supplies.

“She’s very personable,” said Gutierrez, adding that some media he observed had previously characterized her as more antagonistic.

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