Sunset Park

Sunset resident cleans park, one piece of glass at a time

May 18, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Volunteers who met via Facebook painstakingly pick up shards of glass from the area around a boulder in Sunset Park. Photo by Melissa Taverney

If Jeff Walker Wilcox had to come up with a slogan for Sunset Park, it might be: No glass in the grass! Wilcox, a police officer who moved into Sunset Park a year ago, has quietly adopted the park the neighborhood is named after and has made it his business to pick up pieces of glass he finds in the grass and removes them before the sharp objects can cut children’s feet.

Wilcox serves as an example of the type of resident that can be found in neighborhoods all over Brooklyn; a person who doesn’t complain about a quality of life condition but instead does something about it.

To date, he has picked up an estimated 8,000 shards of glass from Sunset Park.

“In my family, we have a saying, ‘Always leave a place better than when you found it.’ I always try to live up to that,” Wilcox told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday. “My wife and I moved to Sunset Park in large part because of the park. It’s like a hidden gem. I love the views from the hilltop. The park is an oasis of calmness in the hustle and bustle of the city.”

Sunset Park is a 24.5-acre recreation area located between Fifth and Seventh avenues and stretching from 41st Street to 44th Street. The park boasts a swimming pool, grassy fields, pedestrian walkways, a sand volleyball court, a recreation center and a Sept. 11 memorial, according to the New York City Department of Parks website. The park’s hilltop offers a breathtaking view of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

Wilcox usually goes on glass patrol when he is walking his dog, Rudy, in the park. In fact, Rudy, a terrier, is the reason Wilcox got into the habit of tidying up the park.

“When I started walking my dog in the park I noticed these glass shards in the grass. I was afraid the dog would step on the glass and injured, so I started picking them up,” he said.

Little by little, Wilcox accumulated thousands of pieces of glass. “I’m using them to create a mosaic,” he said.

Where did all of that glass come from? “I think it’s just been there for a long time. It’s probably broken beer bottles and soda bottles that have been there for years,” Wilcox said.

In one of his recent glass removal missions, Wilcox received help from a small group of hardy volunteers.

“I noticed a lot of glass around the boulder near the northwest corner of the park and I didn’t think I could pick it up all by myself,” he said.

Wilcox, who is a member of Sunset Parker, a popular Facebook page for Sunset Park residents, reached out to Sunset Parker creator Tony Giordano for help. Giordano got right on it, posting a notice on the page announcing that Wilcox planned to remove glass shards from around the boulder and was looking for volunteers to help him.

Richard Taverney, Nate Taverney, Melissa Taverney and Victoria Carrillo joined Wilcox on a recent Saturday.

In an email to the Eagle, Giordano wrote that the cleanup was vitally important because it helped make the area around the boulder safer. “The rock has been a favorite for generations of Sunset Park kids. Today’s kids are seen climbing and rolling off the rock into the grass and the glass shards posed a special danger to them. The efforts of these volunteers have made Sunset much safer not only for kids, but also toddlers and even pets,” he wrote.

Better yet, according to Giordano, it looks like Wilcox is going to be getting help cleaning up the park from now on.  “The volunteers all agreed to join him on future clean-ups,” Giordano wrote in the email.