Giving back to the community with a green thumb

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Daniel Reynolds likes to take his work home with him, and by home, he probably really means a nearby park.

On weekdays, he’s the landscape manager for the city’s parks department in the Bronx. But on Saturdays, one might find him at Henry Hudson Park tilling the soil or planting daffodils, all to help improve the area.

All of that is off the clock, above and beyond his day job. And because of that, Reynolds’ volunteer work has earned him activist of the month by Councilman Andrew Cohen.

“Henry Hudson Park is an extension of the work I do,” Reynolds said. “I volunteer to do it, which is crazy.”

But Reynolds doesn’t just want to work at a desk. He likes to get his hands dirty, too, even if he has to wait to volunteer.

“For me, personally, I like to keep my hands in the practical side of the work, too,” Reynolds said. “As a manager, I don’t get the opportunity all the time.“

Volunteering to keep Henry Hudson Park clean while improving the neighborhood is Reynolds’ way of giving back to the community he moved to five years ago. He wanted to go beyond keeping the park tidy, however — he wanted to make the park “noteworthy.”

Reynolds founded the Stewards of Henry Hudson Park in 2015, a community group who volunteers Saturday mornings to maintain the nearly 9 acres of green space at Kappock Street, and Independence and Palisade avenues.

The stewards — who consist of seven core members and a mix of visiting community groups — focus much of their work on the north side of the park and Paul’s Playground. They do everything from laying down new lawn to providing basic clean up like debris pick-up or drain cleaning.

The stewards secured grants from organizations like Partnership for the Parks and Citizens Committee for New York for some of their larger projects, but also depend on the community for financial donations to help support its operating costs.

For Reynolds, donating his time not only beautifies the area, it’s also building a community of friends and neighbors. He credits fellow volunteer Mark Mason, his “second in command,” for being the “heart of the group.”

Together the stewards have completed projects like restoring four large landscaping beds in the center of the park and planting nearly 3,600 bulbs.

“The parks department and all of their great staff work tirelessly to maintain our parks, but the fact of the matter is, they can’t always be there and can’t always respond to issues immediately,” Cohen said in a statement. “Mr. Reynolds went the extra step to organize a regular clean-up crew, and it has made a real impact. He inspired people in the community to take part in helping care for our public lands.”

In June as well, Community Board 8 awarded Reynolds one of its community service awards for donating his time to improve Henry Hudson Park. Even the parks department has gone out of its way to recognize Reynolds, naming him its manager of the year in 2016.

The park was named in honor of explorer Henry Hudson, who dropped anchor in New York in 1609. The park not only offers a monument to the explorer, but also features a playground on the north side of the park, while the southern part contains basketball courts, a baseball diamond and handball courts.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to contribute to the community, and this park is at the center of the community,” Reynolds said. “It’s where everybody meets.”

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