MANHATTAN – As a thick, orange haze enveloped New York City and the city recorded the worst air quality on the planet, CSEA members working at Riverbank State Park continued to service the park and the general public.
“I’ve been working here 21 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Felix Mateo, a park worker 3, as he made his rounds collecting refuse along the Hudson River promenade. “We have to take care of ourselves, but the work needs to get done.”
CSEA members still took precautions as conditions were at its worst.
“When I came to work, [management]told us we needed to wear a mask,” said Zeline Hamilton, a cashier at Riverbank. “The air quality started to get worse and my asthma started acting up. I used my asthma pump and I was wheezing. I never felt like this before.”
Hamilton’s co-worker, Courtney Chavis, also experienced the effects of the smoke.
“I have asthma. While on my way to work, I was waiting for the bus and I started to feel my chest tightening, said Chavis, a cashier. “We’ve been doing our best to stay inside and wear a mask.”
Park workers were also asked to distribute surgical masks to city residents who visited.
“This is very extraordinary, not something you see on a normal basis, especially in New York,” said Maurice Dawson, a park worker 3. “We need better masks for this kind of smoke, like the ones used by firefighters. These masks are good, but those would provide more safety.”
As Dawson stood in the promenade, one could barely see the outline of the majestic George Washington Bridge in the background.
“This is not good because people love this park and the weather is getting nicer so this deters people from coming to the park,” said Dawson. “I think it’s global warming. We need to pay a little more attention. The environment is showing us our impact on it.”
– David Galarza
In side-by-side photos above, In left photo, CSEA member and Riverbank State Park worker Chloe Johnson stands at a viewfinder on a clear day in 2021, with the New Jersey waterfront and George Washington Bridge in the background. In right photo, Maurice Dawson, a park worker 3 at Riverbank State Park, stands on June 7, 2023, next to the same viewfinder, rendered useless by the thick haze created by the Canadian wildfires.