by Madalyn Johnson Staff Writer
The Marble Hill Project is a community-based project that focuses on cleaning up parts of the Marble Hill Housing Complex located at 5365 Broadway. Their mission is to create a clean, healthy environment for the Bronx community. Last year, Manhattan College students, as well as residents of the Bronx, came together weekly to the garden and take out trash laying in random locations. The school has been encouraged to do the same this year.
Manhattan College students are introduced to this type of community service by professors in the religious studies department. They hope students will participate and help residents and supervisors of the Marble Hill Project clean up garbage not only so they can complete their community service hours, but so they can gain lifelong skills and knowledge about the area that surrounds Manhattan College.
David Shefferman, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies, shared how Manhattan College came across the Marble Hill Project.
“Students started last spring, spring of 2018. It was also part of the Arches Program and came out of the same coalition as the Green Fair Project,” said Shefferman.
Shefferman regularly informs students when meetings are held for the project and why it is such a beneficial experience for students in their academics and social life.
“It’s local, it’s right here, connected to where the college is and where our students live and travel. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn about urban planning, urban studies, environmental engineering, and it helps out these communities, these residences,” said Shefferman.
On September 21, a few students in the Arches religion course came to an informative, brief meeting about the project. Students, led by project supervisors Anthony Del Obre and Ian Christner, toured the housing complex and the common areas where garbage is constantly dumped.
“It’s an opportunity to tag community a bit closer together,” said Christner. “Public housing is our attempt to create housing for low-income communities.” Anthony expressed his concerns about the trash, explaining that the problem has become so dangerous that it is now a health issue for many of the residents. Unwanted sofas and furniture have been left outside and inside buildings, including down flights of stairs which Anthony mentioned is a huge fire hazard.
Students were able to talk to some residents of Marble Hill who discussed why the illegal garbage dumping has become such a daily occurrence and why the efforts to fix the issue have not been successful.
“They keep having meetings about us stopping the trash,” shared one resident of Marble Hill. “They get mad when no one wants to clean things up, but as soon as they get cleaned up, it gets trashed.”
The project hopes to get more students at Manhattan College actively involved in helping the community get rid of all the trash. The colleges’ service last year made a significant difference. Students were able to identify which locations around Marble Hill get the most garbage and also helped plant and garden. Marble Hill’s effort to fix the community needs a lot of attention and participants, for it’s an independent, small organization that doesn’t receive any financial help from the government or state.
“What we’re doing is independent,” Del Obre explained. “It is not funded by the city. If there’s not a green space in the community, we will make one.”