New York City Park Service

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14272A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Help revive Riverside Park
  • Tour one of the world's greatest cities
  • See Broadway shows and eat an array of amazing ethnic food


  • Lodging and most meals at a clean and comfortable hostel
  • Guest conservationist speakers
  • All equipment for the work project


DatesMay 25–Jun 1, 2014
StaffJerry Balch

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Trip Overview

The Trip

New York City is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It was settled by the Dutch as Nieuw Amsterdam in 1624, and 40 years later, after being taken over by the English, became New York. The city has a rich colonial past and, in fact, it was the capital of the United States in the first seven years after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783. George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States at Federal Hall in the Wall Street area. Pushed by an influx of millions of immigrants over the years, New York City today is our most populated city in the nation, home to residents and tourists alike. It is a dazzling international and multiethnic display. The streets bustle with excitement and energy.

Manhattan, the city's core, has a population of a million and a half people, which expands almost two-fold each day when commuters and tourists add their numbers. Manhattan is 14.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide at its widest point. Its lack of space has caused it to expand vertically. As a city of skyscrapers, it has the greatest concentration of them in the smallest area than any other city on earth. The city also has many acres of beautiful and famous park lands, heavily used by its residents and commuters. It is in this greenbelt that our service trip will make an important public contribution to the life of the city.

The Project

We plan to work in Riverside Park, which adjoins the Hudson River. We will plant shrubs and flowers, prune shrubs and trees, weed, mulch, and clean up as needed. For many years, the Sierra Club has assisted in important park projects that have a profound effect on the New York City Community.

The Riverside Park Conservancy will supply the necessary tools and guide us in our work. We plan to work four days and have two and a half days for extensive sightseeing within the city. After work, the evenings will be free to enjoy the attractions of a great city. Talks sponsored by the Conservancy on conservation-related issues as they apply to New York City are also planned.


Our tours will take us through New York's neighborhoods and famous sites. We will:

  • Explore Brooklyn Heights and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Tour the Wall Street area and see Colonial New York
  • Ride the Staten Island Ferry to view the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • Explore the World Financial Center and view its reconstruction
  • Tour Battery Park City, Chinatown, SoHo, Greenwich Village, the East Village, and Flat Iron areas
  • Visit the gorgeously restored Grand Central Terminal
  • Tour Broadway and the Times Square area
  • Enjoy a delicious meal in Chinatown
  • Visit Harlem by seeing sights on 125th Street
  • Have optional activities that include two Broadway shows and two performances at Lincoln Center

Please note: The cost of Broadway shows, the performances at Lincoln Center, and the restaurant meals are not included in the trip price.



Accommodations and Food

We will stay at the International Youth Hostel located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd Street. The dormitory-style rooms are clean, attractive, air conditioned, and comfortable. The hostel will cater most of our meals so that we will not have to do any food preparation. There are lockers in each room for personal belongings and equipment. All that is needed is our own padlocks to secure each locker. The hostel has laundry facilities, recreation rooms, lounges, and an outside garden.

We will probably have two dinners at restaurants during our non-work days; these are not included in the trip price.

We suggest that you arrive by public transportation as parking is difficult and expensive in New York City. The public buses and subways are good, inexpensive, and will transport you quickly from the airport, bus, or train station to the hostel. We will provide detailed instructions to confirmed participants.

The first meal provided will be dinner on the first day, and the final meal will be breakfast on the final day. Special meals are available for vegetarians.

This trip has proved very popular for many years. If demand warrants, we may expand it to accept as many as 36 participants.

Trip Difficulty

The work in Riverside Park can be demanding and our walking tours require that all participants be in good physical condition. Participants should exercise regularly and be in reasonably good shape for the effort required.

Equipment and Clothing

All necessary tools and equipment will be supplied by the Riverside Park Conservancy.



  • Burrows, Edwin G. and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898


Urban parks are more heavily used than wilderness areas and are in great need of repair and development. Cities across the country are cutting back on staff and development of urban parks and green spaces, resulting in a situation that is tailor-made for an environmental organization such as the Sierra Club. The work allows participants to positively impact the urban environment while at the same time participating in urban cultural activities.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Jerry Balch, a native New Yorker, has camped, hiked, and backpacked extensively in the United States, Europe and the Himalayas. He has been active in the Sierra Club since 1982. Jerry is a volunteer tour guide at the International Youth Hostel and has taken thousands of visitors from all over the world on The Grand Tour, a spectacular all-day walk throughout the city.


John Tab Tabaczynski has been an active outdoorsman since he became a Boy Scout 60 years ago. He has hiked most of the peaks and many of the trails in the northeastern US. He served as a scoutmaster for 8 years, and after retiring from that post became a participant in Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Club activities. He and his wife Glenda live in Groton, MA. They enjoy cooking (even to the point of giving lessons), and seek out adventure travel. Recent travels have focused on Central and South America as well as the North American west. Tab, started taking photographs and doing darkroom work when he was 11 years old, and despite that still maintains a passion for photography. He claims he only hikes to photograph. About 4 years ago Tab signed on as an assistant leader for the NYC Parks service trip and has been coming back ever since. The trip is unique as far as Sierra Club trips go, and IT IS A BLAST!!!


Richard Grayson has been involved with Sierra Club national outings since 1967, when he was a teenager. He has been on 35 Sierra Club national service trips -- 25 of which he has been the leader or co-leader. He is a leader for the Sierra Club International Outings and Northeast Outings Subcommittees and is certified in wilderness first aid. When he is not on Sierra Club trips, he plays a lot of baseball and is still waiting for his long-awaited major league call-up.

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