Eddie Earl loves Charles Park and wants the whole neighborhood to love it too.
Equipped with the notion that enthusiasm can be contagious, Earl hosted a park day last Saturday in which he invited residents of Howard Beach and beyond to bring sports equipment, picnics and crafts and simply enjoy the neighborhood’s federal park, which frequently is a source of complaints about trash debris and other forms of neglect.
“Everybody complains about the park but nobody goes there. Nobody utilizes it. So I tried to get different people in the community to come together,” Earl said.
As part of the event, Earl, the founder of a group called Flags Across Howard Beach, put up a 15-foot U.S. flag with the help of the Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department.
Earl also invited invited Tracey Gallagher, the founder of a group called Queens NY Hope Rocks, which organizes rock-painting events for kids and then hides the rocks in different parks across the borough to be hunted like buried treasure.
As part of his flag motif, Earl also held a raffle for a wooden carved flag engraved with Howard Beach’s ZIP code that area business Empanadas on the Rise donated. Thomas Niblock won the artisan flag.
Like Earl’s goal behind the day at the park, Gallagher, a Woodhaven resident, said that she originally started her rock-painting project at the outset of the pandemic with the aim of spreading cheer in South Queens.
“We just started it because we wanted to do something positive in the community — something that brought hope to people when there was none,” she said
The group regularly does painting workshops in Charles Park and Forest Park. At first Gallagher started painting rocks and hiding them with her teenage son to provide a Covid-safe activity for neighborhood kids. Now she’s expanded her technique to several different styles of painting and teaches children how to create the art objects.
On the back of each rock, Gallagher writes to the finder that it can be kept or rehidden.
“We have little ones that will never give them up,” said Gallagher, adding that one family she knows with two little girls has about 70 rocks. “They go all over looking for them.”