HOPE Crew Brings In Young Workers To Preserve Fort Wadsworth, Other Historic Sites

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Many historic masons and carpenters are aging out of the workforce, putting preservation of our national parks and historic sites at risk.

As CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, the HOPE Crew was started to secure their future by bridging the generation gap.

Beneath the Verrazano Bridge at the foot of the Narrows, Battery Weed, built in the 19th century, still stands strong. Meanwhile, Fort Tompkins, a Civil War-era structure, still intrigues.

All the history and vistas galore make up Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The hidden gem is open to the public, making preservation a must.

That is where the HOPE Crew comes in.

“HOPE Crew is one of the ways in which we are helping the National Park Service address its maintenance backlog,” said Monica Rhodes, executive director of the HOPE Crew program.

HOPE is an acronym for Hands-on Preservation Experience. The goal is to connect young people with historic landmarks while they get their hands dirty learning a trade.

Since its start in 2014, projects have been completed across the country – including in the Tri-State Area. Volunteers painted over graffiti at Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey, while at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, HOPE Crew members fixed up Building 26 post-Superstorm Sandy.

“We’ve repointing, chiseling, learning,” said Vincent Campbell of Mariners Harbor, Staten Island.

For four months now, Campbell and the rest of the crew have been hard at work repairing a landscaping wall, which is more than 2,000 feet long. When they started, most had never held a trowel.

But lead mason Ken Follett has been with them every step of the way, making sure their work meets preservation standards.

“If we don’t educate youth in how to conserve what we have, then we’re going to lose it,” Follett said.

“This is a trade that not a lot of people are doing right now, so for your future, it might be worth it just to, you know, have the experience under your belt,” said Ethan DeSantos of Mariners Harbor.

“They learn hard work,” Campbell said. “You can take that anywhere you go, hard work.”

The program is a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, The Corps Network, and the Citizens Conservation Corps. The HOPE Crew said they do pay a livable wage.

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