As the Hindu population has grown in Queens over the last decade, so too has the amount of ritual debris–clothing, statues, even cremation ashes–lining the banks of the bay in Gateway National Recreation Area.
“We call it the Ganges,” one pilgrim, Madan Padarat, said as he finished his prayers. “She takes away your sickness, your pain, your suffering.”
But to the park rangers who patrol the beach, the holy waters are a fragile habitat, the offerings are trash and the littered shores are a federal preserve that must be kept clean for picnickers, fishermen and kayakers. Unlike the Ganges, they say, the enclosed bay does not sweep the refuse away.