By  on June 17, 2009

NEW YORK — Terry Lundgren got down and dirty Friday — along with kids from Public School 153 and the Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York.

Lundgren, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s Inc., pitched in as the group undertook planting, weeding and painting bird houses in a one-acre meadow next to Castle Clinton National Monument in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park. The activity was in conjunction with the announcement of Macy’s total $4.1 million contribution to the National Park Foundation and local parks as part of an effort to get city kids more in touch with nature.

“It’s a great day if you are a plant or a tree,” Lundgren said.

Macy’s volunteers were on hand, along with New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who asked the kids if they knew how Battery Park got its name. “In the old days, a battery was the name of a fort,” he explained. “The Dutch built a fort here to protect the harbor from the English.”

Macy’s raised the money through a percentage of sales on April 25, which was designated “One Good Turn” day at all stores. The chain also took donations.

More than $2.5 million will go to the foundation, an independent charity chartered by Congress in 1967 to strengthen the connection between Americans and national parks. Grants from the foundation support the “First Bloom” program in eight cities with the aim of getting urban kids involved with parks and nature.

“There is a lot of urban youth that have not have much contact with green spaces,” said Maria Burks, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor.

The meadow at Castle Clinton became the city’s inaugural First Bloom site in April 2008 when the kids and then-First Lady Laura Bush came out to weed and plant the area. The remaining $1.6 million is earmarked to support local parks.

“From meetings we have had with our employees, particularly younger ones just out of college, it’s become loud and clear that the subject of the environment is very important to them,” Lundgren said.

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