By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Courthouse workers and visitors to Downtown Brooklyn often stroll over to the world-famous Brooklyn Heights Promenade for lunch. In good weather a take-out lunch on a Promenade bench means dining with one of the greatest vistas in the world: New York Harbor. But more and more visitors are noticing that the Promenade Gardens are quite an attraction, too. What they might not realize is the great volunteer effort that it takes to maintain these gardens.
This week a new professional gardener was hired to plan and oversee the faithful volunteers from Brooklyn Heights who care for the gardens as their own.
Matthew Morrow brought his troupe of volunteers together for the first time Tuesday to kick off the new season.
“Overall, the garden is in great shape,” Morrow said. “It used to be just a lot of greenery, and John did a great job of getting a lot of new flowers in. I would say that a lot of my plans are editing what's already here - adding more repetition, height and color - so that when you walk through here, it's more of an experience.”
Morrow, who is originally from Colorado and became a horticulturalist in Tennessee, was hired just last Wednesday and was put in charge of keeping the promenade's garden beautiful. While his title is community coordinator/gardener, Morrow says his job also involves customer service work, as he often fields questions from curious pedestrians.
“People think I'm just out here gardening all day, but a lot of the job does involve talking to the public,” Morrow said. “People see me working [and] they stop and ask me questions. And it's great, because they can learn a lot. They don't necessarily need to know plant names, but it helps get them experience with gardening just having conversations and educating them.
Morrow's immediate plan is to get everything back in order after the winter - weeding, pruning, and moving some plants around. Once that is in done the next step is to provide more cohesiveness to the area.
“We're looking to create displays,” said Morrow. “Lots of color and new species. It's a long stretch and the north end needs a shot in the arm because of the new footbridge connecting to the Brooklyn Bridge Park.”
Morrow works three days a week at the promenade and another two days at Borough Hall. Still, he needs plenty of help, and fortunately he gets it through volunteers from the Brooklyn Heights Association. About 20 or more volunteers come out every Tuesday morning, and Morrow says that even in his first week he can already tell that they are going to be a big help.
“Before this, I was working at Madison Square Park in Manhattan, and a lot of the volunteers there were corporate volunteers, not necessarily from the neighborhood,” Morrow explained. “They were great, but they tended to want to do more of the sexy work.
“Here, there are a lot of people helping out who have lived in this neighborhood forever. They're a little bit more invested in it and it's more about cleanup, weeding, and making sure there isn't trash everywhere. It makes a difference and it makes my job easier because I don't have to manage them so much.”
Morrow said he also expects to get help from after school and senior programs that will begin soon.
Morrow and the volunteers do a great job, but the gardener said they could always use more hands. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the Brooklyn Heights Association to find out more information.
If you don't have the time to volunteer, but want to help out, there will be a bake sale held on the promenade on Saturday, May 18, near the Montague Street entrance. Proceeds from the bake sale go entirely toward buying new plans and topsoil. Donations will also be accepted.