Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn Eagle helps judge borough’s Greenest Block

July 16, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
GreenBridge’s Project Manager Nina Browne guided Brooklyn Eagle reporter Rob Abruzzese and another judge around during the second round of the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest. Winners will be announced on Aug. 4. Photos by Rob Abruzzese. For more photos, visit
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Early next month, the winner of the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest will be announced — but first, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) and GreenBridge have to scour the borough to find the best block, and they asked thisBrooklyn Eagle reporter for some help.

Last year’s winner, Macon Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant between Howard and Ralph avenues, was absolutely beautiful, so this year’s nearly 200 entries had a lot to live up to. In order to find that perfect Brooklyn block, a total of 17 judges travel around the borough, dissecting their favorites and least favorites in three rounds.

On Aug. 4, winners will be chosen for the best residential and best commercial blocks. Awards will also be given out for the Best Street Tree Beds, Best Window Box, Best Community Garden Streetscape, Greenest Storefront and the National Grid award for Leadership in Sustainable Practices.

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In the first round of the contest, two judges go around checking out all of the roughly 200 contestant blocks. After they narrow it down to the best 40 blocks, the contest is broken up into four sections of 10 blocks with three judges closely examining 10 blocks each. Finally, there are three judges in the final round who rank the remaining 10-14 blocks and give out the awards and honors. 

BBG and GreenBridge asked the Brooklyn Eagle for help in judging the second round. So early Tuesday morning, GreenBridge Project Manager Nina Browne, BBG Director of Communications Elizabeth Reina-Longoria and this reporter took to the streets of Brooklyn to determine which of the best two blocks out of 10 would move on to the next round.

The three of us went all over the borough but focused mostly on Bedford-Stuyvesant and East Flatbush. While blocks from every neighborhood can enter, these neighborhoods, both closest to BBG, enter the most blocks. We saw a range of contestants, from potential winners to one block in Boerum Hill that did not even seem qualified to have made the semifinals.

Many factors go into selecting a winner, including citizen participation, street trees and tree beds, variety and suitability of plants, horticulture practices, soil and mulching, maintenance, color, creativity and total visual effect. It’s not easy to perfect all nine of those categories, which is why it often takes blocks years to even make the finals, let alone win. 

One particular block in Lefferts Gardens that was a first-time entrant was beautiful. It was evident that the majority of the block was involved, with several creative strategies, such as using shoes as planters (the stretch even had some baby Jordans with flowers in them). Still, there are several details, like tree-bed maintenance or sustainable practices, that can take years to perfect, and first-time entrants tend have a hard time with some of these aspects of the competition.

The Greenest Block contest began in 1994 as a way for BBG to engage the thousands of people who love to garden. It is estimated that there are nearly 40,000 Brooklynites who pitch in to support this contest annually.

For more photos, visit

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