Working on Greenest Block Contest brings people together in Flatbush
Winning Block Finds 'Greening' Makes Winners Of All Who Value Streetscapes
Stroll along 25th Street in Flatbush on a warm summer day. Classic Brooklyn row houses with rounded facades dominate, and most of the front yards are lush with hydrangea and dogwood; clusters of helianthus rise skyward as bees crawl over their wide discs like mountain climbers ascending a vertical face. Cross Avenue D heading north, into the 300 block, and it doesn’t seem that different.
Not at first blush.
Then details start to catch the eye: a worn leather boot lovingly filled with robust succulents sits atop an iron fence; porch steps are lined on both sides with dozens of plant-filled pots; and, perhaps most significantly, everything looks so healthy. Flowers of fierce yellows and reds or deep blues, purples and pinks hold their colors without any fading; their edges are sharp and nothing is even slightly brown or desiccated — even in high summer.
“This block is speaking to us,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told an assembly of residents, horticulture aficionados and representatives of Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden, who were on hand to present the 22nd annual Greenest Block in Brooklyn award to the 300 East 25th Street Block Association President Grace Henry.
“Gardening is part of the process when you move here,” Henry told reporters prior to accepting the award. “It builds community and fosters relationships in our neighborhood. We started out 20 years ago — building block by block.”
“We help to empower Brooklyn citizens to create healthier communities through gardening and cultivation,” Brooklyn Botanic Garden President Scot Medbury said before awarding first place prize of $300 to the Flatbush association.
Although contest rules forbid first place winners from participating in next year’s Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest, the 300 East 25th Street Block Association has scored in recent years, including a second place win in 2015.
Some of the judging criteria, per the Botanic Garden’s website, include degrees of resident participation — with a focus on families working together; care and maintenance of existing shrubs, trees and flowers; variety and suitability of plants for the region; and the application of colors in the overall setting.
Sustainability — a system’s tendency to provide for its own needs without additional outside resources such as fresh water or minerals — is also part of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s focus. Corporate sponsor National Grid was on hand to present the award for leadership in sustainable practices to the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bears Community Garden.
In spite of the competitive nature of their relationship, representatives of other block associations were present to celebrate and support 300 East 25th Street, including members of third place winner, Lincoln Place R&B Block Association.
A palpable sense of ease filled the street as residents shared homemade dishes arrayed under a tent in the middle of the block while guiding visitors and members of the press through one another’s front yard with practiced familiarity. Kids, on break from both coursework and cultivation duties, effortlessly recited popular and scientific names for plants when asked by those less educated.
“They used to say we lowered property values when we moved in,” resident Denise Alexander, originally from Grenada, said with broad smile — in reference to the neighborhood’s African-American majority. “But look at it now!”
“We have a great product here,” Adams said with a gesture encompassing the neighborhood. “All of us are winners when we green our block!”
A complete list of winners and honorable mentions can be found on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s website, http://www.bbg.org/greenbridge/greenestblock.
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