Brooklyn Boro

Game of Gardens: Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest enters final round

July 25, 2019 Mary Frost
Mark Fisher and Nina Browne, judges for the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest, rate this Montague Street planter. Montague Street made the final round. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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Officials discreetly roamed the streets of Brooklyn on Tuesday morning, green clipboards and cameras in hand.

It was just a day and a half after a massive power outage struck Brooklyn, and one day after a downpour that flooded the borough and knocked out subway lines.

But that didn’t stop the judges from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest.

The contest is in the final round, and, like every year, the competition is fierce. Dozens of prizes are awarded, but the competition is driven by neighborhood pride.

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Brooklynites are serious when it comes to being green, and despite the lack of power in some areas, shrubs, window boxes and edgings were camera-ready.

In Brooklyn Heights, Nina Browne, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s community program manager, and Mark Fisher, VP of the garden’s Horticulture and Facilities, were going down the check list while examining the lush plantings in a container at the corner of Montague and Henry streets.

Criteria includes mulch levels, soil stewardship, suitability of the plantings, use of color, and other benchmarks.

“I’m just one of a big team of judges,” Browne said. “The Montague Street BID entered this block in the contest. They’re actually a prior-year winner,” she said. “So we’re here judging them in the final round.”

Montague Street is competing in the Best Overall Commercial Block category, she said.

Kate Chura, executive director of the Montague BID, was ecstatic that the BID made the semi-finals.

“The talented and passionate team at James Weir Floral selects the material and cares for all of the plantings along Montague Street. They also add compost and mulch to all 50 trees,” Chura said. James Weir Floral is owned by Estela Johannesen.

The floral shop’s staff takes turns caring for the plants, and are watering them on an almost daily basis, Johannesen told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The weather has been extra hot so there’s a lot of watering.”

There are 200 window boxes and 50 trees in the Montague Street BID, which runs from Court Street to Hicks, Johannesen said. There are probably 10 more trees from Hicks to the Promenade.

“This year we added some containers with native evergreens and local annuals. We’re trying to beautify every place.” She added, “Whenever we’re out there people say, ‘Thank you.’ Moms and nannies tell the kids, ‘This is how we have pretty plants.’”

Other contest categories include Best Overall Residential Block, Best Window Box, Greenest Storefront, Best Street Tree Beds, Best Community Garden Streetscape, Special Commendations and the National Grid Leadership in Sustainable Practices Award.

The National Grid award goes to a block or community garden engaged in “highly visible ecological practices” such as use of rainwater capture, found material “upcycling,” community composting and the like.

Community groups in Brooklyn often go all out in such creative ecology, repurposing old boots, cane chairs and other miscellany as hanging container gardens.

Eagle photo by Sara Bosworth
Lincoln Place between Nostrand and New York avenues. Eagle photo by Sara Bosworth

On Lincoln Place between Nostrand and New York avenues in Crown Heights, the Lincoln Civic Block Association has transformed a bath tub into a planter.

The bath tub has a knotted tree branch coming out.

There are also gardens planted in brightly-colored buckets along the block, and a fish pond in a large wooden structure with a lot of greenery in it.

Browne said Brooklyn Botanic Garden would be notifying the finalists early next week. A press conference to announce the winner will be held Aug. 8.

Additional reporting by Sara Bosworth.

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