East Flatbush

Brooklyn Botanic Garden continues to celebrate the Power of Trees with its Annual Greenest Block in Brooklyn Award

Winner and runners up announced on East 25th St. at Clarendon Road

August 9, 2023 Lucien Clough
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On Thursday, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s (BBG) annual Greenest Block in Brooklyn award was announced. The press conference took place at the winning residential block, East 25th Street between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, where remarks were made by BBG president Adrian Benepe, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, and other representatives from the participating blocks. Runner-ups were announced as well, as were the winners of other categories such as greenest commercial block, greenest storefront, and best community gardens.

Greenest Block in Brooklyn 2023’s 1st place in the residential category, 300 East 25th Street Block Association, East 25th Street between Avenue D & Clarendon Road.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden photo by Nina Browne.
Adrien Benepe (left), President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, stands with Carol Reneau, co-chair of the winning block’s Garden Club.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden photo by Michael Stewart.

The competition has been running annually for nearly thirty years as a borough-wide celebration of the power of gardening to bring people together. This year, judges chose from 190 entries from all over Brooklyn, keeping in mind both the greenery of each block and the community surrounding it. This year’s winning block was a champion of both. The block’s diverse front gardens and lush, shady trees were beautiful enough, but the potted plants hanging from NO PARKING signs, the flower-filled wheelbarrows, and the array of info plaques educating the public on pollinators and urban gardening were icing on the cake. Little things like that, Benepe said, helped the block stand out as a clear winner. The block is more than a garden, however: it’s also a community. In line with this year’s theme for the competition and the BBG’s current exhibit, the power of trees, each tree was named after a child on the block who helped tend it. “We try to include the young people on the block,” said Carol Reneau, the co-chair of the block’s garden club, in an interview with the Eagle. “This is how we build community — it’s intergenerational. When young people can speak to you about plants, we’re excited.”

Greenest Block in Brooklyn 2023’s 1st place in the community garden streetscape category, Serenity Community Garden, Avenue L between East 45th Street & Troy Avenue.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden photo by Nina Browne.
Adrian Benepe, President of BBG, speaks at the annual event.
Photo: Brooklyn Eagle photo by Lucien Clough

East 25th Street’s garden club is no stranger to winning Greenest Block in Brooklyn. “Rooting for East 25th Street is like rooting for the Yankees,” Benepe joked, in reference to the block’s first-place wins in 2016, 2011, 2006, and 2004. This is largely due to the long tradition of urban gardening on the block. The block’s garden club has been running for over 30 years, and several of its members, including Reneau, are alumni of the Brooklyn Urban Gardener program (with the apt acronym BUG) run by the BBG. Besides teaching her invaluable planting techniques and sustainable horticulture methods, Reneau said it helped her marry her Caribbean heritage and urban gardening to unite the community. “It’s also about meeting people where they are. If they need help with watering, we’re gonna do the watering. If someone doesn’t know anything about gardening and planting, we’re gonna help them garden and plant. That’s how we get behind the whole community.”

Greenest Block in Brooklyn 2023’s National Grid Leadership in Sustainable Practices Award winner, The New East 26th Street Block Association, East 26th Street between Avenue D & Clarendon Road.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden photo by Nina Browne.

Besides making it a favorite for dog walkers and neighbors, the block’s trees, greenery, and pollinators help fight climate change. “Trees are essential in the fight against climate change,” said Benepe, reminding the crowd of record-high temperatures in both June and July.  “It’s the difference of everyday people making change, making their block greener, and contributing to the greater good: that’s what’s gonna make the biggest difference,” added Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “If everyone in Brooklyn contributes a little bit of their time, the difference we can make will be astounding.”

Greenest Block in Brooklyn 2023’s 1st place in the window box category, Hazel Carter of 3103 Snyder Avenue, entered by the Tilder Block Association.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden photo by photo by Jibreel Cooper.

The competition has long been an invaluable reminder of the importance of gardening and community and will continue to encourage people all across the borough to participate in the fight against climate change. Despite its inherently competitive nature, Benepe remarked, when it comes to global climate change, we’re all on the same side.

ON THE RECORD: See the one-on-one here with champion gardener Carol Reneau on winning the BBG Greenest Block Award.

Participants in the 2023 Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition pose with BBG president Adrian Benepe.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden photo by Michael Stewart.

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