Two commercial blocks in our area tied for the top commercial prize in the Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden! Congratulations to Cortelyou Road between Westminster and Argyle, on the odd-numbered side of the block, and to Newkirk Plaza, which just got green this spring, thanks to the work of several neighbors, local organizations, and businesses.
Additionally, Brooklyn Hearth, which is on that block of Cortelyou, was named the Greenest Storefront.
See the full list of both commercial and residential winners at the BBG site.
Without a tree pit in site, the winning stretch of Cortelyou has managed to be very colorful with planters in front of every business. Jan Rosenberg of the Cortelyou Road Merchants Association, and whose storefront for Brooklyn Hearth is one of those on the block, spurred the businesses on the block to put in planters, many of which are planted by local gardener extraordinaire Tracey Hohman. And a big thanks to the businesses, which have pitched in to keep everything so well watered in this heat, keeping the block looking great when much of Brooklyn is wilting.
“This is paid for 100 percent by the merchants, and 100 percent of them participate,” Jan says. “It’s not a hard thing to do. It’s just small neighborhood businesses, so it’s a manageable thing to do. And it was really nice to be honored.”
Jan explains that it all got started after Brooklyn Hearth’s Rebekah Carver was inspired by The Castello Plan’s roses (see below). She went shopping for plants for the front of their store at Shannon’s, and bumped into Tracey while she was there. Tracey took one look at what Rebekah had picked out, told her they’d die in the sun, and went through the nursery picking out a bunch of plants that would do better in the location.
“We are so totally psyched to win!” says Tracey. “Thanks to Jan who really rallied to get our block looking beautiful. Jan encouraged the other businesses to participate and wins for community building in our hood. She even sponsored some extra window boxes. The day the Greenest Block in Brooklyn judges showed up it was pouring rain and I was just putting in the last of the planters.”
Tracey switches up the plantings in spring, summer, and fall.
“I try to mix perennials, tropicals, annuals, and grasses to keep it interesting,” she says. “I do love the wave of grasses down the street.”
Tracey has a Certificate in Horticulture from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and is a Certified Citizen Tree Pruner. She designs and installs gardens and containers not just at businesses, but also for residential clients all over the neighborhood, with a specialty in been getting rid of lawns and replacing them with perennial woodland gardens. If you’d like to learn more, you can contact her at email@example.com.
One of the businesses on the block that’s doing their own planting is The Castello Plan, which has a barrel and a trunk that are each full of green. As seen above, in the spring roses climb up the side of the restaurant–I’ve even seen people stop to take photos of their friends in front of the flowers.
At Newkirk Plaza, turning the newly re-bricked outdoor mall into a bright and leafy plaza wouldn’t have happened without help from virtually every corner of the community. With help from the Flatbush Development Corporation, the Friends of Newkirk Plaza, and countless neighborhood associations, businesses, and local residents, the long-planned greening finally became a reality in May.
Robin Redmond of the FDC is quick to point out that Nicole Francis is “the guru behind the funding for those fabulous trees and plants and the motivator of volunteers and the project overall.”
Those volunteers–including Robin, who has long pushed for this project and who has supported all the efforts along the way–that Nicole has rallied deserve a lot of credit, too. Mike Weiss of West Midwood and Susannah Laskaris of South Midwood donated not just time, but talent–Susannah was the go-to horticulturist and planner for the planting, and the two worked closely on planning and purchasing of the trees, plants, and all necessary supplies.
“Susannah has also led several trainings with afterschool and summer camp children on the proper watering of these plants,” Robin explains.
Campers watering at Newkirk Plaza, via the FDC twitter account.
Bob Pandolfo was also at every planning meeting, as well as the planting day, which so many neighbors pitched in at–a big thanks to all who volunteered.
Additional thanks go out to Sam Ainbinder of Atlantic and Pacific Oil, and an FDC Board Member.
“He was at every planning meeting and has donated a lot of money for the maintenance of the project since planting was completed,” Robin says. “He has his staff member Joe come out to the Plaza weekly not only to water, but to prune and provide general maintenance to the project.”
Pablo’s Diner employee watering at Newkirk Plaza, via the FDC’s twitter account
Much like Cortelyou, Newkirk Plaza wouldn’t stay green without the help of the neighboring businesses.
Paul from Almac has supplied water for the plants for months–estimated at 140 gallons three times per week since May. Nicole recently went to the merchants on the Plaza to get commitments to water and tend to the plants, and she has gotten enough support so that each planter has someone looking out for it. She says one owner in particular, Mahmood, who owns three businesses on the Plaza–the candy store, new Plaza Gourmet deli next door to that, and the new produce market on the other side–is going above and beyond.
“He offered to do the whole stretch along Sovereign bank, that’s three trees and something like six planters,” she says.
Nicole also notes that they received grants from the Brooklyn Community Foundation and Citizens Committee, which helped a great deal–as did individual support from around the neighborhood.
“Every neighborhood association and many local business and individuals sponsored planters and volunteered,” Nicole explains. “This was truly a community effort.”