Friday, August 6, 2010

Flatbush Block Claims Title of Brooklyn's Greenest Block

Every year, the Vanderveer Place Block Association enters its block — on Vanderveer Place between Flatbush Avenue and East 23rd Street in Flatbush — in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s (BBG) Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest. And every year, the block comes in first, second or third.

“We are passionate about this contest,” said Olivia Avery, president of the block association. This year, Vanderveer Place took top honors in the residential category — the third time it’s done so in the contest’s 16-year history, Avery said with a smile.

The 2010 winners were announced at a press conference Wednesday at the winning block. BBG’s community environmental horticulture program, GreenBridge, holds the contest every year, with support by the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

“We had incredible participation across Brooklyn,” said BBG President Scot Medbury, who noted that 220 blocks from 20 neighborhoods participated in the contest. “It’s a reminder of the incredible growth of this borough. Brooklyn is famous for its ‘can do’ attitude and its one-of-a-kind style.”

Residents gathered among the flowers and greenery joined by Borough President Marty Markowitz, GreenBridge director Robin Simmen and Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber, to recognize winners in all categories.

“Vanderveer Place has set a new standard,” Gelber said. “In a small way this block reflects everything about Brooklyn.”

Other winners were: Hoyt Street between State Street and Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, which took top honors in the commercial category; Bainbridge Street between Malcolm X Boulevard and Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which won for best street tree beds; Brooklyn’s Finest Garden, on Lefferts Place between St. James and Grand Avenue in Clinton Hill, which won best community garden streetscape; Sam Hall on State Street in Boerum Hill, which won for best window box; and Burrito Bar in Prospect Heights, which won greenest storefront. 

A panel of more than 30 judges look at a number of criteria including color and total visual effect, citizen participation, variety and suitability of plants, soil condition, use of mulch, street tree and tree bed care and other good horticultural practices. The panel, made up of professional horticulturalists from the garden and other greening organizations throughout the city, visited the blocks from mid-June through July.

“Today blocks like Vanderveer carry on Brooklyn’s green tradition,” said Markowitz. “When we plant seeds all of Brooklyn blooms.”

On a block where one person’s house rivals the next, Bob Johnson’s house (above, top photo) stands apart from the rest. An archway covered with flowers and vines acts as a gate, plants line the stoop, the yard is covered with greens, and window boxes populate each window.

Johnson, a resident of Vanderveer Place for 39 years, is very involved in the block association, and says a lot of people stop by his yard to take pictures of the arch. His garden has potato plants, petunias and “quite a few perennials.”

As one of the longest residents on the block, he says, “I call myself ‘the mayor.’ Everyone knows each other. It’s a very vibrant block association.”

Avery, who has been president of the association for four years, but a resident of the block for 35, agrees: “It’s just a nice little block.”

Her own garden has potato plants, petunias, snowdrops and Black Eyed Susans. “It makes the house and the block look beautiful and that’s something you strive for wherever you live,” she said. As for Brooklyn, she adds, “It’s the garden spot of the world.”