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Green teams win honors for their blocks - 14th Annual Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest spotlights natural beauty

The winning blocks for the 14th annual Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest were heralded at a press conference on the first-place residential block: Eighth Street between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue.

Also present were representatives of the winning commercial block: Bond Street between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street in Boerum Hill.

The Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest is a borough-wide annual gardening initiative managed by GreenBridge, the community environmental horticulture program of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, in cooperation with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

The Independence Community Foundation continues its historic sponsorship of the competition and uses its Sovereign Bank Endowment Fund in support of the effort. The annual Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest is a lively competition between hundreds of borough residents committed to neighborhood beautification and making Brooklyn “greener” than ever.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden President Scot Medbury, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Independence Community Foundation Executive Director Marilyn Gelber and Sovereign’s Nia Rock were on hand to congratulate the winners in the residential and commercial categories.

Each year, residential and commercial blocks compete for the coveted Greenest Block in Brooklyn title. The contest encourages members of block associations and merchants’ associations to work together to beautify their blocks with window boxes, container plantings, front gardens, storefront greenery, street tree beds, and other greening activities.

Recently, street tree bed gardening has been highlighted as part of a value-added judging criteria, encouraging entrants to consider the care and health of the street trees on their blocks. Plus, this year the Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest introduced a new “Best Community Garden Streetscape” award to honor the contributions community gardens make toward greening up Brooklyn streets.

Throughout the year, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s GreenBridge team offers programs and events to encourage borough residents to begin greening their blocks. In early spring, GreenBridge sponsors a window box kit sale, which provides affordable window box kits to those looking to get a head start on their spring planting.

Tapping into a resurgence of interest in locally grown food and green lifestyle adjustments, GreenBridge offered salad starter window box kits in 2008 in addition to the long-appreciated boxes for sun and shade and the newer herb window box kits — and sold almost 500 kits to Brooklyn residents. BBG’s GreenBridge also offers a limited number of free street gardening clinics to block associations and neighborhood groups throughout the spring and fall.

And, every March, GreenBridge produces Making Brooklyn Bloom, a free daylong conference on urban gardening, featuring hundreds of ideas for borough residents looking to make their neighborhoods greener and more beautiful utilizing smart horticulture practices.

In addition to the year-round programs offered by BBG’s GreenBridge, the Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest is designed to share the knowledge and resources of Brooklyn Botanic Garden with the neighborhoods of the borough. These programs promote conservation and community — making Brooklyn a greener, healthier, and happier place in which to live, work, and play.

Residential Category

Winners

First place in the residential category is awarded to Eighth Street between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue. The residents of Eighth Street tackled the “citizen participation” aspect of the contest with creativity and determination — by hosting “Mulch and Wine Night,” a fun evening dedicated to encouraging fund-raising for topsoil and mulch, and “Stoopendous,” a stoop sale and greening-education program to spread the word about the initiative and raise funds.

Sharing the honors for Second Place in the residential category:

· East 25th Street Block Association for East 25th Street between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, East Flatbush

· State Street Cathedral Block Association for State Street between Hoyt and Bond streets, Boerum Hill

Sharing honors for Third Place in the residential category:

· Schenectady Avenue Block Association for Schenectady Avenue between Avenue D and Foster Avenue, East Flatbush

· Vanderveer Place Block Association for Vanderveer Place between Flatbush Avenue and East 23rd Street, Flatbush

Fourth Place in the residential category goes to Bainbridge Homeowners and Tenants Block Association for Bainbridge Street between Malcolm X Boulevard and Stuyvesant Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant

Commercial Category Winners

First Place in the commercial category is awarded to Bond Street from Atlantic to Pacific (East) for Bond Street between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, East Side, Boerum Hill

Second Place in the commercial category goes to Mid-Atlantic Block Association (South) for Atlantic Avenue between Bond and Nevins streets, South Side, Boerum Hill

Third Place in the Commercial Category goes to Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership for Myrtle Avenue between Waverly and Washington avenues, South Side, Clinton Hill

In the new category of Best Community Garden Streetscape, the first-place honor is awarded to the Brooklyn Bears Pacific Street Garden on Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic and Pacific streets in Boerum Hill. Second place goes to 6/15 Green Community Garden on Sixth Avenue and 15th Street in Park Slope.

The Best Window Box honor is awarded to Kathy Geisler of Boerum Hill. Second place in this category goes to Donna and Edward Drakes of Bedford Stuyvesant, and third place to Rae-Ann Heinrich of Prospect Park South. The winners of Best GreenBridge Windowbox Kits for Sunny Box and Shady Box are the Jones Family of Lefferts Gardens and Callie Janoff and Randi Stolzfus of Crown Heights, respectively.

In the category of Best Street Tree Beds, top honors go to Macon/MacDonough/Stuyvesant/Lewis Block Association for Macon Street between Stuyvesant and Lewis avenues in Bedford Stuyvesant. Second place is awarded to the Crown Street Block Association between Bedford and Rogers avenues in Crown Heights, and third place to Macon/Reid/Patchen Block Association for Macon Street between Malcolm X and Patchen avenues in Bedford Stuyvesant.

The Greenest Storefront winner is Cake Man Raven, on Fulton Street in Fort Greene. Second place is awarded to Burrito Bar on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, and third place goes to Stan’s Place on Atlantic Avenue, in Boerum Hill.

There is no cost to enter the contest. Blocks were judged based on a variety 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. A panel of more than 30 judges, which included professional horticulturists from Brooklyn Botanic Garden and other NYC greening organizations, visited each entering block from mid-June throughout July — rain or shine.

After only two years of working diligently and creatively to build community and a greener, more beautiful block, the Eighth Street Block Association took home the first-place honor.

Jane Fields Becker, greening co-coordinator said, “We are excited and honored to have our block recognized with the first-place award. This contest has brought together the different cultures our block enjoys — that of the Brooklyn brownstone and the multi-dwelling limestone, our newer neighbors. We’ve all learned from each other, and each year we hope to improve our greening efforts in some significant way, always with our eye on the top prize.”

Joyce Jed, greening co-coordinator explained, “For example, we invited the BBG GreenBridge educators to speak to the residents about environmental stewardship and plant care; we created planting compositions and tree bed prototypes as models for residents to emulate and removed the stone blocks from the tree bed for better tree health.”

According to Becker and Jed, their increased and ongoing communication among the residents on the block, including email, Eighth Street Greening Committee meetings and brainstorming sessions, social events like the “Mulch & Wine Nite” group purchasing of planters, shared watering and plant care, and sharing of plants and gardening books all contributed to creating a greener and more socially involved block and ultimately, the first-place win.

First place in the 2008 commercial category — Bond Street from Atlantic to Pacific (East) for Bond Street between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, East Side, in Boerum Hill — is also a first-time win for the block.

“We have worked together for eight years to make our block greener. Truth is, we started from minus zero,” jokes greening coordinator Nancy McKiernan when asked to describe how the block got to be number one. She gleefully recalled its journey from graffiti and litter to earning top honors.

“We are a street of family-owned businesses — filled with boutiques and shops. And as any entrepreneur will tell you, there is not a whole lot of time and money for gardening, but we knew that working together we could improve the look of our street. And improvement breeds improvement,” added McKiernan, who has been described as a spark plug and catalyst to get other businesses involved. “We are near a major ‘A’ subway stop, and we also receive a lot of vehicular traffic — this combination makes for a lot of pedestrians. And they all tell us what a comfortable place to shop our street has become.”

McKiernan recalled that they started with some good trees, enlarged the tree beds, and gradually added more trees. “Now we have containers filled with evergreen shrubs and perennials — so we don’t have to buy new plants every year.”

Then the shop owners just add some colorful annuals: oxalis, lime-green potato vine, and their favorite pink begonias. The business owners have demonstrated creative Brooklyn moxie too by devising a drip irrigation system to keep their containers watered, using tubes to redirect the runoff from the window air conditioners.

For a full list of winners and more about the contest, visit www.bbg.org/greenbridge.

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