The contest is managed by GreenBridge, the community environmental horticulture program of Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG), in cooperation with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and with leadership support from the Brooklyn Community Foundation. The contest encourages members of block associations and merchants’ associations to vie for the coveted title of Greenest Block in Brooklyn by working together to cultivate window boxes, container plantings, front gardens, storefront greenery, street tree beds, and more.
BBG president Scot Medbury, Mr. Markowitz, and Brooklyn Community Foundation senior program officer Stuart Post all congratulated the winners in the residential and commercial categories.
Blocks are 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 20 judges, including journalists and professional horticulturists from Brooklyn Botanic Garden, visits each contestant block from mid-June throughout July.
This year’s winning residential block, East 25th Street between Avenue D and Clarendon Road, distinguished itself with its splendid use of native plants and superb street tree bed care, as well as with its collective watering efforts and adoption of a vacant building. This is the third time East 25th Street has been named the Greenest Block in Brooklyn, with first-place victories in 2004 and 2006. The 300 East 25th Street Block Association succeeded in including all of its neighbors in its greening efforts, going so far as to care for the front yard of a vacant building, in which squash and other vegetables are now growing.
“We tried for 100 percent participation,” said Hazel Deane, who has lived on East 25th Street for 37 years and is chairperson of the block’s gardening club. “With 56 homes on the block, that’s a challenge. This year we had the most participation ever.” Deane said their efforts to motivate neighbors even spread to the next block: “We were thrilled! We'd like to see all of Flatbush turn green.”
“Above all, the sense of design on this block, the gorgeous colors, and careful arrangement of textures in containers, is just breathtaking. It was far and above the most beautiful block in the contest due to their gardening and their amazing collective effort,” said Robin Simmen, director of GreenBridge.
This year, the judges paid special attention to the use of plants native to North America, particularly the Northeast. Because of ever-expanding urbanization and development and a surge in invasive plants from other parts of the world, the city is challenged to maintain its native plant communities. Judges assessed how each block utilized native plants on the streets of Brooklyn—in containers, front yards, and street tree beds—as a way to strengthen and restore New York’s natural ecosystem. Other judging criteria included the variety of plants used, street tree care, maintenance, use of color and texture, citizen participation, and total visual effect.
About the Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest
Since its inception in 1995, the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest has encouraged greening activities on more than 1,600 Brooklyn blocks. Community involvement has grown steadily, from 50 blocks in the first year to well over 200 blocks in 2011. It is estimated that more than 600,000 Brooklynites have participated in this borough-wide beautification and greening effort over the past 17 years.
The contest has helped revive block associations and inspired the creation of new organizations based on common challenges and interests. In many of the borough’s least-served neighborhoods, where participation in the contest continues to grow, it plays a critical role in community building not readily provided elsewhere.
First prize is a $300 check for each top residential and commercial block winner. All other finalists receive cash prizes ranging from $100 to $200. Best Window Box, Greenest Storefront, Best Street Tree Beds, and Best Community Garden Streetscape winners receive cash prizes or gardening tools. Contest participants attending the fall recognition ceremony on October 4 at Brooklyn Borough Hall also receive a gift bag of fall bulbs and a certificate of recognition for their participation.
First place in the residential category: 300 East 25th Street Block Association for East 25th Street between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, Flatbush
Second place tie:
• Bainbridge Street between Malcolm X Boulevard and Stuyvesant Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant • Lincoln Road between Bedford Avenue and Rogers Avenue, Lefferts Gardens
First place in the commercial category:
Atlantic Avenue between Bond Street and Nevins Street, Boerum Hill
Best Street Tree Beds
• First place: Eighth Street between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West, Park Slope
• Second place: Bainbridge Street between Malcolm X Boulevard and Stuyvesant Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant
• Third place: Schenectady Avenue between Avenue D and Foster Avenue, East Flatbush
Best Community Garden Streetscape
• First place: Red Shed Community Garden, Kingsland Avenue between Skillman Avenue and Maspeth Avenue, Williamsburg
• Second place: St. Marks Ave. Prospect Heights Community Garden, St. Marks Avenue between Vanderbilt and Carlton Avenues, Prospect Heights
Best Window Box
• First place: Joyce Rooney, 430 Eighth Street, Park Slope
• Second place: Elizabeth Steward, 306 MacDonough Street, Bedford Stuyvesant
• Third place: Millicent Wright-Burton, 738 East 39th Street, East Flatbush
First place: Habana Outpost, 757 Fulton Street, Fort Greene
“The Greenest Block competition is about more than just beautifying our neighborhoods, it’s about fostering communities,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “And let’s not forget that when everybody is out working on their green thumbs, it means more neighbors getting to know one another, which makes for a tighter-knit, safer, and more vibrant community. When we plant seeds, all of Brooklyn blooms!” “As a founding sponsor of Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest, we’re thrilled to witness the growing excitement and participation in this wonderful program, and the enduring impact that beautification has had on local communities,” added Marilyn Gelber, president of the Brooklyn Community Foundation. “Brooklyn is home to half of New York City’s community gardeners, and our goal in supporting Greenest Block and BBG's community horticulture programs is to continue to make it the greenest, most beautiful borough in New York City.” “Throughout the contest’s 17-year history we’ve watched a tremendously exciting progression, as entering blocks evolve from being beautiful to being beautiful and sustainable—horticulturally, economically, and socially,” noted Scot Medbury, president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “No longer is it enough to simply look good—block associations are creatively and determinedly grappling with new challenges from increased temperatures to less disposable income for gardening, and doing an extraordinary job at that. We commend the nearly 220 entering blocks this year and thank the borough president and the Brooklyn Community Foundation for providing the resources that help GreenBridge offer the outreach that has had such a powerful impact on these communities.”
For a full list of winners and more information about the contest, visit bbg.org/greenbridge.
BBG’s GreenBridge program promotes urban greening through initiatives and events year-round related to sustainability, environmental conservation, community development, and good horticultural practice. Working with block associations, community gardens, and other service groups, GreenBridge is building a vibrant network of people, places, and projects dedicated to making Brooklyn a greener place.
About Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Founded in 1910, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is an independent nonprofit institution committed to education, research, and the display of horticulture. Situated on 52 acres in the heart of Brooklyn, the Garden is home to over 12,000 kinds of plants and hosts more than 725,000 visitors annually. Brooklyn Botanic Garden is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Visitor entrances are at Flatbush Avenue, 900 Washington Avenue, and at Eastern Parkway. For directions, please visit bbg.org/visit/directions/.
About the Brooklyn Community Foundation
The Brooklyn Community Foundation's mission is to improve the lives of people in Brooklyn by strengthening communities through local giving, grant making, and community service. The first and only one of its kind in Brooklyn, the foundation was founded in 2009 to support the borough's most effective nonprofits in five Field of Interest Funds: Arts for All, Caring Neighbors, Community Development, Education and Youth Achievement, and Green Communities. Thanks to a startup gift from the Independence Community Foundation, 100 percent of all donations to the Brooklyn Community Foundation are tax deductable. Learn more at BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org; follow at Twitter.com/DoGoodBklyn; and like at Facebook.com/DoGoodBklyn.