The opportunity: Roam Brooklyn for a day to see green infrastructure on Brooklyn’s Greenest Blocks. The plan, convince fellow Raleigh conference goer, Leslie Herndon, Greenscape to come along. After jumping on rented CitiBikes, Leslie and I charged off to locate the Residential Category Greenest Block in Brooklyn winner in 2015, Bainbridge Street. To be named a Greenest Block, Brooklyn’s street associations compete in the Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest organized by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) as part of it’s community outreach program, GreenBridge.
Once we navigated serious construction delays to get into the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, it was easy to spot the section where the Bainbridge Street Homeowners and Tenants Block Association is hard at work greening the neighborhood. They are not newcomers to BBG award recognition as demonstrated by a fence of awards recognizing their effort from BBG and other organizations.
Dolled up street tree beds, dozens of decorative containers adorning front steps, stoops and front yards flanked both sides of the street for a few blocks. New are bioswales being installed by the New York Department of Environment. We saw two that that were planted a couple of months ago already swarming with bumblebees, and several other bioswales in the construction process.
Havana Outpost at 757 Fulton Street catalyzed nearby businesses to beautify their exteriors with plants so much that the Fulton Area Business Alliance got No. 1 Greenest Block in Brooklyn 2015 in the Commercial Category. Their Cuban sandwich was great too! Flanked on one side by a city garden center and on the other by a wine store an an organic/local grocer, Havana Outpost is a brightly colored vegetated oasis in a hip urban neighborhood.
Nina Browne, GreenBridge Program Manager explained that the Greenest Block competitions are great for creating social coalescence, boosting intergenerational connections, engaging passersby and facilitating residents getting to know one another. That’s not to mention that residents are pulling out concrete front yards and replacing them with gardens she said. BBG is also promoting use of natives in residential gardens and containers to help create pollinator pathways through the city she added.
Another community organization, Trees New York, has an active volunteer training program to equip residents with the knowledge they need to be a tree steward. Hundreds of Brooklyn residents take on tree beds to care for the street tree and to use the bed as a space for gardening too. Nina mentioned that bioswales may also be managed by volunteers in the future as well.
We also stopped by Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBC) for a brief visit. The Native Flora Garden at BBC is the oldest of its kind in the United States. The new 1-acre expansion planted in 2013 is a magnet for pollinators and birds. Designed to reflect the pine barrens, the space is described as a choreographed self-sustaining, evolving ecology.
The new LEED Gold Visitor’s Center is embedded in a hillside. It replaces a simple gate. The Center is covered with a 10,000 sq. ft. intensive green roof meadow that captures 200,000 gallons of water a year. The native plant-inspired design was originally planted with 150 plant species and designed for four season interest. Grasses are cut back in March. Shortly following, the roof is covered with flowering bulbs. Stormwater that flows off the roof and other impervious surfaces makes it’s way into a rain garden that features Nyssa sylvatica, Magnolia virginiana, Panicum virgatum, Amsonia sp. and Camassia sp.