PLANT on Lincoln Place Wins Greenest Block

21 Photo on Lincoln after Winning Greenest Block Contest.jpg

PLANT on Lincoln Place Wins Greenest Block

PLANT (Preserving Lincoln's Abundant Natural Treasures) has won 1st place in the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest conducted by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Last year activists in the group came in second under the auspices of the Lincoln Civic Block Association, and that just whetted their appetites to try again. This year they shed the sponsorship of LCBA and struck out on their own. The two main leaders in this effort were Althea Joseph and Perri Edwards, and I followed their thinking and action from the winter into the spring up to the final victory this summer. They offered an inspiring model for how to do neighborhood organizing. First, they set themselves a clear goal; they knew exactly what they wanted to do, which was to win the Greenest Block contest. Second, with that goal in mind they gained an enormous amount of support; I would guess, judging by the residences that participated by putting out plants, that they had the backing of a large majority of people on the block. Three, the leaders earned this support by example. Althea and Perri were out on the street early in the morning virtually every day working industriously on the project, and very soon they were joined by others – lots of others.

In April, with the early planning done over the winter, PLANT burst into the open. They passed out a leaflet up and down the block stating that they had registered to compete. LCBA decided that month to also enter the contest, first just along New York Avenue, from Lincoln to St. Johns, but then they added on New York over to Eastern Parkway and then Lincoln between New York and Brooklyn. I wrote in the May issue of “Nostrand Avenue News” that, “It will be interesting to see how the competition within the six blocks of the LCBA comes out.” Now we have the answer. The judging in the contest happened in three stages; 160 blocks in Brooklyn entered the contest. The three blocks submitted by the LCBA were defeated in the first round. The second judging was of the 30 remaining blocks and they were whittled down to ten, and lastly from those ten were chosen winners of first, second and third place. PLANT came in first.

Along the way PLANT held fundraisers, they got grants, and the initial group of people grew larger, those doing more than planting in front of their own houses. As someone doing litter pick up on the block three days a week with my interns (and sometimes with visiting volunteers from my church who came from out of town), I noticed Moya Dewar, Sandra Layne, and Vicky Broadhurst were often on the street working hard, putting out ever more plants and tending them so they stayed healthy and beautiful. How they grew! An event to give a fresh coat of paint to the large concrete tubs in the area was well attended. In front of Althea's house a circus gradually emerged with a ferris wheel, popcorn and various animals. There also a children's garden also appeared At the east end of the block a dogwood went into an empty tree pit and was joined by ground cover, flowers, and what seemed to me to be tropical growth, and soon there was a saw horse and a group of yellow containers with more striking plants. At the west end of the block a welcoming configuration was designed by Perri, suggesting to you that if you turned off Nostrand into Lincoln, you were entering a special zone, cooler, with better air, and many natural wonders to feast the eyes on. Mr. Joseph constructed a stylish brick border around the trees on both sides of the street nearby. In an attempt to add education to beauty, the organizers placed cards on every tree identifying the species and giving some information about each.

The number of people working on the project grew and grew. Mike Blue tended the sculptures he had created last year on the north side of the street. He put goldfish in the little pond he had built and fresh plants in the other fixtures, the bench, the chair, and the toilet. Noelky Sullivan put in time and energy decorating the dead tree in front of her house and putting flower boxes in front of her neighbors' houses. Vivian Villegas and her husband Toby Ledbetter brought back plants from upstate; Marilynn LeGall got involved. Beverley Hall put out plants and cleaned up the street and made her hose available for watering, as did Israel and Asie Mirsky. Virtually everyone did something creative in their front yards and windows. For example, Junior Cricklow planted a garden filled with different color coleus. Different residences came up with their own concepts, and the individual efforts contributed to an overall effect of lush abundance. The photo taken of people from Lincoln Place after the ceremony only gives a suggestion of the amount of participation from the block and nearby.

Diane Richardson came by in April to encourage the effort, and at the presentation of the award on August 8th there were State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Chaplain Ingrid Lewis-Martin, the Deputy Borough President from Eric Adam's office who presented a Proclamation form the Borough President. President of the BBG. Scott Medbury told the crowd the contest is now 25 years old and had more participating blocks than ever. One can read about the ceremony in numerous publications, online and in print, and there was coverage by various television outlets. The event was reported on by NBC, Fox and NY1. As Perri said in her speech at the award ceremony, “For years I went to the winners of Greenest Block and asked them how they did it. This year, people from other blocks are going to come to me and ask 'How did you do it?'” What a triumph!

– John DeWind

UpdatesRobbie Klein