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A landscape designer in Carroll Gardens is aiming to take back the brownstone neighborhood one front yard at a time.
And he’s waging his battle with the power of persuasion — and plenty of cardboard, wood and glue.
Dan Silverstein’s first target sits at the very epicenter of this brownstone enclave — a neglected corner front yard at Court Street and First Place.
Residents have been complaining about the property since 1999, citing excessive debris and illegal parking, for which the owner was slapped with three summonses nearly a decade ago, city records show.
The trashy tradition has endured — though no formal complaints have been logged since 2003.
Last December, Christmas tree salespeople left the place a mess of trees and wreath-filled garbage bags that lingered for two months, Silverstein recalled.
Today, there’s graffiti on a wall adjacent to the yard, and cars parking there day and night, a violation of city law.
“Small public spaces are extremely valuable,” Silverstein said. “They’re places we walk by every day, and they affect how people feel about their community.
Silverstein is hoping to convince the city, which technically owns the courtyard, to let him design the space to better serve the neighborhood. So far, he said, he’s had some encouraging words from Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), but no firm commitments.
But Ravji Patel, who owns the grocery shop adjacent to the front yard and is responsible for its maintenance, has said he is not interested in the plan, Silverstein said. Patel did not return a call for comment.
Silverstein isn’t deterred.
He’s created a scale model showing the potential of the property — which he envisions filled with benches and plants, a flexible space for quiet refection or social interaction — and has taken his idea on the road, attending civic groups to engender support.
The plan is already generating enthusiasm.
“We would love to see something green on that corner,” said Maria Pagano, president of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association.
The cost for the project has not yet been determined, but is expected to be minimal as many of the materials and plants can be donated.
It’s not the first time that the neighborhood has faced a crisis over the front and side lots that give Carroll Gardens its name.
Last year, the Hannah Senesh Community Day School sought to build on its front yard, at First Place and Smith Street, by getting an exemption from the city. But mounting criticism derailed the plan. The school however, continues to allow its employees to park in the front yard.
Silverstein, who owns a firm called GreenZone Landscape Design, said if he succeeds on Court Street, he’d like to tackle other neighborhood eyesores, like the Senesh front yard.
An added benefit is that a refurbished front yard might make the well-heeled neighborhood even more convivial, he added.
“I’m deeply convinced that the way we design and treat public spaces affects the way people treat one another within the community. And that’s very valuable,” Silverstein said.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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