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Carroll Gardens visionary needs lots — and luck

The Brooklyn Paper

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.

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Reader Feedback

Sebb from CG says:
Great idea
May 12, 2010, 8:42 am
Greg from CG says:
That bodega on the corner is awful, and the owner is a complete jerk. Not surprised he "doesn't like the idea". What a waste of what could be a beautiful corner.
May 12, 2010, 10:25 am
Breukelen9999 from Carroll Gardens says:
This is a great idea. This corner has had complaints for years (check out blogs from around Christmas, e.g.. http://pardonmeforasking.blogspot.com/2010/01/dear-christmas-tree-ventor-please-clean.html). And regardless of cleanliness, parking is illegal based on the 1846 design for the neighborhood courtyards. It makes perfect sense to re-green the spot, and would be a significant benefit to the community. I say "Go for it!" I'm glad to hear that Councilmember Lander is favorably inclined and I hope that sufficient pressure can be brought to bear on the city.
May 12, 2010, 11:51 am
Deroy Peraza from Carroll Gardens says:
Dan, we are Hyperakt, a design studio on Smith and 3rd Street. I just want to throw in our support for your mission of recovering neglected spaces and turning them into green spaces. Let us know how we can be of help.
May 12, 2010, 12:09 pm
Marie from Coble Hill says:
He should also call the NYC Parks Department...
May 12, 2010, 12:16 pm
Luke from bed stuy says:
I have an idea. How about a giant duck? You don't see a lot of giant ducks. And everyone would be like, "isn't there a giant duck around here? Let's see the giant duck." Ducks have staying power. They can float and fly and maybe one day they won't die when the eat out of the gowanus. That could be the quote above the gate. It's yours.
May 12, 2010, 8:43 pm
Frank from Red Hook says:
Dan's plan reminds me of Zoey Datchenel's husband's song about fireflies. What the f is that song about? I am sorry to admit I even know the song but I have ears and a radio and I've walked through big box stores. I see a tree as an umbrella, windows that act as some kind of in and out metaphor, words like gregarious. Make the space designing a competition. I want to see some sick $hit happening there. The best of the best using the latest, most expensive plant craft stuff with LEDs and plants floating in the air. No I want a community garden. People can grow their own food. No I want a Gregory Crewdson garden, spooky. No I want a rotating artist space and garden. Everything on wheels to suit what could come up next. No I want a garden with a story that the people of the neighborhood have to give birth to. They have to decide where to get the soil and plants from. They have to decide on the wood and workers and see those stories alongside the plants as they grow, literally. We would make a call for people who dig soil, people who are into carpentry, people who've been doing what features we need. We're looking for everyday people. Not the sick las vegas and bp wack jobs. Or the equally sick holistic people who are way to into balancing rocks or the perfect cheese. Light on the yuppy crap and pseudo cummity embracing but actually erasing crap. A space with a huge ceiling would be more inviting. Open at night with hanging lights. Not too much of a place to get in trouble.
May 12, 2010, 9:09 pm
Alexx from Prospect Lefferts Garden says:
Luke and Frank said it best. Shock value leading to care value. What is Dan looking to plant? Just ornamentals or some towering tomatoes? Vivacous vetch? Effervescent epimedium? I wonder what's going on in Ravji Patel's head? Or rather, heart. What does he see or not see happening there that better suits his ideals?
May 12, 2010, 10:33 pm
Frank from Red Hook says:
and I'm glad to see we care more about a stupid little garden than the PCBs leaking into my Red Hook Soccer Fields. PCBs 110x's the safe limit. This has been known since 1990's. wtf world. wtf.
May 12, 2010, 11:36 pm
kr from cg says:
The city does not own that front yard - read the deed.
May 25, 2010, 2:10 pm
L from Carroll Gardens says:
KR from CG: The city definitely owns the courtyards on these CG blocks. Do some research.
June 15, 2010, 8 pm

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