Credibility has finally been restored to the celebrated — but controversial — “Greenest Block in Brooklyn” contest.
After last year’s debacle, in which the decidedly un-green Eighth Street between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West was chosen, judges from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden did the right thing this year and picked a bona-fide bucolic block: Lincoln Road between Bedford and Rogers avenues in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
This year’s winners had entered last year, so naturally they were pleased that the Botanic Garden had recognized their sore green thumbs.
“I’ll admit, we visited last year’s winner and thought, ‘Our block is literally green compared to this,’” said Tolonda Tolbert, whose house mid-block is the epicenter of Lincoln Road’s floral effort.
“But the contest has been great for us because it gets everyone involved,” she quickly added. “I feel wonderful. People have been fertilizing the ground with their sweat on this block for decades.”
Botanic Garden President Scot Medbury said block-wide participation was the trellis of Lincoln Road’s first-ever win.
“They have 80 percent of the block involved,” he said. “And look at these tree pits.”
He was pointing to several extra-large sidewalk gardens that neighbors created after realizing that there were no utility wires or pipes running below the sidewalk.
“They got permission from the city, cut through the bureaucracy and got them dug,” Medbury said. “That’s a lot of effort.”
Given that I have been covering the “Greenest Block” contest since some Botanic Garden trees were mere shrubs, I brought up last year’s controversy. Medbury played defense.
“We thought Eighth Street was a credible pick,” he tried, gamely.
It was not, of course. Indeed, it should be no surprise that Eighth Street between Eighth Avenue and the park didn’t even make the top five this year. Contest rules bar it from winning for two straight years, but to not even finish in the top five? Well, that said it all.
I reminded Medbury that I was not the only one who thought last year’s decision to call Eighth Street the “greenest block” was a decision that would tarnish the Brooklyn Botanic Garden worse than the High Court was damaged by Bush v. Gore. But he persisted in his misreading of history.
“Well, what we liked about was that it had a great mix of owners and renters participating, and we really wanted to acknowledge it,” he added. “And it was the first time that a Park Slope block had won.”
This year, of course, no controversy. Credibility is restored.
Indeed, other category winners also showed that the Botanic Garden had put the past behind it. The greenest commercial block is Atlantic Avenue between Bond and Nevins streets, while the best garden streetscape is the Hollenback Community Garden in Fort Greene, where I once videotaped myself defecating in a water-recycling, solar-powered composting toilet (the video, on BrooklynPaper.com, is worth watching).
Hazel Deane of East Flatbush won for best window box — doesn’t she always? — and MacDonough Street between Stuyvesant and Lewis avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a block where I often find myself marveling at the street tree beds, sure enough won for best street tree beds.