Ditmas Park dominates ‘greenest’ block competition

Ditmas Park dominates ‘greenest’ block competition
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Ditmas is earning the “park” in its name.

The tree-filled neighborhood is now even greener — and the floraphiles at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden are taking note.

The area recently took home two out of the Garden’s six “Greenest Block in Brooklyn” awards — a long overdue acknowledgement of the hard work residents have put in to spruce up their neighborhood.

“This is a product of both longtime residents and brand-new residents,” said Robin Redmond, the executive director of the Flatbush Development Corporation, a neighborhood group that helped organize a major greening effort in Newkirk Plaza in May. “People are very invested here and they have a vision for the place for it to be gorgeous.”

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden selected Newkirk Plaza and the nearby Cortelyou Road stretch between Westminster and Argyle roads as co- “greenest commercial” blocks. The plaza’s award marks a surprising transition for an area that residents used to associate with urban neglect.

“Newkirk Plaza used to have, like, chain-link fence, and it had tar blacktop,” Redmond said of the makeover in which volunteers installed 21 planters, 11 trees, and benches in the area around the Q train subway stop. “It’s been a tremendous change for that space and a change that’s been a long time in the making.”

The stretch of Cortelyou Road that shared the award with Newkirk Plaza is home to such popular businesses as Mimi’s Hummous, the Castello Plan, and T.B. Ackerson Wine Merchant — but residents said the block’s transformation was also a recent development.

“I’ve heard people say they think people in Ditmas Park take the beauty for granted, but Cortelyou Road was not beautiful until somewhat recently,” said Jan Rosenberg, a broker at Brooklyn Hearth, which took home the “greenest storefront,” title from the Garden. “It is just wonderful to see people on the streets now using the farmers market. It creates more of a community.”

Still, Rosenberg admitted that it was the neighborhood’s historical character that ultimately helped inspire the recent efforts to incorporate plants into the streetscape.

“One of the things that is very unusual here is that there’s a strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street,” said Rosenberg. “It was consciously built as a suburban neighborhood and this continues that. But, also, this is a neighborhood where people care.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

How does your garden grow?: Arielle Haris, 9, waters a new flower box in Newkirk Plaza.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham