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Trans-planters: How Manhattan’s flower boxes wound up in Red Hook

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Fear not Red Hookers: an obscure Manhattan business group is not encroaching on Pier 41 — even though more than a dozen weathered planters appear to indicate otherwise.

A row of aging planters adorned with logos for Manhattan’s 34th Street Partnership are enjoying a second life not-quite-beautifying the waterfront behind Fairway, raising occasional questions about their out-of-borough provenance and holding as much garbage as greenery, according to critics.

The flowerpots — which were apparently so unattractive the Midtown merchants group struggled to give them away — popped up on the Brooklyn waterfront in 2002 after the 34th Street Partnership bought newer, sleeker, plastic street furnishings that are easier to clean and harder for graffiti writers to tag.

And after eight years of wear and tear on 34th Street and a decade along the pier, some locals claim Manhattan’s concrete cast-offs are a bad fit for Red Hook.

“It looks like you’re taking hand-me-down clothes,” said Eugene Moore, who rejected an offer from the 34th Street Partnership to take the planters when he served as head of an East New York business-improvement group a decade ago. “It’s a little tacky.”

The Manhattan group shopped the planters around before giving the boxes to Red Hook property owner Greg O’Connell for free.

Taking something old and making it new again is part of the Red Hook ethos, said O’Connell, who converted an 1870s warehouse into a high-end grocery store, studios for artists, and apartments, and turned Manhattan’s old planters into, well, Brooklyn’s old planters.

“We like to recycle,” said O’Connell, who won’t replace the planters. “In Red Hook, that’s what we’re all about.”

Recycling is well and good, but some Brooklynites say aesthetics are important, too — especially when the most eye-catching parts of many of the planters are the fading or scratched-off logos promoting the 34th Street Partnership.

“Make it so it’s not so obvious that they’re recycled,” said Cobble Hill resident Geoffrey Lewis.

Updated 5:32 pm, July 9, 2018
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