Petals and prose make nabe brighter - Boerum Hill Association applauds talented authors and dedicated gardeners

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The Boerum Hill Association, in its first general meeting of the fall season, celebrated three local authors and honored two local gardeners for their efforts to make Boerum Hill a better place.

Martin Sticht and Stan Murray received Local Hero Awards from the association, in recognition of their superb work greening up the Boerum Hill blocks of Cathedral Street near State and Hoyt streets and for holding greening and planting days throughout the planting season. The Cathedral Street block has been recognized as Brooklyn’s Greenest Block for so many successive years, judges in the contest had to change the rules to accommodate other blocks in the borough.

“I was very surprised to get this,” Murray, who recently retired from his gardening work, said. “I don’t like to be out front. I like to work around the corners and from behind. Hats off to Martin! Every year you’re out there working like gangbusters.”

Murray further recognized Margaret Cusack for her work helping make his block among the most beautiful block in Brooklyn.

“I consider her the best gardener on my block,” Martin said.

Steve Schooman also received an award, a $1,000 scholarship grant, for his Gowanus in Unity tutoring program. Schooman has been leading the tutoring program for several years, which has moved locations since holding sessions in the Gowanus Housing Projects. He praised members of the Boerum Hill Association for their work, several of whom have volunteered their own time to tutor local teenagers in reading and math.

“I give the scholarships to all the kids, because I want them to realize that college is an option for them,” Schooman said.

In addition, Brooklyn-based authors Michael Buckley, Ben Gibbard and Justin Watral read excerpts of their latest works for the association, which were welcomed enthusiastically. Watral read poignant passages of his book, Firehouse 101, which focuses on the story of a hotel executive who was transferred from Honolulu, HI, to Boerum Hill shortly after 9/11 and must make sense of the city after the attacks.

Ben Gibbard, author of New York Waters: Profiles from the Edge, read two articles he wrote for the City section of the New York Times. One followed the travails of a Park Slope mathematics professor who enjoys parking in Manhattan while the other illuminated the increasing presence of British ex-patriots in Boerum Hill and downtown Brooklyn.

“I’m amazed they let me get away with writing a story that long that seemed to have no useful purpose whatsoever,” Gibbard said.

In the essay about British citizens relocating to Brooklyn, Gibbard explains that many do so now for love and a desire to assimilate as much as for professional reasons. He shared how he felt isolated when his family lived in Carroll Gardens but was surprised with how quickly he was welcomed as a member of the community when his family moved to Boerum Hill.

“You said earlier you were surprised with all theses interesting wonderful people here in Boerum Hill,” Claire Angelica, a BHA member, said, as Gibbard smiled. “Why were you surprised?”

For its next event, The Boerum Hill Association will be holding its annual Christmas party on Dec. 6 from 6 to 10 p.m. Children are welcome. For more information, visit

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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