Don’t call it a comeback!
After a stunning upset last year, a verdant block of Hoyt Street in Boerum Hill has regained the title as Greenest Commercial Block in Brooklyn as judges of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden contest finally grew some smarts.
“It’s exhilarating to win again,” said longtime Hoyt Street building owner Nat Hendricks, who’s the player-manager on this block of gardeners.
The block between State Street and Atlantic Avenue is lined with looming oak trees, potted plants with leaves that are wild enough for a jungle and beds of colorful flowers. The block had won the contest in 2007, and then took the mandatory year off, setting up what everyone in Boerum Hill just assumed would be a re-coronation in 2009.
But instead, Atlantic Avenue between Bond and Nevins streets emerged with the crown of roses, leaving Hendricks and his crew questioning the roots of the judges’ decision.
“I just don’t see why we lost,” Hendricks said. “We had a great block last year.” Of course, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden-sponsored competition has a history of controversial winners, especially in 2008, when Eighth Street between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West — yes, one of the least-green greenest blocks ever — won for greenest residential block.
But to paraphrase Nietzsche, that which doesn’t win you a greenest block contest makes your stock heartier.
“We did even more to win this year,” Hendricks said. In addition painting over graffiti, making his own mulch and maintaining the variety of potted plants that he began lining the street with 35 years ago (Hendricks tells a story about planting flowers while some punk kid shot bottle rockets at him from across the street), Hendricks decided to add some quirky art work to Hoyt Street. He and his team filled their old sneakers with soil and planted colorful flowers and oak tree leaves inside them. Then they mounted them on building walls next to pieces of junk, including an old printer and broken laptop, which they found on the street and in dumpsters. “This is street art that symbolizes the importance of recycling,” Hendricks said.
Hey, he’s no Warhol, but Hendricks’s display was symbolic enough to satisfy the “overall visual effect” component of the contest. Hendricks also made sure that Hoyt Street got points for civic participation, recruiting the block’s store employees to get their hands dirty.
“I swept, I watered plants, cleaned up the block in general,” said Kili bar and restaurant employee Dwayne Diabreau. “Hendricks really wanted to win this year. He was so excited about the contest.” (Vanderveer Place in East Flatbush won the slightly more prestigious title of “Greenest Residential Block” this year.)
For winning its contest, the Hoyt Street Association gets $300, which will keep the block in contest shape. The rules prohibit winners from entering two years in a row, but Hendricks seems to have no qualms about going for gold in 2012.
“We’ll use the check for more plants and pots,” Hendricks said. “Maintaining is what we do here.”
It sure ain’t easy being green.