By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Weed 'em and reap.
It's been spring for over a month already, but it seems like Mother Nature finally got the message as the weather is improving and the flowers are starting to bloom. That means that the Brooklyn Heights Promenade gardeners are back to work.
Local volunteers and gardener Matthew Morrow meet every Tuesday morning throughout most of the spring, summer and part of the fall to help maintain the garden that stretches roughly one-third of a mile along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The group met for the first time this season on Tuesday, and Morrow already expressed confidence in this year’s garden.
“I think we got more done last year than I ever expected,” Morrow said. “We were successful in removing a lot of old shrubs and growth. Usually that is something that takes several years, but with all of the help that I’ve gotten, it really looks phenomenal. Looking back, I never expected to get that much done last year.”
This is Morrow’s second season as the community coordinator/gardener. He works three days a week at the Promenade and two days a week at Borough Hall. Only half of his salary is paid for by the city, with the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) picking up the rest of the tab.
“Up until five years ago, this garden was really neglected because every year resources were being cut,” volunteer Koren Volk recalled. “It got to the point where we had this amazing attraction, but behind it were a bunch of overgrown shrubs, some evergreens and weeds. The BHA finally went to the city and said something had to be done.”
The city and the BHA eventually settled on an agreement to hire a gardener, splitting the cost. In the five years under that arrangement, the garden has undergone an extraordinary transformation, but it hasn’t been easy. Volunteers are necessary and, most importantly, money constantly needs to be raised to not only pay the gardener, but also to purchase supplies.
“We are always looking for volunteers and we hold fundraisers throughout the year,” Volk said. The next fundraiser is a bake sale that will take place on the promenade near the Montague Street entrance on May 3. Proceeds go toward buying new plants and topsoil. Donations are also accepted.
Volk and some of the other volunteers understand that not everybody can donate, but are quick to point out that anyone can pitch in. The volunteers meet every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., work for two-and-a-half hours, and usually go for coffee afterward.
“There is a social aspect to it that has become very warm and personal,” said volunteer Neil Calet.
There are roughly 30 people who regularly volunteer, with at least 18-20 showing up every week.
“It’s a really committed group,” Volk said. “We love our neighborhood and don’t mind pitching in to make it beautiful. Our goal is to have people that visit the promenade to be delighted just as much by the garden as they are by the beautiful skyline that has made the promenade famous.
“The thing about the garden is it takes so long, but it’s really rewarding, and after five years of doing this, it looks nothing like how we started. Still, there is much more to do.”
Contact the BHA to donate or to volunteer, stop by the bake sale on May 3, or just show up on a Tuesday morning near the Pierrepont Street entrance to pitch in.