Got Snails?

Garden Snail along the Shady Path, May 2010
Garden Snail

I was contacted on behalf of an urban nature educator who needs snails. She has a project this weekend on Governor’s Island to create snailariums. Who knew?! She got some snails, but not enough.

We are a neighborhood with a surfeit of snails. With yesterday’s rain, and more predicted today, it should be a good time to collect. If you’re interested in participating, see the original request from Wild Gotham Fran on the Brownstoner Garden Forum:

I am teaching a workshop at the Figment Arts Festival (6/11-13) on Governor’s Island on how to upcycle a shoebox into a posh house for a common garden snail. I am an urban nature educator and have a web show called Wild Gotham that focuses on everyday wildlife in NYC. If you have excess snails, I would love to come get them at your convenience or you could drop off at my house in Park Slope. Snails will be displayed at Figment and afterward released into my backyard where, along with all the others, they will devour my plants. Thank you in advance.- Fran

Tree Snail, Hattie Carthan Community Garden, Bed-Stuy, October 2008
Tree snail

Sustainable Flatbush featured in “A Walk Around the Blog”

BRIC, the non-profit Brooklyn arts organization which produces Brooklyn Community Access Television (BCAT), has been doing a bi-monthly series called A Walk Around the Blog, interviews with Brooklyn bloggers talking about their neighborhoods. The latest edition features Anne Pope of Sustainable Flatbush talking about, what else, Flatbush and sustainability.

I make an appearance from 1:53 to 2:54 in the video.

If you can’t see the embedded video above, or if you want to view it at a higher resolution, it’s also hosted on

Related posts

Greening Flatbush a success!, February 24, 2008


Sustainable Flatbush
A Walk Around the Blog (Blog)
A Walk Around the Blog (Blip)

Cortelyou Crocuses!

This morning I took a slight detour from my commute routine to check the tree pits along Cortelyou Road for blooming Crocuses. I was rewarded:

Cortelyou Crocus

It may not look like much, but this is only one of the 400 Crocuses neighborhood volunteers planted last fall in some of the tree pits along Cortelyou Road between Coney Island Avenue and East 17th Street.

It also has a companion blooming in the same tree pit:

Cortelyou Crocus

Until the rest of them start blooming, if you’re not looking for them, you’ll probably overlook them. Here’s how they appear in situ as you walk by the tree pit:

Crocus blooming in a treepit on Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn
Crocus blooming in a treepit on Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn

The Crocuses have been up for a month; these are the first blooms. The Daffodils are also emerging in several of the tree pits.

Someone’s (or someones’) been doing a good job keeping the tree pit fairly clear of garbage. Nevertheless, you can identify several fragments of urban street detritus, including chewing gum, bits of plastic straw, and um, organic material.

This morning I didn’t see any bags of garbage in the tree pits themselves. When I see this, I try to stop and lift the bags out to place them on the outside of the protective fences. But for the past few days I’ve also seen a bike locked to the inside of the fence, right where the bulbs are coming up. I want to make up some signs to put along all the tree pits to remind folks:


The bike locked up so it’s crushing the emerging bulbs deserves its own sign.

Over the next two weeks we should see a succession of different Crocus blooming. These yellow ones look like Crocus chrysanthus or something similar. Other may be purple, blue, or even white. I purchased “mixed” Crocus for this planting, so that’s what we should expect!

Related Posts

Cortelyou Road Crocus Watch, February 4
Tree Pits are not Dumpsters, November 18, 2007
The Daffodil Project Plantings on Cortelyou Road, November 4, 2007
1,000 Daffodils for Cortelyou Road, October 27, 2007
The Daffodil Project: Grief & Gardening #5, November 26, 2006


The Daffodil Project

Cortelyou Road Crocus Watch

Update 2008.03.06: The Crocuses are blooming!

Despite this morning’s brief snow flurry, Spring is nearly upon us. That means that the 1,000 Daffodils and 400 Crocus which dozens of neighborhood volunteers planted along Cortelyou Road last fall will soon bloom. The crocuses are already up and may bloom within the next two weeks.

This is a good time to remind businesses, building owners and managers, residents and visitors along Cortelyou Road that tree pits contain live plants. They should not put bags of garbage in them. This is especially important now that the plants are coming up.

Most building and business owners do not use the tree pits as dumpsters. I’ve only seen it done twice in the past two months. But all it takes is one thoughtless dumping of garbage, and the whole season of growth in that tree pit will be destroyed.

Beyond not damaging what’s growing there, any care that owners and businesses can take to keep tree pits neat and clean will make a big difference. Keeping the tree pits clear of litter is the single most effective thing they can do. Just like graffiti and broken windows, keeping after trash shows that people care for the area, and are watching out for it.

Over two dozen people turned out to help plant the tree pits last fall. That’s a big turnout for something that was organized very informally. This shows that residents value the new streetscape along Cortelyou Road. Studies have shown that people spend more time, and are willing to spend more, on commercial streets that have green, growing things. Keeping the tree pits clean and free of trash is not just neighborly. It’s good business as well.

Related Posts

Tree Pits are not Dumpsters, November 18, 2007
The Daffodil Project Plantings on Cortelyou Road, November 4, 2007
1,000 Daffodils for Cortelyou Road, October 27, 2007
The Daffodil Project: Grief & Gardening #5, November 26, 2006


The Daffodil Project

Wanna Fight Crime? Plant Trees

Do street trees increase or decrease crime? In an urban setting, does increased vegetation interfere with police surveillance of criminal activity? Or does the increase in community “surveillance” from more people spending more time outdoors, because it’s more pleasant, deter crime even more than police surveillance would?

According to Joseph Murray, biology instructor at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, Virginia, it’s the latter:

Police tend to believe more vegetation means less visibility. A study in 2001 looked at subsidized housing units with varying amounts of vegetation around them. The most calls to the police came from the building with the least vegetation. Those with more vegetation tended to draw residents who demanded benches and well-maintained playground equipment. Then, people were out there watching.
Urban Forestry Has Crime Prevention Role, Patricia R. McCoy, Alliance for Community Trees, January 22, 2008

We need to internalize more sophisticated models of the impact greening and gardening can have on urban communities. It’s much more than “neighborhood beautification”; at least, when it’s done well, it is. People need green growing things around them to be healthy, to reduce stress, to connect with neighbors, and to feel positively about belonging where they live. Gardening builds and supports community resiliency to respond creatively and constructively to internal and external crises and pressures. Gardening builds community. As it should.

Welcome to the (Online) Neighborhood

Our neighbors to the NorthWest in Windsor Terrace have formed the Windsor Terrace Alliance:

The Windsor Terrace Alliance (WTA) is made up of residents, community groups and businesses of Windsor Terrace interested in advocating for our neighborhood. We are your neighbors. The more voices we have, the louder our voice will be. Please consider joining us to get involved or for updates on issues affecting our neighborhood (click on the Contact Us button below).

via the StableBrooklyn Yahoo Group.

The WTA covers the area from Prospect Park West on the west, Prospect Park Southwest to Park Circle on the north, follows Ocean Parkway and then Caton Avenue on the east, and to McDonald Avenue on the south.

These boundaries include the East 4th Street Community Garden which I recently visited.


Windsor Terrace Alliance (WTA)
WTA Yahoo Group
StableBrooklyn Yahoo Group

Summary of the Kickoff Meeting of the Gardening Committee of Sustainable Flatbush

Updated 2007.11.30: Added the complete list of ideas which came out of the brainstorming session.

Last night I hosted the kickoff meeting for the Gardening Committee of Sustainable Flatbush. Clockwise from lower left in the photo are Mela, Anne, Lashonda, and Bruni.
Sustainable Flatbush Gardening Committee Kickoff Meeting

At the end of the evening, I asked if someone was willing to co-chair, and Bruni volunteered. She will report to the general meeting next Monday. What follows is my summary of how the evening went.

We opened with some quick introductions, everyone helped themselves to tea and cookies, then we settled in for a quick brainstorming session. As you can see in the photo above, my little card table wasn’t big enough to hold all the ideas we generated in just a few minutes. Next time I’ll use a bigger table.

Next we reviewed everything each of us had written while grouping and clustering the cards. For example, we had clusters for ideas related to composting, schools and youth, gardening techniques, street trees, and community. This sparked more discussion, questions and answers, and more ideas.

The strongest theme to come out of the meeting was “community.” Each of us feels strongly about the connections between community and gardening. I talked about my experiences with the Daffodil planting on Cortelyou Road. Bruni talked about her experiences with a community garden, and the community of gardeners, in the East Village. Others talked about their desires to organize people in their buildings, and on their blocks.

We decided to focus on a single near-term action: a public community meeting in late February. The idea is to get people excited about the possibility of doing something with their building, their block, their neighbors in 2008, and connect them with opportunities to learn more and organize. I’ve contacted BBG’s Brooklyn Greenbridge to see if they can do a Flatbush-oriented version of their “Greening Up Your Street” program. Even if not, we’ll be able to put some kind of program together.

We don’t have a date yet for our next meeting. We’re thinking it might be sometime in January. When we have a date, it’ll be announced here and on the Sustainable Flatbush motherblog.

I’m inspired by this definition of community gardening:

What is a Community Garden?
Any piece of land gardened by a group of people.
American Community Gardening Association

By this definition, we can create “Community Gardens” everywhere:

  • Tree pits
  • Median strips
  • Planter boxes
  • Grounds and foundation planting areas of apartment/coop/condo

Imagine turning our streets into community gardens …

I’ll close with this photo. This shows the state of our table workspace after we had done the grouping and clustering. Visit the Flickr photo pages for this and the opening photo; they have notes with the text from some of the cards. This photo also shows that my home-made, from scratch, double Callebaut bittersweet chocolate chip cookies were well-received.
Sustainable Flatbush Gardening Committee Kickoff Meeting

The crayons were popular. I also ended up with some nice drawings and doodles on the paper covering the card table. I’ll have to get some photographs of those as well.


Here’s the complete list of ideas, in alphabetical order, which came out of our brainstorming session.

Adopt a tree
Apartment building gardens/landscaping
Aromatic gardening
Assisting renters in taking/using green space in or around buildings
BBG/Brooklyn Greenbridge
Benches around tree pits (wood benches)
Brooklyn College Garden
Buddy gardening
Build community
City repair (Portland model)
Community composting
Community garden
Demonstration gardens
Donate food grown to families with food challenges
Educate neighbors about types of trees in neighborhood
Engage youth/children
Find neighbors with farming experience
Food, not lawns
Gardens/farms in schools
Green roofs
Ground cover for older tree pits
Grow food
Guerilla gardening
Highlight/profile local gardeners
Kids education (PS 139, PS 217, and at other local schools)
Lawn care practices
Library Plaza Garden
Million Trees NYC
Planting in Newkirk Plaza
Public composting
Rain barrels
Rain gardens
Red Hood Community Farm
School compost
Sponsor a tree
Street arboretum
Tree signs
Window boxes

Monday, 12/3: Sustainable Flatbush December Meeting

This month’s Sustainable Flatbush general meeting will be next Monday, December 3, from 7 to 9pm.

At the meeting, Gardening Committee co-chair Bruni will report on last night’s kickoff meeting and our plans for a public community event sometime in late February 2008.

Related Posts

Gardening Committee Kickoff Meeting

Upcoming BBG GreenBridge Classes

I know Fall lingers on, and we haven’t even reached the Winter Solstice, but it’s time to start thinking about Spring! Registration for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden‘s Winter and Spring classes begins this Saturday, December 1. In addition to professional education, such as programs for Certificates in Horticulture or Floral Design, Brooklyn GreenBridge, BBG’s Community Horticulture program, offers free and low-cost education to Brooklyn residents and communities:

Brooklyn GreenBridge is BBG’s community horticulture program, including our Brooklyn Compost Project. For a free copy of our newsletter and more information about GreenBridge programs and events, call 718-623-7250. To reach our compost help line, call 718-623-7290. All classes are free, but you must preregister at 718-623-7220 unless otherwise indicated.

All classes are held at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. All classes are free but require registration. I’ve highlighted some upcoming classes below. See their Web site for registration information and the complete class schedule.

Composting in the City

Thursday, January 17, 6–8 p.m.

Leaves, kitchen scraps, garden trimmings, and weeds can all become garden gold through composting. Making dark, rich, crumbly compost doesn’t take much time, work, or space. This class covers the essentials: the composting process, how to compost even in small city yards, using finished compost, avoiding and solving problems, and helpful equipment and tools. Participants receive a copy of the BBG handbook Easy Compost: The Secret to Great Soil and Spectacular Plants.

Teacher Workshop: Worm Composting in the Classroom

Thursday, January 31, 6–9 p.m.

Working with worms in the classroom is a great hands-on way to teach ecology, recycling, and gardening. Learn how to set up a worm bin, feed worms with food scraps, and maintain the system successfully. Activities, curriculum ideas, and ways to incorporate worm composting into science, math, and language arts for students of all ages will be introduced. Teachers will receive a copy of the activity guidebook Worms Eat Our Garbage, by Mary Appelhof, and may purchase a $10 voucher for a pound of red wiggler worms and a plastic worm bin.

This class may also be held at your Brooklyn school for a group of ten or more teachers. For information contact 718-623-7290 or

Composting with Lovely Redworms

Thursday, February 14, 6–8 p.m.

Did you know that redworms have 5 pairs of hearts? Come to this workshop and learn other things about this unique species. Learn all about vermicomposting, or composting with worms, including how to make and maintain a home for redworms. Participants will receive a copy of the book Worms Eat My Garbage, by Mary Appelhof, and may purchase a $10 voucher for a pound of redworms and a plastic worm bin.

Register with Karla Osorio-Pérez at 718-623-7368.

Make Compost With a Touch of Spanish / Haz Abono Orgánico con un Toque de Inglés

Thursday, February 28 / Jueves, 28 de febrero, 6–8 p.m.

Karla Osorio-Pérez

This class addresses two audiences—English and Spanish speakers—and is translated in both languages simultaneously throughout the session. We cover the basics of composting in a complete, practical, and interactive way. Participants receive handouts and literature to review at home.

Esta clase esta diseñada para el público de habla hispana e inglés y será brindada en ambos idiomas al mismo tiempo. El taller ofrece una gran oportunidad para aprender cómo hacer abono orgánico en una forma práctica, sencilla y de una manera interactiva. Participantes recibirán material informativo para estudiar en casa.

Register with Karla Osorio-Pérez / Llama a Karla Osorio-Pérez, 718-623-7368

Good Place for a Haunting Landmarked

2274 Church Avenue, Flatbush, Brooklyn
2274 Church Avenue

Remember me? I’m now a landmark:

A former public school in Flatbush has been approved for designation as an individual landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. At its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, the commission voted 8-0-0 to approve a recommendation by its research department to designate the former Flatbush District No. 1 School, later named PS 90, at the corner of Church and Bedford avenues and adjacent to Erasmus Hall High School.
Landmarks Commission Designates Former PS 90 in Flatbush, Linda Collins, Brooklyn Eagle, 11/26/2007

Given the condition it’s in, I hope this action hasn’t come too late to save this building. I bet this would make a terrific community center in an area that’s sorely lacking public meeting space.

Related Posts

Good Place for a Haunting, October 27


[where: 2274 Church Avenue, Brooklyn, NY]