11th Hour for Campus Road Garden

2010-02-23: Added a brief history of the Garden.

Last Fall, Brooklyn College announced plans to destroy the Campus Road Community Garden, located at the western end of Brooklyn College’s athletic fields since 1997, for a parking lot. This Wednesday, February 24, the Brooklyn Community Board 14 Committee on Education, Libraries & Cultural Affairs is having a public hearing:

When: Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 7 PM
Where: CB14 District Office, 810 E 16th Street, Brooklyn, NY

1. Update on Brooklyn College Garden – Representatives of Brooklyn College and South Midwood Residence Association
2. Presentation on Brooklyn Public Library initiatives – Tambe Tysha-John, Cluster Leader, Brooklyn Public Library
3. Other business

If you would like to speak during any of the public hearings or during the public portion of the board meeting, please call the CB14 District Office at 718-859-6357 to register for time. You may also register to speak on the evening of the meeting.

The “Brooklyn College Garden” is part of Brooklyn College’s greenwashing campaign. On February 3, they posted this announcement (since removed) on their Web site:

Brooklyn College announced today the creation of the Brooklyn College Garden that will serve as the basis for a broad spectrum of academic and sustainability initiatives for faculty and students. Members of the surrounding community will also be welcome to plant on individual plots, which will be assigned to them on a yearly base.

The garden, to be situated at the campus’s Avenue H entrance and bordering the college’s athletic field, is designed to be approximately 2,500 square feet.

which is where the Campus Road Garden, occupying more than twice the area, already exists.

View Brooklyn Community Gardens in a larger map

Brooklyn College’s unilateral announcement is disingenuous, at best. They omit any mention of their plans to destroy the Campus Road Garden, or the parking lot that will take its place. Such is the basis for their “sustainability initiatives.”

Campus Road Garden, South Midwood, Flatbush, Brooklyn

Not content with destroying a garden with decades of history in the community, they plan to pick at its bones for their private benefit:

Trees and bushes from a temporary community garden that made use of the area in previous years will be carefully replanted in front of the West Quad Center to create an inviting new garden. The college envisions the new green space as a “serenity garden” with comfortable seating for visitors to linger.

A garden that has been in place for 13 years is not a “temporary” garden.

Once again, the hearing is this Thursday, Wednesday, February 24, at 7pm, at the CB14 District Office at 810 E 16th Street.

Group Shot


A brief history

Provided by the Campus Road Garden:

  • 1970s: Brooklyn College Organic Gardening Club starts a garden on a vacant college lot on Campus Road, sustained by community residents and students.
  • 1980s: The City sells the lot at auction and evicts the gardeners. The developer defaults, and the lot remains vacant and overrun by weeds.
  • 1990s: New Campus Road Garden Residents negotiate with the bank holding the property, and successfully recreate the garden. The bank again sells the lot and evicts the gardeners.
  • 1997: Gardeners negotiate with Brooklyn College to relocate the garden to its current location. Then-President Vernon Lattin calls it “Brooklyn College’s gain.”

Related Content

Save the Campus Road Garden in Flatbush, 2009-10-07
South Midwood Garden Tour and Art Show, 2009-08-18
Other Gardens: South Midwood Garden Tour, 2006-07-30

Flickr photo set

Campus Road Garden


Stop the Demolition of the Campus Rd Garden, online petition

Education, Libraries & Cultural Affairs Committee, Community Board 14

Land of the Free, Home of the…Cars?, Dassa Gutwirth, Sustainable Flatbush, 2010-02-23 (Illustrated with my photos of Campus Road Garden)
BC issues plan for new community garden, stirring ire, Courier-Life, 2010-02-09
Saving the Campus Road Community Garden from Parking Lot Fate, 2009-10-19
Brooklyn College to pave over popular garden to expand track, Flatbush residents not pleased, Daily News, 2009-10-09

Save the Campus Road Garden in Flatbush

Update, 2009-10-09: The Daily News has picked up the story, a few days after it’s been in the Brooklyn Blogosphere.

Campus Road Garden, South Midwood, Flatbush, Brooklyn, August 2008
Campus Road Garden

The fate of the Baltic Street Garden in Park Slope was, unfortunately, sealed months ago. And now Flatbush’ 14-year old Campus Road Garden is threatened by Brooklyn College’s plans to build a parking lot in its place.

View Brooklyn Community Gardens in a larger map

The garden has a [long] history and a lot of love, sweat and passion went into creating the garden and sustaining it through the years.

The college has made beautiful new additions to the campus: building, walkways, etc.

However, the garden, which lies at the foot of the athletic field, is going to be bulldozed to make room for a small parking lot.

As you can imagine we are all saddened by this. Each member joined for their own reasons, but the bottom line is, we all come together as a community and we cherish the friendships we have made with fellow gardeners, the Brooklyn College community and, of course, the neighborhood.
– Letter from the author of Snowballs and Candy Corn

Here’s how you can help.

  1. Sign the online petition: Stop the Demolition of the Campus Road Garden. (You’ll be prompted to contribute through PayPal, but you can ignore that.)
  2. On Facebook, join the group Stop the Demolition of Campus Road Garden! to stay informed.

Campus Road Garden


Related Content

South Midwood Garden Tour and Art Show, 2009-08-18
Other Gardens: South Midwood Garden Tour, 2006-07-30

Flickr photo set


Stop the Demolition of the Campus Rd Garden, online petition

Snowballs and Candy Corn: Our Garden, a collection of blog posts from one of the Campus Road gardeners, a neighbor and friend

Saving the Campus Road Community Garden from Parking Lot Fate, 2009-10-19
Brooklyn College to pave over popular garden to expand track, Flatbush residents not pleased, Daily News, 2009-10-09
Campus Road Community Garden – Petition, Ditmas Park Blog, 2009-10-05

City Council Approves Demolition of Historic PS 133, Historic Districts Council Newsstand, 2009-07-01

New Flatbush Rezoning Proposal Gets It Right

Update, 2009-07-29: Flatbush Rezoning Proposal approved by City Council

477 Westminster Road, Ditmas Park West, one of hundreds of homes that will receive more protection with DCP’s revised draft
447 Westminster Road, Ditmas Park West

NYC’s Department of City Planning (DCP) provided the first view of their revised draft of the Flatbush Rezoning Proposal to Brooklyn’s Community Board 14 (CB14) on September 3, and more recently to the CB14 Executive Committee on September 18. I wasn’t able to sit in on any of the meetings, but I’ve spoken with folks who’ve seen the new proposal first hand.

The revised draft is covered in Flatbush Life, including a photo of the redrafted map:

After a presentation to the executive committee of Community Board 14 – which greeted the plan warmly – the Department of City Planning (DCP) is moving forward to certify the proposal, which will launch the formal approval process for the rezoning.

During the meeting, which was held in the board office, 810 East 16th Street, DCP received accolades from board members and area residents for reworking the plan to take into account neighborhood concerns.

Flatbush rezoning moving forward

I wrote a detailed report about the earlier draft that DCP presented to CB14 and at a public hearing back in June. From everything I’ve heard and seen about this second draft, they got it right. In general, lots that are 50×100 feet will get the R3X designation, while lots that are 40×100 will get R4A. This is a more tailored approach than the broad brush of R4A that was painted over Ditmas Park West and South Midwood in the first draft. (See my original post for complete details on these zoning designations.)

They really listened to the concerns of residents, went back and re-drafted to address them. The free-standing homes responsible for the physical character of this area of Flatbush will be protected. All of Flatbush will be protected against unlimited height residential development. There are new opportunities for commercial development, and incentives for affordable housing. It’s hard to find something to critique in this draft.

Related Posts

Flatbush Rezoning Proposal will define the future of Victorian Flatbush, 2008-06-13


Flatbush rezoning moving forward, Flatbush Life, 2008-09-28
Rezonings for Flatbush, Canarsie Move Forward, Campaign for Community-Based Planning, 2008-10-06
Flatbush Rezoning Moving Forward, Ditmas Park Blog, 2008-10-07

South Midwood Garden Tour and Art Show

Campus Road Garden, South Midwood, Flatbush, Brooklyn
Campus Road Garden, South Midwood, Flatbush, Brooklyn

This Saturday, August 23, from 3pm to 5pm, the Campus Road Garden at Avenue H and Campus Road is hosting an art show and garden tour:

Come view the garden, sit among the flowers and butterflies, and see art created by your neighbors.

Related Content

South Midwood Garden Tour, Sunday, July 30, 2006
My other posts about South Midwood
My photos of this garden (Flickr set)

Flatbush Rezoning Proposal will define the future of Victorian Flatbush

Update, 2009-07-29: Flatbush Rezoning Proposal approved by City Council
Update, 2009-03-02: DCP certified the proposal.

David Parish, DCP, describing the proposed rezoning for South Midwood
David Parish describing the proposed rezoning for South Midwood

Last night I attended Brooklyn Community Board 14’s (CB14) preliminary public hearing on the NYC Department of City Planning’s (DCP) rezoning proposal for the northern half of CB14, ie: Flatbush. I didn’t take a head count, but roughly 100 people turned out to attend the hearing in Public School 249’s uncooled auditorium. CB14 chair Alvin Berk informally explained the context and ground rules for the meeting, then officially called the hearing to order at 7:23. After the school guard kicked us out – gently, but firmly – after 9:30pm, conversations continued onto the school plaza and sidewalks. I didn’t get home until well after 10pm last night.

Some highlights:

  • One of the four major goals of the proposal is to preserve the existing free-standing single- and two-family homes that characterize the area. On this point, support seemed unanimous, although the terms detached, semi-detached, and attached were new to some in the room and is the cause of some confusion.
  • Not only Ditmas Park West, but South Midwood would be rezoned to R4A. This was the most troublesome part of the proposal at last night’s hearing; nearly all who spoke during the public comments section of the meeting (including me) opposed this particular zoning designation, for reasons explained below.
  • While current zoning puts many of these homes and streets at risk from development, the proposed rezoning may endanger even more.
  • Zoning is a blunt instrument. Currently available zoning designations are insufficient, or at least too coarse, to reflect and respect the existing housing stock in these neighborhoods.

My report will necessarily be incomplete. This was the first time I’ve ever attended a public hearing, so I had only a general idea of what to expect. I had not seen the details of the proposal prior to the meeting. My main purpose in attending the meeting was to learn more details. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to study the large, detailed exhibits that DCP brought with them. There was only the presentation, and I was writing furiously to try to capture details as they were presented. I also had an opportunity to speak during the public comments section of the meeting. After I spoke, I was out of the room for a few minutes while I (unsuccessfully) sought water. I missed a few speakers during my absence.

The study area

The study area encompasses nearly all of the northern half of CB14. Here’s a detailed map of the study area provided by DCP.

Boundaries of the Study Area
DCP Flatbush Neighborhood Rezoning Study Area

This map of the existing zoning districts was also provided by DCP. To view the map more clearly, follow the link from the map to its Flickr page (just click the image), then select All Sizes > Original.

Existing Zoning
DCP Flatbush Neighborhood Rezoning Existing Zoning

Nearly all of the study area is zoned for residential use. The few commercial-only districts are at the edges. The C4-3 district at the southeast corner of the area is Brooklyn Junction, the intersection of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues. The largest commercial area is the C4-2 district on the eastern boundary of the study area. This is bounded roughly by Flatbush and Bedford Avenues on the west and east, and Church Avenue and Cortelyou Road on the north and south. Important commercial/retail landmarks in this district include Sears and the Kings Theater.

Loew’s Kings Theater, Flatbush Avenue, just north of Beverly Road
Loew's Kings Theater, Flatbush Avenue

Most of the commercial space is provided as commercial overlays, shown with hatch marks on the map. You can see these along Nostrand and Flatbush Avenues, Church Avenue, Coney Island Avenue, Cortelyou Road, and Newkirk and Foster Avenues. The overlay that spans Newkirk and Foster Avenues at the Newkirk Avenue subway station is Newkirk Plaza.

589-597 Coney Island Avenue
589 (left), 591, 593, 595 and 597 Coney Island Avenue

Cortelyou Road, south side, looking west from Westminster Road
Cortelyou Road, south side, looking west from Westminster Road

Newkirk Plaza, looking south from Newkirk Avenue toward Foster Avenue. The subway cut is on the right of the photo.
Newkirk Plaza

Within the study area, there’s a wide range of density in residential districts, from R1-2 to R7-1. R1 through R5 are lower-density districts. R6 and R7 are medium-density. There’s also a wide range of housing types.

There are three landmarked historic districts typified by free-standing homes. You can easily locate these on the map by the R1-2 districts. From north to south, they are Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, and the recently approved Fiske Terrace-Midwood Park. Midwood Park is the southernmost R1-2 area, and Fiske Terrace is the R2 area just south of that. Both R1-2 and R2 allow only single-family detached houses.

Our detached houses are not limited to the landmarked areas. The majority are not landmarked, occupying residential zones ranging from R2 to R6. Those in R6 zones – including those in my neighborhood of Beverley Square West – are at greatest risk.

Summary of the Proposal

The proposal is still only a draft, so all the specifics are still subject to change before the formal proposal, which kicks off the ULURP process. There are four major goals for the rezoning:

  1. Preserve the existing free-standing (detached) single- and two-family houses.
  2. Match new zoning to existing buildings as closely as possible without “under zoning”.
  3. Encourage creation of affordable housing through incentives.
  4. Create opportunities for commercial growth.

In rezoning projects, one of the things DCP looks at is “non-compliance”: does existing development on a site comply with what’s allowed by its zoning designation? Non-compliant and under-zoned describe the same situation: the former applies to the house, the latter to the zoning of the property. Non-compliant does not necessarily mean illegal. The conditions may have pre-dated the zoning; in a neighborhood of homes over 100 years old, they likely do. To understand non-compliance, we need to know the current zoning designation and what it permits.

Case Study: Beverley Square West

Beverley Square West is bounded by Beverly and Cortelyou Roads on the north and south, and the B/Q subway cut and Coney Island Avenue on the east and west. The homes here are detached, single- and two-family homes with peaked roofs, most of which were built in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Most of the lots are 50 feet wide by 100 feet deep.

308 Stratford Road, Beverley Square West
308 Stratford Road

This map shows the outlines of buildings on all properties in the area. The detached homes stand in contrast to row houses along the southern side of Cortelyou Road and the eastern side of Coney Island Avenue.

Single- and Two-Family Homes and existing Structures, Beverley Square West

Most of the area is zoned R3-2, with R6 zoned along the western and southern boundaries.

Existing Zoning, Beverley Square West
Existing Zoning, Beverley Square West

Neither R3-2 nor R6 match the existing character of the neighborhood. R3-2 allows not only detached homes but semi-detached homes – side-by-side – as well as fully attached homes, ie: rowhouses. R3-2 specifies a minimum lot width of 40 feet for detached houses, but only 18 feet for semi-detached or attached.

The base floor-to-area ratio (FAR) for R3-2 is .5, or 50%. A typical lot is 50′ wide by 100′ deep, for a total lot area of 5,000 square feet. 50% of that is 2,500 square feet, the maximum permitted floor area for a building with a flat roof. R3-2 also carries an attic allowance, which encourages preservation and development of homes with peaked roofs, of .1, for a total FAR of .6. Since the typical lot area here is 5,000 square feet, 50 x 100, and 60% of that is 3,000 square feet, a house with 3,000 square feet or less is compliant with the .6 FAR. Our house, for example, is 2,750 square feet, as it’s been since it was converted from a single-family to a two-family home in the 1930s, during the Great Depression of that era.

R6 is a medium-density designation and allows for much denser development, typified by this new condo building recently completed at the corner of Stratford and Cortelyou Roads.

1103 Cortelyou Road

The R6 districts are at greatest risk from being torn down for new development. In Ditmas Park West, several homes have already been lost to teardown. To achieve the first goal of the rezoning project, preservation of the existing detached homes, the new zoning must allow only detached houses. Zones which permit only such housing are R3A, R3-X, R4A, and R5A. To preserve the scale of the neighborhoods, the new zoning must come close to the existing FAR of the homes already built. Both R3A and R3-X share the .6 FAR of R3-2. R3-X has the larger minimum lot width, at 35 feet. Of currently available zoning designations, R3-X comes closest to what’s already in place in Beverley Square West. In fact, the current draft of DCP’s zoning study proposes R3-X for both Beverley Square West and East.

Case Study: South Midwood

A house in South Midwood
House in South Midwood

Many of those attending the meeting seemed to be from South Midwood, one of the many neighborhoods that comprise the “Victorian Flatbush” part of Flatbush. The current and proposed zoning for this neighborhood provides a good case study for what’s at stake: the risks to the area from current, inappropriate zoning; the strategies DCP employs when trying to select new zoning most likely to be approved; and the issues with the new designation DCP selected. Also, it’s the only section of the presentation for which I got some usable photographs.

This neighborhood was developed at the turn of the 20th Century, before zoning existed. When the current zoning was established in 1961 (more or less), over 45 years ago, there was little consideration for what was already in place, and whether or not the new zones fit the existing context.

Ditmas Park West and South Midwood, the areas to be rezoned R4A, have a mix of zoning, the majority of which is R3-2. As explained above, R3-2 allows a FAR of .6: .5 base, plus an attic allowance of .1. R4A allows a .9 FAR: .75 base, plus a .15 attic allowance. The R4A FAR of .9 is an increase of 50% over what’s permitted today. It’s this large increase in FAR that raises concerns for residents in these two neighborhoods, who are concerned it will open the door for expansion and enlargement of existing homes, or new development, out-of-scale with the existing homes.

South Midwood, Current Zoning
South Midwood, Current Zoning

South Midwood, Proposed Zoning
South Midwood, proposed rezoning

Another house in South Midwood
A house in South Midwood

DCP’s rationale for proposing R4A over R3-X comes back to the issue of under-zoning. They look at the existing buildings to see whether or not they are compliant with the current zoning. When rezoning, they try to assign a new designation in which 75-80% of existing structures would be compliant. This numeric goal arises from practical and political considerations: they want to minimize objections to the rezoning proposal from property owners concerned that their options for expanding or enlarging their homes are being restricted.

However, the situation here is different. By DCP’s calculations, only 51% of existing homes in South Midwood are compliant with the FAR of their current zoning, mostly .6 FAR in the R3-2 district. But the homeowners here are not complaining about lack of expansion options. They are concerned for the future character of their neighborhood caused by an increase in FAR of 50%.

This is one reason why I referred to zoning as a “blunt instrument” at the beginning. There’s no zoning designation which permits only detached houses with a FAR between .6 and .9. To reach their goal of 75-80% compliance – a threshold determined by political efficacy, not a legal mandate – DCP has to leap to the next available FAR of .9 in R4A. But this leap has generated opposition which the threshold was intended to avoid. An intermediate total FAR, of .75 say, which would be an increase of only 25% instead of 50%, would be a better fit and would not receive the same level of opposition. Barring creation of a new zoning designation, residents speaking at Thursday’s meeting called for a new designation of R3X, maintaining the status quo, instead of R4A, which would open up the neighborhood to out-of-scale development.

Related Posts

Flatbush Rezoning Proposal, May 23, 2008
Preserving Livable Streets: DCP’s Yards Text Amendment, November 7, 2007
Victorian Flatbush at risk from inappropriate zoning, October 23, 2007
State of Flatbush/Midwood, October 5, 2007
Landscape and Politics in Brooklyn’s City Council District 40, February 14
NASA Earth Observatory Maps NYC’s Heat Island, Block by Block, August 1, 2006

Important DCP Links

Residence District Zoning Explained
Table comparing R1 through R3 (PDF)
Table comparing R4 through R5 (PDF)
DCP Zoning Glossary

Other Links

South Midwood Residents Association
Brooklyn Community District 14 Profile (PDF)

Times admits past errors: We are not all Ditmas Park

A House in Caton Park
House in Caton Park

I am astonished to find that tomorrow’s New York Times City Section has an article on Victorian Flatbush, not “Ditmas Park,” which they finally realize only applies to one historic district in this large area. And in this article, they focus on the “forgotten” neighborhoods, those which don’t have landmark protection, and which are in danger of being eroded and lost forever to “development”:

The neighborhoods of Victorian Flatbush are of particular interest to historians because in many respects they were the first suburbs. With the newly built Brooklyn Rapid Transit rail line stretching out to Coney Island, the farmland of the Dutch village of Flatbush became a prime location in the early 20th century for what was considered commuter living.
Peaked Roofs, Crossed Fingers

315 East 18th Street, Beverly Square East
315 East 18th Street, Beverly Square East

All the neighborhoods featured houses built in the most fashionable of Victorian-era styles, among them Tudor, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Georgian. These houses, adorned with carved moldings, fluted columns, copper trimmings and wide, open porches, evoked a lifestyle that went beyond architecture. Exclusive social clubs flourished in the area, as did community associations, many of which have been the driving force in campaigns for historic protection.

457 Rugby Road, Ditmas Park West
457 Rugby Road

House in South Midwood
House in South Midwood

“We don’t want the Manhattanization of Brooklyn,” said Ron Schweiger, the Brooklyn borough historian and a longtime resident of Beverley Square West. “We don’t want high-rises coming into residential areas. That’s why we want all of Victorian Flatbush to get historic district status.”

And though the neighborhoods of Victorian Flatbush have distinct characters, nearly all of them have one thing in common: residents eager to protect what is a remarkable and in some cases irreplaceable architectural history.

Beverley Square West

341 Rugby Road, Beverley Square West
341 Rugby Road, Beverley Square West

209 (Left) & 215 (Right) Stratford Road, Beverley Square West
209 (Left) & 215 (Right) Stratford Road

There’s a little bit of hand-waving around my neighborhood of Beverley Square West, resulting in several inaccuracies.

Beverley Square East and West, nestled between Prospect Park South and Ditmas Park [and Ditmas Park West] and completed just after the turn of the 20th century, were Ackerson’s major projects. The developer also got certain streets that run through Beverley Square West rechristened with upper-crust British names: East 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th Streets became Westminster, Argyle, Rugby and Marlborough Roads.

Somehow the Times lost one-fifth of Beverley Square West, omitting Stratford Road (East 11th Street) from their description of the neighborhood. Stratford Road is both the westernmost block and the one most at risk from inappropriate zoning in Beverley Square West and Ditmas Park West.

The street names originated in the development of Prospect Park South by Dean Alvord. Ackerson’s early advertising for developments here still used the numbered designations of East 11th, 12th, and so forth, not the names. By 1902, the named designations were extended south to what would become Beverley Square West and Ditmas Park West. Our bill from Con Ed, which was around before this building boom of the early 1900s, still uses the numbered designation for our street address.

All the original homes of the Beverley Squares were individually designed. Ackerson himself lived in a house in Beverley Square West, and the developer Pounds, a future borough president, lived in Beverley Square East.

From what I’ve learned of the history of the development here, this is not accurate. The houses on Stratford and Westminster Roads are stylistically different from those on Argyle, Rugby and Marlborough. Although no two houses are exactly alike on Stratford and Westminster, neither do they feature much of the architectural details – turrets, round oeil de boeuf (ox-eye) windows, unusual dormers, and so on – visible on nearly every house on the other blocks.

I think the houses on these two westernmost blocks were built largely using Victorian pattern books widely available at the time; they were mostly “builders’ specials,” not designed by architects. They were built earlier, and not by Ackerson. Early Ackerson promotional photos show houses already standing on Stratford and Westminster while Argyle and Rugby are nothing more than empty lots.

The earliest neighborhood name I’ve found for these five blocks is Matthews Park. Matthews Court is one of the short side streets joining Stratford Road and Coney Island Avenue. Not that long ago, “Beverley Square West” referred only to the Ackerson-developed blocks of Argyle, Rugby and Marlborough Roads. Stratford and Westminster had their own neighborhood association, called Westford Park. These two neighborhood associations joined forces to form the current, five-block Beverley Square West Association.

Street Sign, Matthews Court

Related Posts

Victorian Flatbush at risk from inappropriate zoning, October 23, 2007
Landscape and Politics in Brooklyn’s City Council District 40, February 14, 2007
Matthews Park, September 29, 2006


NoProPaSo, Kneel Before Your Creator, Crazy Stable
Victorian Flatbush: An Architectural History (Warning: contains intrusive popups)

Another reason to loathe real estate brokers …

Trying to locate their recent report on sales figures, I idly browsed the Corcoran (“Live Who You Are”! Be All That You Can Be!) Web site for my neighborhood. I don’t expect to find Beverley Square West. I would hope to find Victorian Flatbush. They’d don’t even list Flatbush. I found what I expected:

Ditmas Park: Runs from Parkside Avenue to the north, Ditmas Avenue to the south, Ocean Avenue to the east and Coney Island Avenue to the west.
Corcoran Neighborhood Guide to Ditmas Park

Lest one quibble “Oh, it’s just a real estate name,” they continue in the second paragraph:

… This landmarked district …

WRONG! The landmarked Ditmas Park Historic District lies only within the boundaries of Dorchester and Newkirk Avenues, and Ocean Avenue and the B/Q line. The only other landmarked area within the boundaries they describe is Prospect Park South. The rest of their “Ditmas Park” is not landmarked.

It’s worse than that. They have no idea where they are.

Their descriptions conflate several neighborhoods – some landmarked, most not – and get basic information wrong. They provide the wrong school number for P.S. 139. There’s this:

These homes were originally built for the likes of the Guggenheims and films stars like Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

Again, not in Ditmas Park. The Guggenheim Honeymoon Cottage is in Beverley Square West, my neighborhood. The Pickford/Fairbanks House is in Ditmas Park West.

And there’s this:

Many have porches and garages and sit on wide tree-lined streets with English sounding names like Argyle and Rugby.

Only the streets between Coney Island Avenue and the B/Q lines – half the area they claim to describe – carry these names, borrowed from the status of Prospect Park South. Four different neighborhoods span those streets from Parkside to Ditmas, and none of them are Ditmas Park.

The boundaries they give describe only part of greater Victorian Flatbush; they omit half the neighborhoods. Extending the southern boundary from Ditmas Avenue to Avenue H, between Coney Island Avenue Ocean Avenue lie West Midwood, Midwood Park, and Fiske Terrace. The latter two are proposed Historic Districts and are on track to become landmarked. Extending the eastern boundary to Flatbush Avenue, the Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District lies east of Prospect Park South, between Ocean and Flatbush Avenues, and South Midwood lies between Ocean and Bedford Avenues, and Foster Avenue south to Brooklyn College.

I’ve never had any dealings with Corcoran. We tried working with them when we were shopping for our home three years ago. They had yet to “discover” this area, and so had nothing to show us. Their reach had only extended to Windsor Terrace at that point, and we went to one open house there.

And, don’t bother trying to find a house a house on their Web site. You won’t find any. They only have “townhouses” …

Other Gardens: South Midwood Garden Tour, Sunday, July 30, 2006

[2006.08.03-11:40am EDT: See bottom of entry for link to article describing history of the Avenue H Station House.]

This post is rather lengthy. I’m hoping to make up for my numerous small and seemingly scattered, though all intricately interwoven in my mind, posts.

Google Map image of South Midwood area of Victorian Flatbush in Brooklyn. North is to the left in this image. The neighborhood is bounded by Foster Avenue (diagonal road) on the north (left), Brooklyn College (large ballfield) on the south (right), East 21st Street on the west, and Bedford Avenue on the east. South Midwood is one of about a dozen distinct neighborhoods of Victorian Flatbush.

On Sunday, July 30, I attended the South Midwood Garden Tour. I was invited by a fellow gardener from that neighborhood whose husband I had met at a “new neighbors” event last year, after we bought our house. We invited them to our house opening party last fall, and I got to sketch out the “garden in my mind” which was forming out of the weeds and dust which came with the house.

Avenue H Subway Station

The Avenue H Subway Station, just a few blocks from the start of the tour at the community garden. This station was recently granted landmark status. At the turn of the last century, it was a real estate office for the new developments arising along the old Coney Island RR line, now the B/Q lines. It’s the only wood-frame station house in the subway system, and the only one which was not originally built for a railroad purpose.

My journey began by taking the Q train from my local station a couple of stops south to Avenue H. The tour began at 11am at a community garden, the Campus Road Garden at Brooklyn College. This is located at the western end of the Brooklyn College campus, near the ball fields.

The light towers surrounding the playing fields have large nests of Monk Parakeets. Their calls were constant. Dragonflies were swarming over and around the gardens. Butterflies were everywhere.



Campus Road Garden, looking north.


Campus Road Garden, looking west back toward Avenue H.




The house of the first garden on the tour. The garden in the backyard was lovely, but I really liked the look of these vines embracing the turret.


The backyard garden of the same house. The gardener was not available for interrogation, but the tour guide told us that everything had been designed and built over several years by the owner.


Second garden on the tour. The cool shade and sound of the waterfall was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat that day. The owner is standing with her back to the camera. This garden was just built in June of this year.

The next four photos are all from the same house and gardens. It’s on a double lot, 100ft x 100ft, a rarity in Brooklyn, but South Midwood has several of them. This garden was one of the highlights of the tour for me.

Skipping ahead a few gardens, these next two photos are different views of a well-designed and inviting accessible garden. The raised beds were customed designed and built for the gardener, whose mobility had become restricted over time. The integral seating is a terrific feature, providing both a place to sit and work the beds, and inviting visitors to get up close and personal with the plantings. This was another garden at the top of my list of favorites. I have so many ideas for my own gardens from this one.

Another backyard garden.

At this stop it was the house, and not the gardens, which was featured on the tour. But the gardens make their own statement, which I would not want you to do without.

A couple of flower portraits from two other gardens.

I have a special fondness for large, red Hibiscus. It takes me back to my childhood in space-age Florida. I picked flowers just like this from the monstrous, garage-sized shrubs outside our house to dissect, study, and learn all the parts of the flower. I even put together a presentation on flowers and pollination for my grade school classmates and school. Yes, I was a curious child, in all the meanings of the word.

At the penultimate stop, the gardener invites his guests to enjoy the sensual pleasures of his herb garden.

The last, but not least, stop on the tour, home of the tour guide. The food and refreshments were raved over. And the gardens were nothing to sneeze at, either.