A Garden Grows in Brooklyn

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I’m rediscovering the neighborhood, so it seems, since we returned from our Hudson summer. Our apartment is in a gentrifying area, and I’m filled with ambivalence over this fact. While it’s nice that crack whores no longer patrol the corners, I’m sad that the family living a few doors down, including an elderly disabled gentleman, were displaced by the sale and renovation of their building while we were away. Where did they go? Almost certain, far from here, just as we would if our landlord pulled the rug out from under us. Changes that “improve” the neighborhood drive prices toward an ever-higher roof. Some say we have Mayor Bloomberg to thank, for engendering a New York City fewer people can access, but that’s a post for a different day.

This post is about a garden, rather a garden center, that has sprung up in a formerly vacant lot on a nearby commercial street. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it- lush ferns, brilliant mums, a pergola, a pond with a fountain! As Brooklyn lots go, the garden center is narrow and deep, and the further in I walked (accompanied by the Large Breed; having been told at the gate dogs are welcome) the more enchanted I became. Someone had created a piece of heaven! I chatted with a woman working there, told her the place was amazing. She said thank you, and in a moment when a young man came along she said, “He’s the one who did this.” I turned and jokingly said, “You’re the head gardener?” He answered meekly, “Something like that.”

As we spoke I learned that indeed he, Mark, designed and built the entire garden. Within the week he would finish a greenhouse at the back of the property, intending to stay open year round. He said at Christmas there will be trees for sale, and wreaths; I told him I was envisioning that already. Then I said, “That little room at the center of the lot… it’s heavenly!” He threw back his head and laughed, “That place is my heart.” It was obvious why.

Right in the middle of the garden is a three-sided room, a cabana of sorts, draped with white fabric. The front is open to this:

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I could only frame half the “room” in my photo because the pond was right behind me; one more step I’d be in! But I was captivated by the details: two lovely needlework chairs, potted greenery and flowers, candle-lit lanterns, framed artwork. It was decor fit for a parlor and made for a glorious outdoor room.

I imagined Mark taking a break there from all the hard work he has done to make this once barren place it’s own kind of Eden. Fort Greene Garden Center is an asset to the neighborhood, helping ease the discomfort of change. Because although gentrification is altering much about our surroundings, not always positively, nothing says “welcome” like a community studded with green and growing spaces, and fewer dirt lots.

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