It was six years ago that Karen Schlesinger was walking along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and noticed that it was in terrible shape. She wanted to file a complaint, and spotted then-gardener Jonathan Landsman.
“I remember seeing Jonathan working, and I stopped him because I wanted to lodge a complaint,” Schlesinger recalled. “That’s when he told me about a volunteer program that had just been started, and asked me if I could join.
“That was in 2009, and today the Promenade Garden has been completely transformed. It used to be very overgrown and filled with garbage, and now it is absolutely beautiful.”
In the early days, the volunteers walked around with two bags — one for all of the ivy they pulled up and another for all of the trash they collected.
“It was not well-maintained,” said volunteer Koren Volk. “The trees were in terrible shape; none of them or the shrubs had been pruned, and there were some bulbs planted, but nothing like today.”
Landsman has moved on, but the current head gardener, Matthew Morrow, is currently in his third year caring for the Promenade’s gardens, and has kept the volunteer program alive. The Promenade Garden Conservancy has also been created to help organize the volunteers, who meet every Tuesday morning each spring and summer, to pitch in.
Landsman may have started the transformation of the Promenade, but Morrow has taken it to the next level during his time in Brooklyn Heights. He has spent the last two years trying to turn it all into one cohesive garden and has added many species of plants, as well as annual displays.
“It’s really been incredible what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Morrow said. “Now I have Heights residents and tourists constantly stopping me and remarking on the color.”
Despite the total transformation of this breathtaking spot, Morrow said there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. He plans on adding taller flowering plants to match some of the fences and expects many of the dead trees to be removed in upcoming weeks. The removal of the trees is expected to be a lot of work, as it will create sunspots that might harm some of the shady plants.
The Promenade Garden Conservancy can always use the help of more volunteers to work on the gardens. They meet every Tuesday at 9 a.m. and often go for coffee together afterward. For those who would like to help, but cannot volunteer, donations are also welcome, and go a long way toward purchasing supplies used to maintain the garden.
For more information, check out the Conservancy’s website (promenadegardenconservancy.org) or show up to help out on a Tuesday morning near the Pierrepont Street entrance.
FOR MORE PHOTOS, VISIT BROOKLYNARCHIVE.COM