Recap: Environmental Committee Beautifies Porter Avenue

By: Leslie Chia-Yin

Trashy, dirt-digging, seedy, green: what could possibly be more on brand for a Saturday with the BFC Environmental Committee?  The Co-op team preoccupied with composting goals, resource efficiency, and reuse solutions for too much plastic and foam had been eyeing the storefront area all winter, coming up with a game plan to tidy up the litter-strewn block of Porter Avenue, and help bring some life back to the barren tree beds that see a lot of automotive and foot traffic, but scarcely any love.  On a windy, sun-drenched morning this past April, with some help from Outreach and other Earth-loving friends, they got their long-awaited chance to take it outside.

Credit: Jen Chantrtanapichate

Credit: Jen Chantrtanapichate

First, the crew got to work on cleaning up: sweeping, gathering discarded cans, dislodging bottle caps, glass shards and other detritus from the tree beds, and grinding free a long-abandoned wheel locked to a street sign post.  Armed with brooms, gloves and bags, [courtesy of DSNY] , many hands made vigorous, quick work of removing trash from the area.

With litter cleared away, the next task was to work the ground in the tree pits -- densely packed, dusty, and bone dry -- and loosen the soil for planting.  Members of the group, in which gardeners and plant friends were well represented, took turns spading and breaking up the untended patches, tilling dirt with forks and rakes.

Next, packs of ivy, assorted annuals and seeds were laid out and distributed among the three tree pits on the block, and the planting was underway.  Soon, each tree (or stump) pit was encircled by blooms and sprawling greenery, and dotted with seeds. The team then applied a thick layer of black mulch to all of the patches, sealing in moisture and furnishing a rich, weed-deterring growth environment for the new beds.

Credit: Jen Chantrtanapichate

Credit: Jen Chantrtanapichate

Finally, with the ivy and flowers in place, the mulch piled high, and the edges tidied, the crew enclosed each tree pit on three sides with a low border made of chicken wire, added to protect the beds while their new plants take root.

In just a few hours, the Co-op’s once-neglected Bushwick block had been transformed into a vibrant, cared-for, flowering path.  Environmental are now contemplating a phase two of the project, focussed on making sturdier enclosures and pet-friendly features, and adding artwork and other enhancements made from found and salvaged materials. “It was a great project that benefits the Co-op, and the community,” said Environmental co-chair Steve Engel, who hopes that owners and neighbors will take notice and enjoy and their newly beautified storefront area.

Credit: Jen Chantrtanapichate

Credit: Jen Chantrtanapichate

Sabrina Katz