Though staring into mouth of winter, Brooklyn seemed to be holding fast to the sunlight and its warmth. Three days into December and we found ourselves outside in the midst of a band of merry volunteers, lugging pots, plants, and trees to the sidewalk, where the Greenway links Brooklyn Bridge Park to Columbia Street. Jackets peeled, greeting and introductions were made, and tasked assigned. We chatted about our jobs, where we were from, new places to visit and how we we’re all adjusting to just having moved to the area. Looking around, we found ourselves in mixed company: husband and wife, friends reunited, a foreigner on holiday, students, our leader Brian McCormick with a Greenway regular, and a sprinkle of newbies like ourselves. Each of us, whether or not we knew it at the time, bonded to one another through this path painted green that connected us far beyond this group of volunteers to the many Brooklynites who spend their days running, playing with their children, walking their dogs, biking, skating, sitting and watching, spending time with friends right here along the Greenway.
Once everything was prepped, Brian gave a short tutorial on the correct way to plant trees. Not to say that the process isn’t easy, but believe or not, it’s not just simply sticking the saplings into the ground. Here’s what we used: a large pot, gravel, a package and a half of soil, two saplings, and ten small grassy shrubs like plants. We started with a little gravel at the bottom that stops the soil from seeping out and helps with water retention. (Side note: if you are self-aware unlike me, and have accepted that you are prone to getting dirty, you should wear dark clothing to these things. I had on light cargo pants that got destroyed from carrying a leaking mulch bag.) Then we added our soil and made sure we had enough to fill the entire pot. We were lucky to be in a group with the two horticultural students in Brooklyn Botanical Garden's certificate program. They shared their expertise and helped us when we had no idea what we were doing. One was an aspiring landscaper and the other eventually would like to work as a gardener for the City Parks Department, and both were there to gain experience to further their careers. They taught us that potted trees are not supposed to be immersed fully into the soil, but planted with the top sticking out. So we loosened the roots and dug the holes and there stood 2 beautiful trees. I quietly named them Jann and Fred. If you see them say hello, they are the last pot entering the park. We plotted the grassy shrub like items along the edges in a circle, leaving the middle clear to act as a well like structure and we were done.
Overall, we had an enjoyable experience that translated into 2 hours of our lives, some new friends, and some interesting information. As one volunteer mentioned now we can go anytime we are on the greenway and say, “We had a part in that.” After thanking us and inviting us to the holiday party Brian sent us off back to enjoy the rest of our weekends. For one Saturday, for two hours, we made a difference; we made connections to our fellow Brooklynites and Greenway lovers, while bringing a little more beauty to Brooklyn.
If you didn’t have enough reasons to come out to help on the Greenway here’s one more:
Brian knows how to throw a party!
Complete with free pizza and beer, the holiday party was casted with an interesting group of volunteers who continued to sing their hearts out until midnight. If you haven’t heard Brian do frank Sinatra, it is a heartwarming experience not to be missed.