Bake Sale Turns Flour into Flowers
by Neil Calet
If you were on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade two Saturdays ago at about 10:50AM, you might have noticed an excited cluster of people gathered just north of the Montague St. entrance. Their buzzing chatter in German, French, English and one or two unidentifiable languages probably gave you no clue to what these folks were waiting for; but one deep breath would have told you all. The aroma of home-baked cakes, cookies, fruit tarts, scones, pies, spread over three long trestle tables could only mean … a Bake Sale! And not just any bake sale but the second annual sale by, and for the benefit of, the Promenade Partnership.
At precisely 11AM the first item was sold– a slice of maple syrup cake bought by a portly lady from Paris. By 2:30, the whole inventory of home-baked goods had been sold out , with revenues double those of last year’s sale.
And precisely where did the proceeds go? Visit the Promenade today and you’ll find out. The lavish display of annuals, most of which have never before seen on the Promenade, were bought with revenues from the Bake Sale and planted by the Promenade Partnership’s Volunteers.
All of which illustrates the overarching objective of the Promenade Partnership, a Public-Private Partnership formed by the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Dept. of Parks and Recreation. In just two years, the PP successfully halted and reversed the visible decline of the gardens lining the Promenade, transforming them into a dramatic example of urban horticulture and a source of continuing pleasure for residents and visitors.
None of this could have been achieved without the leadership of a highly-trained, dedicated gardener assigned to the Promenade. That function has been filled by Jonathan Landsman, Cornell-trained and a superb educator as well as gardener.
The hiring of this remarkable young man was made possible despite continuing budget cuts at the Dept. of Parks and Recreation thanks to the Promenade Partnership’s agreement to fund half his salary. The money came from local events, like the Bake Sale and from the well-known generosity of Brooklyn Heights residents.
Of course the tranformation of the Promenade Gardens couldn’t have been achieved so quickly and successfully by one gardener alone. That’s why the Partnership’s greatest success may be the recruitment of the Promenade Partnership’s corps of avid and loyal volunteers. These dedicated men and women put in two and a half hours of strenuous work every Tuesday morning, preparing the soil for plants and then getting those plants into the soil. And that’s in addition to weeding, pruning, mulching and all the rest of the glorious grunt-work that goes into creating a first-rate garden. And baking for the annual bake sale.
This Spring, Landsman launched an after-school Living Environment Club for 3rd and 4th grade kids at PS8. The Club utilizes the gardens’ as a living, learning space where students acquire hands-on experience in botany, horticulture and sound environmental practices. Measured by the number of its members as well as their enthusiasm, the project has been a great success.
From its inception Promenade Partnership’s objective has been the restoration and continued maintenance of the neighborhood’s shared “front yard.” Just as important was the creation of a project that would bring members of our community together in a way that was personally rewarding, socially stimulating and that introduced all residents and visitors to urban gardens and gardening at its best. From every point of view, the Promenade Partnership is a success.