Flatbush Rezoning Proposal scheduled for certification

Update 2009-03-02: CPC certified the Rezoning Plan.

On the agenda for Monday's Review Session [PDF] of the City Planning Commission (CPC) are two Brooklyn rezoning proposals: Greenpoint-Williamsburg, and Flatbush.

314 (left) and 308 Stratford Road, two of the hundreds of houses will receive protection from inappropriate zoning with the Flatbush Rezoning Proposal.
314 Stratford Road

Certification by CPC is expected for the Flatbush Rezoning proposal. That will initiate the sequence of approvals under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, also known as the ULURP clock [PDF]. As I reported in June 2008, there are four major goals for the rezoning, reflecting several of the community concerns that were expressed during Imagine Flatbush 2030:
  1. Preserve the existing free-standing (detached) single- and two-family houses.
  2. Match new zoning to existing buildings as closely as possible without "under zoning".
  3. Encourage creation of affordable housing through incentives.
  4. Create opportunities for commercial growth.

Related Content

New Flatbush Rezoning Proposal Gets It Right, 2008-10-07
Flatbush Rezoning Proposal will define the future of Victorian Flatbush, 2008-06-13


Uniform Land Use Review Procedure


Spring has Sprung

The first Spring flowers bloomed today in my yard. This is Crocus chrysanthus, I believe, growing in the lawn in front of the house.

Crocus chrysanthus

Brooklyn Last Frost Date and Spring Planting Calendar

  1. Go to the Spring Planting Calendar setup by Skippy's Vegetable Garden
  2. Enter the date 04/21/2009 as the "Last Spring Frost" date for Brooklyn.
  3. Click the [Generate ...] button.
  4. See how late you already are!
The hardest part of figuring out when to start seeds or set out plants is knowing when the "last frost date" is for your location. NOAA has a set of charts of frost and freeze dates on their Web site, one for each state, with a set of date for each of their measuring stations. Here's the explanation NOAA provides:
This product contains station freeze/frost probability tables for each state. Given are the dates of probable first and last occurrence ... and the probability of experiencing a given temperature, or less ... probabilities are given for three temperatures (36, 32, and 28 °f) at three probability levels (10, 50, and 90 percent).
The chart for New York state [PDF] lists four stations in New York City, including one on Avenue V in Brooklyn. Let's look at the Spring-relevant subsection of the New York state table for NOAA's Brooklyn station:
Threshold (F)90%50%10%
To get the "last frost date" for Brooklyn, I chose the most conservative - the safest - values: the highest of the three temperatures, 36F, and the 10% probability threshold. The date given is April 21. That means that there's only a 10% chance that the temperature will drop to 36F or lower on or after April 21, so that's the date I used for "Last Spring Frost" in the Spring Planting Calendar.


Spring Planting Calendar Skippy's Vegetable Garden NOAA charts of frost and freeze dates


Sassafras albidum, Sassafras

Sassafras albidum, Sassafras, is a medium-sized deciduous tree native to eastern North America. It's easily identified by its leaves which vary in shape from simple (unlobed) and elliptical, asymmetrically two-lobed (left- or right-handed "mittens"), and three-lobed.

Two forms of Sassafras leaves. Photo: Patrick Coin (Flickr)

Several features of Sassafras led me to select it as the focal point for my backyard garden design planting plan. Although I've lived in the Northeast most of my life, it's only in the past several years that I've come to really appreciate Sassafras. I now recognize it as a four-season plant.

Growing 387 trees for the National 9/11 Memorial

A video interview with two of the people who are charged with growing nearly 400 trees that will populate the plaza of the National September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan. The Gardeners for Recovery Cobblestone will reside on the street-level plaza somewhere among these trees.

Speaking are Ronald Vega, Project Manager, National September 11 Memorial Park, and Paul Cowie, Consulting Arborist, Paul Cowie & Assoicates, Montville, New Jersey. The "gothic arches" Vega mentions are also reminiscent of the architectural details of the twin towers.

Related Content

Gardeners for Recovery Cobblestone Campaign
My other posts on 9/11


Films, National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center


Woodland Garden Design Plant List

Over the weekend, my Twitter stream reflected the progress I was making on my final class project for the Urban Garden Design class with Nigel Rollings at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Despite battling a wicked head hold and racking cough, I put the finishing touches on my design late Monday night.

A cultivar of Lonicera sempervirens, the native Trumpet Honeysuckle, growing on a metal arbor at the entrance to my backyard. The specific epithet "sempervirens" refers to the evergreen, or nearly so in my Zone 7a/6b garden, foliage.
Lonicera sempervirens

In last night's class we each presented our designs. There was a lot of warmth, humor, and enthusiasm among the class. Not to mention wine (though not for me). The night ran late, so there wasn't time for close inspection of all the designs.

Some of my fellow students wanted more information about my plant selections. Here is the plant list, without further explanation for now, that I used in my design. Most of these are shrubs. Many of these I've collected over the past several years, and some are now several feet high and wide. Many, but not all, are species native to New York City. The most precious to me are those that have been propagated from NYC-local ecotypes.

This is just a candidate list, not a final one. As I mentioned in last night's class, I'm not satisfied with the planting plan. I would like a couple more evergreen plants; I'd really like an Ilex opaca, but the native form gets too large for my site. There are many plants in this list that provide winter interest, in bark, form, berries, and so on, including some that are semi-evergreen. I want to place more vines in the design, and I already have some ideas for where to do that. And I didn't spend much time specifying perennials. There's still plenty of room for them in this design; there are at least a hundred to select from, and I just ran out of time to specify and draw them all.


  • Sassafras albidum, Sassafras. This would become the focal point of the garden; the design "rotates" around it. This will be a canopy tree, providing primary shade to the house and garden.
  • Amelanchier arborea, Common or Downy Serviceberry. This is an understory tree from the Rosaceae, the Rose Family, tolerant of the shade the Sassafras will provide. In my design, its placement will also grant it direct afternoon sun from the West during the summer months, which should help in fruit-set. It's a "replacement" for the old apple tree that grew on the other side of the fence on my neighbor's property, which they had to take down last winter. I miss that tree; it was a bird magnet. This tree is a better selection, better placed, and with fewer maintenance issues.
    All Amelanchier species, commonly known as Serviceberries, are desireable landscape trees and shrubs and provide food for wildlife, especially birds. Alternatives to A. arborea are A. canadensis, Canada or Shadblow Serviceberry, or Shadbush, or A. laevis, Allegheny or Smooth Serviceberry, which is recommended for its human-edible fruit.
  • Prunus variety. This is an existing tree, the only one remaining from the eight trees that were in the backyard when we bought the property four years ago. It's healthy, and adds some interest to every season, so I'm happy to keep it as long as it does well. But my design doesn't depend on it, so when the time comes and it needs to go, the design will remain whole.
Geothlypis trichas, Common Yellowthroat, one of the avian visitors to my neighbor's apple tree which I hope will be enticed to return by the Serviceberry.
Common Yellowthroat in Apple Tree


  • Lonicera sempervirens cultivar (existing), Trumpet Honeysuckle. Semi-evergreen, twining vine. Flowers best and grows densest with full sun. Grows well, just less vigorously, in partial shade. Mine is visited by hummingbirds every year, but they always seem disappointed by it; it's not the Hummingbird magnet I hoped it would be. I suspect I would need a local ecotype, one adapted to the phenology of hummingbird migration through this area, to attract hummingbirds well.
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Virgina Creeper. deciduous vine, climbs by holdfasts to any vertical surface; can also grow as a groundcover. A native alternative to P. tricuspidata, Boston Ivy. Deciduous. Brilliant red color in the fall. Fruit are an important food source for birds.
  • Vitis labrusca, Fox Grape. Deciduous vine, climbs by tendrils. One of several native grape species, this is the source of the Concord Grape.
I also have an existing small-leaved Aristolochia, Pipevine, but I couldn't place it yet in the new design. I want to add more vines, including the big-leaved Pipevine; I just need to think more about their placement and function.


  • Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissimum' (existing)
  • Clethra alnifolia 'September Beauty' (existing)
  • Cornus sericea 'Cardinal' (existing)
  • Ilex verticillata cultivars, male and female (existing)
  • Juniperus horizontalis
  • Kalmia latifolia 'Minuet' (existing)
  • Lindera benzoin
  • Myrica pensylvanica
  • Prunus maritima
  • Rhododendron viscosum NYC-local ecotype (existing)
  • Rosa carolina (or R. virginiana)
Several shrubs I already have did not make it into this design. I've collected them over the years without a plan, based more on their availability and opportunity to acquire them than anything else. Unless I leave no space for people, there simply isn't enough room for all of them in my 30'x30' backyard, which is already quite expansive by NYC, even Brooklyn, standards. That gives me some flexibility in the planting plan, as my first choice is to go with plants I already have, but some will eventually have to live on somewhere else.


Related Content

Growing a native plant garden in a Flatbush backyard, 2007-08-06
Ilex verticillata, Wiinterberry (Flickr photo set)
Lonicera sempervirens, Trumpet Honeysuckle (Flickr photo set)

Flickr photo set of my backyard


Victorian Flatbush House Tour

2008.02.13 IMPORTANT UPDATE: The date for this year's tour will be Sunday, June 14, the second Sunday in June, and not June 7 as originally reported.

This year's Victorian Flatbush House Tour is scheduled for June 14, 2009, the second Sunday in June. If it follows the schedule of past years, the tour will run from 1-6pm.

1306 Albemarle Road, Prospect Park South

Unfortunately for me, that means it will conflict with the Brownstone Brooklyn Garden Tour, like it did last year.

Don't miss the architectural awesomeness of these neighborhoods, which boast a diversity of architectural styles and house types.


317 Rugby Road

Dining Room


700 East 17 Street, Midwood Park, Flatbush, Brooklyn

House in South Midwood

1306 Albemarle Road, Prospect Park South

House on Argyle Road

Related Content

2007 Victorian Flatbush House Tour


Victorian Flatbush House Tour, Flatbush Development Corporation


"The Mystery of the Maple Syrup Mist"

That's the title Mayor Bloomberg gave to the investigation into the recurring maple syrup smells that have been reported sporadically in New York City over the past few years. The City closed its investigation with the conclusion that the smell is caused by an ester escaping from the processing of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) seed by a New Jersey plant owned by Frutarom. The ester occurred in concentrations of only one part per billion or less, making identification difficult.

Fenugreek seeds. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Credit: Humbads

Trigonella foenum-graecum, Fenugreek, is in the Fabaceae, the Pea or Legume Family.


Happy Imbolc (Groundhog Day) 2009!

The sun has not yet risen this morning, but the sky is clear as dawn lightens to day. It's likely that "Flatbush Fluffy", the resident Marmota monax, will see his shadow today, if only he would get out of bed.

Happy Groundhog Day!

It's a very different Imbolc than last year. Yesterday and today are the first days since December that I remember we had nighttime temperatures above freezing, which is a deep freeze for us. Last year was the first NYC January without snow in 75 years. This Winter we've been hit with multiple snow storms. I think we're up to five. Also unlike this time last year, there's been no sign of my Spring early warning system: snowdrops and crocuses. So I guess we really are in for a few more weeks of Winter.