Before photo by VisuaLingual; after photo by Jeff Scherer
On this gorgeous Monday morning, we headed to the corner of Ocean and Flatbush Avenues to take a picture of a fading Brooklyn landmark that is finally enjoying its own spring blossoms.
The Flatbush Trees signs were originally erected in the early 70s, to welcome people to the section of Flatbush Avenue south of Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. But as there was no money set aside for their maintenance, they had become faded, dirty and rusty. Thanks to the tireless efforts of an installation artist, a local blogger and 100 middle school students from the Jackie Robinson School, the Flatbush Trees are now exploding with color.
Left: The Flatbush Trees, before the renovation. Right: Artist David Eppley poses with a student
David Eppley, a former teacher and installation artist, has lived in the Flatbush area for seven years. He thought that it was about time the trees got some love. He pitched his idea to the Department of Transportation and Community Board 9: to refurbish the signs using brightly colored hexagonal decals, with help from local high school students.
In 2013, he was granted $2,000 from the transportation department to fund the project — $1,000 up front and $1,000 upon completion. It was a start, though Eppley soon realized that the sum was barely enough to cover the insurance alone. Along with help from local blogger and activist Tim Thomas of The Q at Parkside, the “Spring Comes to the Flatbush Trees” project was able to raise another $8,000.
Students helped create and design the thousands of hexagon decals out of brightly colored tape. Because of insurance reasons, Eppley had to apply them all himself. The newly painted trunks display the students’ ideas for how the plaza should be used: a pool, a performance space, a place for food trucks. Black spaces are left for residents to write their own ideas in chalk.
Detail of the Flatbush Trees decals
The results are striking. When we were there, passing commuters were stopping to have their picture taken with the trees. Eppley, the students of the Jackie Robinson School, and Thomas are pleased with the results of their efforts.
Locals taking pictures of the new Trees
“This has become my white whale,” said Thomas in his promotional video. “Trying to find some way to make the Flatbush Trees into something inviting that says this is a neighborhood that cares about itself, that’s going places. Come and visit, spend your money, spend some time.”
Flatbush Trees Coverage [Brownstoner]