Serving Greenpoint With Free Sunflowers

He's calling himself the Johnny Appleseed of Greenpoint.

But Matt LaBarbiera is spreading sunflowers, not apples, in his Brooklyn neighborhood. He's giving away the plants to anyone and everyone who wants one in hope that someday there will be a sunflower on every street corner.

In what could easily be a modern-day legend, LaBarbiera moved three years ago from his native New Jersey, where he had a backyard garden, to an apartment in Greenpoint.

As he describes it, the neighborhood was just "a lot of dirt everywhere" and "not a lot of greenery."

There was one planter in front of his building that particularly peeved LaBarbiera. A tree stood lonely there. He complained that people dropped trash or let their dogs do their business there. It was right outside his door, and it looked awful.

LaBarbiera took the situation into his own hands. He picked up the trash. He planted daisy and tulip seeds. He put up a fence to protect his pretty little plot.

And he was blown away by the success of his new garden. The seeds were sprouting in no time and before he knew it, the white daisies were in bloom.

"Those seeds are incredible. Something so little can be so amazing," he said. He's also an amateur chef and in total awe of the prospect that all the food we eat once sprouted from such insignificant seeds. So after his initial success, LaBarbiera expanded his efforts to his rooftop and grew a variety of vegetables.

"I realized, why stop with my plants, why not have it everywhere?" he said. "Why not give it away?"

Since that epiphany, LaBarbiera has redoubled his efforts. He bought a 5 lb. bag of sunflower seeds from Vermont. He's planted seedlings all over his rooftop and he's been posting an ad on the online marketplace Craigslist, with a simple title: "Free Sunflowers."

He's received replies from people in all walks of life and from all parts of New York.

"People have no clue about plants," he said. "But this, this makes it easy." He's given plants to people, young and old, from all over New York City.

LaBarbiera's is a unique service to the community and it begs the question, "why sunflowers?"

"Those plants are insane, they grow so fast, and they turn toward the sun with those basketball-size flowers," he said, a little awestruck. "Where ever there's soil a sunflower will grow."

And if LaBarbiera's wish comes true, soon sunflowers will be popping up all over Greenpoint. Keep your eyes peeled.

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