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Justice in Flower at Brooklyn Courthouse

August 11, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Cyril Hyman isn’t your garden-variety federal attorney.

With only $25 in government seed money and a home-grown knowledge of plants, the veteran of more than 20 years with the U.S. attorney’s office has justice flowering, literally, at Brooklyn’s federal courthouse.

The boxlike, granite building’s stark glass-and-steel entrance now is peppered with petunias and phlox, and even summer squash thanks to Hyman.

″A little law and a lot of cow manure will make anything bloom,″ said Hyman, 57, who as deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Division in Brooklyn spends his working hours representing federal agencies in civil suits.

″I get a lot of pleasure out of it,″ he said of the gardening.

Thirteen huge stone planters were placed in the courthouse plaza last winter as an anti-terrorist crash barrier, but there was no money in the budget for plants and upkeep. The double row of empty urns became an eyesore, gathering cigarette butts and lunchtime debris.

″It was rather disgraceful,″ said U.S. District Judge Mark A. Costantino, who suggested Hyman as resident horticulturist.

″It beautifies the environment,″ said Hyman’s boss, U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney. ″I do not have a green thumb, but I admire those who do.″

″We supplied the seeds (about $25 worth),″ said Building Manager Roger Fudge. ″Cyril mixed it all up in some concoction and they just grew. He did all the work.″

Hyman’s secret ingredient was cattle manure and compost, 1,200 pounds of it, from his Springville, Pa., farm where he vacations.

He spends four to five hours a week on the courthouse oasis, coming in early on weekdays and on most weekends from his home on Long Island.

In addition to the plaza urns, Hyman has planted about 300 feet of window boxes along the building with marigolds, poppies, morning glories and zinnias.

A building overhang blocks the rain, so Hyman must water his plants regularly, but carefully, because ″it drains into the basement. You have to estimate when to stop.″

Born in the heart of Brooklyn, Hyman is no country boy. But while in college he worked summers as a farm laborer in upstate New York. He earned a doctorate in juridical science from New York Law School.

″I’m comfortable in both roles,″ said Hyman, whose workman’s hands, grizzled beard, and longish, gray hair give him an earthy look even in a business suit.

Cynics’ fears that vandalism would undo his efforts have proved unfounded.

″I think people appreciate beauty,″ Hyman said.

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