City approves rooftop farm at LIC building – QNS.com

City approves rooftop farm at LIC building

City farmer Ben Flanner and several restaurant owners in Brooklyn hope to turn the roof of this former industrial building in Long Island City into a 40,000-square-foot farm. The project is called the Brooklyn Grange. Photo by Christina Santucci.
By Chauncey Alcorn

City Department of Buildings officials Tuesday approved construction plans for the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm being built atop a former Long Island City industrial building only a few days after suspending the operation for failure to secure a permit.

The idea for the Brooklyn Grange, a proposed 40,000-square-foot rooftop farm originally planned for Brooklyn, was thought up by farmer Ben Flanner, a former E-Trade employee, who worked with local restaurant owners and other partners last year to build a for-profit rooftop farm in Greenpoint.

Sean Rembold, one of the lead chefs at Diner and Marlow & Sons, two restaurants in Williamsburg, said he has been buying produce from Flanner since he built the first farm because locally grown fruits and vegetables make better-tasting food.

“As much as he could grow, we would take,” Rembold said. “It was actually pretty spectacular the quality they could achieve with such a short amount of time. The quality was right on par with some of the best produce available.”

The newly proposed Brooklyn Grange, at 37-18 Northern Blvd., received support from some investors and restaurant owners, but construction was halted Friday by city officials.

“We amended a partial stop-work order to do work on the roof,” DOB spokeswoman Ryan Fitzgibbon said. “Basically our big concern when they did this without permits is there is a lot of extra weight and can the building support it.”

The new farm came to the city’s attention when it was featured in recent news reports. DOB officials visited and halted construction after tons of dirt already had been added to the building’s roof.

Fitzgibbon said DOB officials met Tuesday with the farm’s developers, who formally presented their plan to build the farm.

“Those plans included a structural analysis showing how the extra weight of the farm will be supported,” she said Tuesday. “DOB approved those plans today and has subsequently lifted the stop-work order on the roof.”

The farm’s developer had to pay a $5,000 fine for working without a permit, but Fitzgibbon said he was proceeding as planned. The goal of the farm is to grow produce nine months during the year and sell it to markets and restaurants in Queens and Brooklyn. That’s a relief for chefs like Rembold, who said easy access to locally grown produce is hard to come by.

“You can’t really beat freshness, someone picking it in the morning and producing it just a couple hours later,” he said. “To actually get things so quickly from when they’ve been picked … whatever natural sweetness there is is retained in the fruit or vegetable. I definitely support what they’re doing,”

Reach reporter Chauncey Alcorn by e-mail at calcorn@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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