Garden Hits New Heights

Mayor’s Tour Of Navy Yard Rooftop Farm

The largest rooftop garden in New York City, located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, was paid a visit last Thursday, Aug. 2, by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Carter Strickland, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation CEO Andrew Kimball and Brooklyn Grange CEO Ben Flanner.

Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop garden at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was surveyed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland during a visit last Thursday, Aug. 2.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard, in partnership with the Brooklyn Grange, received a green infrastructure grant to help manage stormwater runoff and improve water quality-part of PlaNYC’s goals for cleaner waterways.

The new 43,000 square foot farm sits atop a building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and will absorb more than one million gallons of rainwater annually.

Brooklyn Grange, which has another rooftop garden in Long Island City, expects to yield 20,000 pounds of produce each year and is currently harvesting salad greens, rainbow chard, kale, basil, eggplant, cucumbers and ground cherries.

“It’s no news that a tree grows in Brooklyn, and now we’re ready to harvest cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce and kale,” said Bloomberg. “Along fresh produce and new jobs, the city’s largest rooftop garden will absorb more than a million gallons of storm water and help keep our harbors and streams clean. This is one of the biggest projects we’ve funded as part of our Green Infrastructure program and will help us meet our PlaNYC goals for a greener, greater New York.”

“At the City Council, we consistently look for inventive ways to improve New York City’s food system, including through urban farming, and Brooklyn Grange is a remarkable example of an organization that’s changing our city,” added City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “Working with the Administration, we passed Local Law 5 in 2008 that established a sustainable storm water management plan, which led to the Department of Environmental Protection launching the successful Green Infrastructure Grant program. And four years later, here we are embracing innovative storm water management techniques and the creativity of the city’s urban agriculture movement. This is a special moment for Brooklyn Grange; they are proving that our city is much more than an urban jungle.”

“One of the key strategies in the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan is to engage diverse stakeholders who are interested in using rainwater as a resource while helping us reduce pollution, and Brooklyn Grange is a clear demonstration of this landmark strategy’s full potential,” said Strickland. “Today the waters of New York Harbor are the cleanest they have been in more than 100 years, and green infrastructure projects such as this rooftop farm will help continue this remarkable progress while also bringing environmental, healthful, and economic benefits to all five boroughs.”

“I’m thrilled to be here to celebrate a successful first harvest of the City’s largest rooftop garden. I would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn for their commitment to and investment in rooftop gardening throughout New York City,” added City Council Member Stephen Levin.

“Things are really ‘looking up’ in Brooklyn, with the opening of the largest rooftop farm in New York City by Brooklyn Grange at the Navy Yard-producing locally grown food that is tastier and fresher than food trucked in from hundreds of miles away and helping the environment by diverting hundreds of thousands of gallons of storm water from ending up in our waterways,” said Brooklyn Brorough President Marty Markowitz. “Here in New York, we don’t have acres and acres of land to grow fresh food, and that’s why I’ve been advocating for the changing of zoning laws to maximize rooftop space and open up our borough’s industrial buildings for growing fresh produce.”

Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Grange were provided with $592,730 to build the rooftop farm in 2011 as part of the DEP’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program. The rooftop is the Program’s largest project to date and the first to be completed. The grant program is a component of the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, which Bloomberg launched in 2010.

New York City, like other older urban centers, is largely serviced by a combined sewer system where stormwater and wastewater are carried through a single pipe. During heavy storms, the system can exceed its capacity and is designed to prevent treatment plants from washing out by discharging a mix of stormwater and wastewater-called a combined sewer overflow, or CSO-into New York Harbor.

Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other structural elements to absorb and evaporate water -techniques that help manage stormwater and improve the quality of the city’s surrounding harbors and streams. The plan expands on goals originally introduced in PlaNYC to capture more rainfall and reduce CSOs by 1.5 billion gallons per year.

The rooftop farm will divert more than one million gallons of stormwater from entering the New York City sewer system each year, and use it to irrigate crops. It will also provide benefits to the Navy Yard itself, as green roofs have been proven to lower heat loss in winter and decrease heat gain over black roofs.

The farm’s 12-inch deep growing beds are comprised of a special soil medium blended specifically for rooftop use and custom designed by Brooklyn Grange and Skyland USA, based on 2.5 years of experience at the farm’s flagship location.

With high productivity already underway, Brooklyn Grange’s second farm anticipates an estimated annual yield of 20,000 pounds of fresh produce per year. Crops will include leafy greens, aromatic herbs, heirloom tomatoes and carrots. The farm is productive during the months of April-November, while winter months see the planting of cover crops, such as clover and vetch, to prevent soil erosion and replenish vital nutrients.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is also the new home of the Brooklyn Grange Apiary that consists of over 30 hives, which will yield approximately 1,500 pounds of honey annually.

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