Young residents of Astoria Houses celebrated the opening of the new community hydroponic lab Monday, April 25, which will teach sustainability programming and environmental science.
The lab, which is the first of its kind for a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), will be operated by the New York Power Authority (NYPA). The learning lab is part of NYPA’s Environmental Justice program, which brings education resources to students from disadvantaged communities close to the Power Authority’s energy assets statewide.
The new facility is located in a community room used for after-school programming. It will be available to youth and all community members in the Astoria Houses. Those who participate in the program are able to get access to all the fresh produce. NYCHA Chair and CEO Greg Russ said the Housing Authority is committed to providing its residents with emerging opportunities and benefits surrounding environmental justice.
“The installation of this state-of-the-art community greenhouse lab at Astoria Houses will provide a fertile training ground for environmental science and food education, and we are grateful to the Power Authority and HANAC Cornerstone for facilitating this innovative source of youth programming,” Russ said.
HANAC, a nonprofit providing year-round programming to young people in the city, will also help maintain the lab and bring the education programs focused on sustainability.
During a tour of the facility on Monday, over a dozen Queens students showed off the hydroponic system, where crops grow indoors without any soil. The lab is full of fresh vegetables, like cucumber and basil, which visitors got to taste paired with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.
NYPA partnered with New York Sun Works, another nonprofit organization that uses hydroponic technology to educate young people in climate and sustainability.
“Learning about sustainability and climate action is something all New Yorkers can do and NYPA is privileged to work with NYCHA to bring environment-focused education and resources to communities across New York, including in Astoria, Queens,” said NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “This hands-on experience in urban farming aims to provide students and residents with an elevated set of skills, a broader perspective and a lasting sense of engagement with a more sustainable global community.”
NYPA is committed to environmental justice across the city; last week, they announced a $72 million project to bring energy-efficient heating upgrades to NYCHA developments in the Bronx and Staten Island.