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Sunset Park rooftop to become an urban farm

Come autumn, Sunset Park will be home to the world’s largest rooftop farm on 100,000 square feet of space atop the historic Federal Building #2, located between Second and Third Avenues from 30th to 32nd Streets.

Designed and managed by BrightFarms, a New York-based development company

Since the farm will grow all of its produce in water as opposed to soil, the project will also use up to 1.8 million gallons of storm water that would otherwise go into sewers and flood the streets.

The project was touted by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz as the perfect fit for both the site and the city’s goal of a revitalized Brooklyn industrial waterfront.

“Here in New York, we don’t have acres and acres of unused land to grow fresh food, but Brooklyn’s got plenty of industrial buildings with unused roofs that are perfect for urban farming,” Markowitz said during a celebratory press conference with chef Mario Batali.

Paul Lightfoot, CEO of BrightFarms, told the New York Times that the decision to expand the commercial greenhouse model from Long Island to Brooklyn was borne out of the borough’s history as “an agricultural powerhouse in the 19th century” as well as its burgeoning local food scene.

Local leaders are thrilled at the prospect of their backyard being the center of a sustainable urban agriculture movement, particularly since they support part of the Department of City Planning’s proposal to change zoning to make it easier to build and renovate buildings with energy-efficient materials (see: Zone Green Text Amendment).

“This is right in line with what we’ve been working for,” said Jeremy Laufer, district manager of Community Board 7, which had not heard about the project until the media began spreading the word. “Maybe we can [have a say in how the farm can benefit the community further] if we are informed about it.”

Federal Building #2 was sold last August by the city to New York developer Salmar Properties, which promised to transform the 1.1 million square foot building into a manufacturing and industrial hub that would employ over 1,300 people in exchange for approximately $37 million in sales and real estate tax exemptions.

The building was built in 1916 for the U.S. Navy and was last in use in 2000. The BrightFarms greenhouse farm is the first major project/tenant to be announced in/on the building.

This farm will join several other farms that already call Brooklyn home, or will in the near future. Brooklyn Grange, which operates a farm in Queens, will be opening a 45,000-square-foot farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and Greenpoint-based Gotham Greens will be opening three more hydroponic rooftop greenhouses in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, while adding 20,000 square feet to its existing farm.

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