New York City’s largest rooftop farm sprouts up in Brooklyn

Tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers are only a few of the many fresh options now growing on New York City’s largest rooftop farm: a 140,000-square-foot facility in Sunset Park.

In addition to growing produce, which will go to restaurants and farmers markets, the new facility — operated by Brooklyn Grange — offers a “Swiss army knife” of benefits for the city, according to co-founder Anastasia Plakias.

Environmentally, rooftop farms can cut energy costs, decrease combined-sewer-overflow, reduce urban heat island effect, create a habitat for wildlife, absorb air pollutants and lessen noise pollution.

The farm’s close proximity to Green-Wood Cemetery will also give migratory and native birds a place to take refuge.

Plakias said that while it’s difficult to stop New York from expanding upwards, residents could help the city grow in a different type of way.

“It’s impossible to ignore the piece of development in this city,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Development will never cease in New York City. There will always be change happening, but we have an opportunity to influence the direction and shape that that change takes. Now is a really critical time for New York City to be a leader.”

The space at 850 Third Ave. is the company’s third farm. The first opened in 2010 in Long Island City, and the second came to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2012.

The Sunset Park green roof acts like a giant sponge, managing roughly 175,000 gallons of storm water in a single rainfall — helping to reduce the amount of CSO entering New York’s waterways.

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Grange

(The Brooklyn Navy Yard facility, in comparison, can manage about 100,000 gallons of water per storm.)

Because of its ability to reduce CSO, the roof was partially paid for by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program.

The new space, located adjacent to the Metropolitan Detention Center and overlooking the Sims Municipal Recycling, will also host weddings and other special occasions.

An event space and kitchen are currently under construction, and co-founder Ben Flanner said the farm would ideally host parties in the future using fresh herbs to garnish drinks.

Borough President Eric Adams said that it was crucial for similar operations like Brooklyn Grange to open in low-income communities. “We don’t need fast food. We need farm food, and it’s right here in the heart of our city,” he said. “This is profitable to be able to grow food in an urban environment: Not only isolated in communities that are gentrified, but also in Brownsville, East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“There’s no reason we can’t have a Brooklyn Grange on the top of every NYCHA building so they can grow healthy food and live a healthy lifestyle. We can’t grow new land but we can better utilize our rooftops.”

The space, which officially opens on Sunday, will be open to the public every Sunday through October from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Photo by Ian C. Roberts
Plants grow on the new farm.

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