April 2nd, 2012 by Chris Keenan
Look at the skyline of any city, and you’ll see miles of rooftops of commercial buildings. The space goes mostly unused except for air conditioning units, open to sunlight and the elements. Brooklyn Grange, a commercial organic farm, looks at rooftops differently. In fact, all its organic gardens exist on New York City roofs, and its latest undertaking involves the Brooklyn Navy Shipyard, 45,000-square-feet of it, to be exact.
The building in question is situated near Flushing Avenue and Cumberland Street and was once a manufacturing center for the military. It has since been turned into an industrial park and leases space to over a hundred tenants. Now with the help of Brooklyn Grange and a lot of solar panels, the roof is being transformed into a vast urban garden. Within two months, a foot of lightweight soil will be spread across the roof, and fruits and vegetables of all kinds will be planted. A greenhouse will also be constructed on the rooftop to be used in the cold weather months when the open-air sections are barren. The green roof system will utilize solar panels and take advantage of the 1 million gallons of rainwater runoff produced yearly in the area.
The produce from the shipyard’s urban garden will be sold at local farmers’ markets, to local restaurants and families. But it’s not just about organic farming for this garden. Supplying locals with fresh fruits and vegetables decreases the need for produce that’s shipped from across the country, thereby decreasing the city’s carbon footprint. Using solar panels can further decrease the carbon footprint as well. The urban garden creates local jobs while utilizing a space that would otherwise go empty and unused.
Brooklyn Grange is planning on running a weekly farmer’s market outside the Navy Shipyard that will give locals an opportunity to buy the rooftop produce, as well as provide ingredients to several of the shops leasing space in the industrial park. About 10,000 seedlings that have already been planted at the organic farm will be relocated to the industrial park.
The start-up costs of the massive rooftop garden are being covered by a $592,730 grant from the Department of Environmental Protection, because the garden will soak up rainwater runoff that would normally end up polluting the East River. Both the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation and Brooklyn Grange contributed $310,000 in matching funds to the project as well. The garden will open mid-May.
Image Credit: Brooklyn Grange Farm
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