Are Urban Farms The New High-End Amenity? A Tale Of Up-Scale Kale

Some new housing developments In New York City are now offering rooftop gardens as an amenity. Want a salad for lunch?

By Team Agorafy August 16, 2016
Photo via GrowNYC twitter

In New York City green space is at a premium and many people would sacrifice indoor square footage for a patch o’ grass and a chance to dig their hands in the dirt. But where in the city can one actually pull the roots of a radish from the earth without being arrested? Farming in Central Park tends to be frowned upon,unless it’s for a Pikachu, and it’s really hard to grow a large squash on a fire-escape. So unless you have a backyard (which is equivalent to having a unicorn give up their seat on the L train at rush hour) you must be resourceful and think outside the box—or maybe on top of the box.

Related: Kales Of The City: Meet NYC’s First Residential Urban Farm

Urban farming has  been around since 3,500 BC when farmers in Mesopotamia set aside plots of land in burgeoning cities. In the 60’s, urban farming in the US was often related to social (think hippie communes where they’d grow their own bean sprouts). Now in the 21st century many New Yorkers, in seeking the best of both the rural and urban, are looking skyward and growing their gardens vertically.

Some new housing developments In New York City are now offering rooftop gardens as an amenity. Want a salad for lunch? Take the elevator to the top floor and harvest it. This kind of farming allows food to be as local, fresh, in season and nutritious as possible. If urban farming is easy, sustainable and affordable then why isn’t it more ubiquitous? Stuart Beekmeyer, landscape architect for Dhomain LLC, points out some practical issues. He says, “The biggest problem with urban farming is being able to isolate the food from the environment such as wind, residual building heat and pollution. We developed a new line of domes that assist the protection of food and help the urban community harvest more abundantly.” Yet most urban farms in New York remain dome-less for now, that isn’t stopping them from cropping up in multiple communities.

Related: The High Life: How A Farm-Condo High Rise Concept Could Change Apartment Living

550 Vanderbilt in Brooklyn, is the first condominium to be built in the new Pacific Park complex. This 278 unit building contains housing with prices range from $700,000 for studios to $6.8 million for a penthouse. The plan is to install a 3,500-square-foot communal garden on the eighth floor before it reaches full capacity in 2017. The winners of the Developer of the Year Award, Greenland Forest City Partners fast-tracked the development of the building. They will literally plant the seeds in the garden until the condo-board will decide whether to assign plots to specific residents or keep it one big communal space.

In the not-for-profit department, the organization GrowNYC (founded by Liz Christy in 1975) assists the building and sustainability of urban farms, school and community gardens all over New York City. They help run a 2,300-square-foot communal garden in Long Island City in an affordable housing community called Hunter’s Point South.

The garden sits on the 14th floor and this summer, it has yielded all kinds of produce—from string beans to strawberries and everything in between. The fruits and veggies are then sold for $12 a box to other residents. Co-director of GrowNYC, Gerard Lordahl, shared with The New York Times, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we get over 1,000 pounds of produce by the end of the season.” So whether you’re living in a multi-million-dollar condo or in an affordable housing development in New York City—it seems there’s nowhere to grow but up!

Team Agorafy



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