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July 20, 2017
BOROUGH PRESIDENT AND COUNCIL MEMBER TEAM UP TO EXPAND INDUSTRY BY CALLING FOR CATALOGUING EXISTING URBAN AG SPACES, IDENTIFYING FAVORABLE LAND USE POLICIES, EXPANDING HEALTHY FOODS AVAILABILITY, AND INTEGRATING WITH CITY’S CONSERVATION PLANS; DUO ALSO COMMIT $2 MILLION IN CAPITAL FUNDING FOR URBAN AGRICULTURE INCUBATOR
BROOKLYN, NY, July 20, 2017: Today, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and Council Member Rafael L. Espinal Jr. introduced legislation at the City Council calling for the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) to create a comprehensive urban agriculture plan for the city. The multi-pronged plan includes a variety of methods to harness the global urban farming industry estimated at a value of $5.8 billion in the next five years across community and youth empowerment, economic development, health care, and land use policies. In particular, their bill proposes to catalogue existing and potential urban agriculture spaces; classify and prioritize urban agriculture uses; identify potential land use policies to promote the expansion of these practices across the city; analyze the zoning resolution, building code, and fire code to promote the industry; expand the availability of healthy foods in low-income communities; integrate urban agriculture into the City’s conservation and resiliency plans; encourage youth development and education with regard to local food production; spur job creation, as well as study the feasibility of creating an Office of Urban Agriculture. Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal touted Intro 1661 as a major step forward in completely transforming the way New Yorkers approach nutrition and the methods of food production.
“We have the power to transform Brooklyn’s urban spaces from concrete jungles to green oases,” said Borough President Adams. “My commitment to urban agriculture has certainly grown with my personal appreciation of nutrition’s transformative power over an individual — and a community’s — quality of life. We need to expand our minds to see the full long-term economic impact of this investment, including the effects on academic achievement, health care costs, and complementary business development. I’m pleased to partner with Council Member Espinal on this forward-thinking action plan.”
“As droughts and floods become more frequent across the globe because of climate change, our traditional agriculture systems are at risk of producing fewer and fewer crops,” said Council Member Espinal. “Urban farming will address the issues of potential food insecurities in major cities by turning current food deserts in low-income communities into food farms. As climate change and social inequality are linked, we must get creative about solving both problems and use the tools available to us. Through this innovative industry we will improve air quality in low-income neighborhoods, prevent flooding of our waterways, increase access to healthy foods to those in need, and create jobs. The City of New York must create a comprehensive urban agriculture plan in order to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow.”
This proposal comes on the heels of a recent study conducted by the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) at Brooklyn Law School, which found that New York City has enough unused rooftop space — totaling 14,000 acres — to grow enough produce that could feed as many as 20 million people in the New York metropolitan area. The study also found that, although urban farming accounts for about 15 to 20 percent of world agriculture, New York City’s rooftop farming practices are limited to commercial and industrial zones along with school buildings. Growing and selling produce on the same lot is prohibited regardless of zone, and no information is provided to the public on whether indoor farming is allowed in any zone. The Zoning Resolution only mentions the word “agriculture” a handful of times, thereby making urban agriculture permissive but unclear as to precise policy. The lack of a coherent citywide urban agriculture strategy means the City continues to have difficulty accounting for the food deserts that are located across lower income neighborhoods, whose residents lack sufficient access to grocery stores or fresh produce.
Earlier this year, Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal made a commitment of $2 million in capital funding — $1 million each from their respective offices — toward the creation of an urban agriculture incubator in the borough. They have proposed the adaptation or construction of a dedicated space for emerging businesses engaged in sustainable food innovation, a measure they view as critical to growing an industry with significant economic potential for New York City. Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal asked the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to collaborate with them on this incubator project and the supportive services it would provide to help seed job creation as well as a citywide culture of healthy eating, learning, and living.
According to industry representatives, this incubator envisioned by Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal could address their burdens in many significant ways. Particularly, it would reduce costs associated with procuring space so a more diverse entrepreneurship can gain access to the industry, as well as place a greater emphasis on measuring and understanding the true sustainability impact of these technologies.
“The Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School applauds the dynamic leadership of the Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal to make Brooklyn and New York City the next frontier for the growth of the urban agriculture sector,” said John Rudikoff, CEO of Brooklyn Law School’s CUBE. “Until New York City clearly delineates what urban agriculture practices are permitted, such efforts will be relegated to ad hoc and fringe applications; handicapping any efforts to scale. The proposed legislation to develop a comprehensive urban agriculture plan is an essential step in this process.”
In April 2017, an urban agriculture symposium was held at Brooklyn Law School’s CUBE, co-presented by Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal as well as the NYC Agriculture Collective, Design Trust for Public Space, and City University for New York (CUNY) Urban Food Policy Institute. The discussion focused on how this conceived boost to the industry is part of a plan to focus on City agencies updating their regulations to better support expansion of the practice, as well as working more intensely with the public and private sectors to create incentives that encourage rooftop and vertical gardens. Last April, Borough President Adams hosted an interagency roundtable discussion at Brooklyn Borough Hall to begin formulating these ideas. Brooklyn Law School and CUBE have committed to provide legal services to all organizations and entities that are enrolled in the incubator program.
“Urban Agriculture is a movement taking root in cities across the world, strengthening local food economies, and creating high-quality jobs,” said Henry Gordon-Smith of the NYC Agriculture Collective. “The NYC Agriculture Collective applauds Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal for their leadership in advancing urban agriculture here in New York and positioning New York City as a model for all cities. Urban agriculture can provide healthy, sustainable food and living wage jobs with an enriching purpose. We are thrilled by this announcement to drive a comprehensive urban agriculture plan forward. This plan is a valuable step toward expanding the number of urban farms and their positive impact on the City. We believe this plan will help the City identifying the trade-offs between various forms of urban agriculture and incentivize accordingly.”
“Through our ‘Five Borough Farm’ study of urban agriculture, the Design Trust for Public Space has found that urban farming and community gardening activities, ranging from beekeeping to farmers markets to youth leadership training in over 900 sites, all have tremendous benefits and positive health, social, economic, and ecological impacts on communities,” said Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space. “New York City has the largest number of urban farms and gardens in both public and private sectors of any city in the country. Currently, citywide coordination among them is lacking. Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal’s proposed comprehensive effort is a pivotal moment to bridge these gaps and maximize the benefits, and achieve the highest potential of urban agriculture to make the city greener and to create green jobs.”
“Food manufacturing has been a major bright spot for jobs growth in New York State, growing at four times the rate of US jobs at large and 50 percent faster than US manufacturing jobs,” said Jason Green, CEO and co-founder of Edenworks. “New York City has been driving much of this growth, accounting for one-third of New York State food manufacturing jobs. Vertical farms are the bleeding edge of urban agriculture and of the food production technologies that are revolutionizing how and where food is grown. With this legislation, Borough President Adams and Council Member Espinal are taking an important step to institutionalize support for and accelerate the pace of innovation in growing healthy food, jobs, and neighborhoods in New York. As an entrepreneur in this industry, I couldn’t imagine better public partners.”
To date, Borough President Adams has allocated more than $2.5 million through his Growing Brooklyn’s Future initiative to advance greenhouse studies, including hydroponic farming, at 17 schools in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Canarsie, Carroll Gardens, Cypress Hills, East New York, Mapleton, Marine Park, and Williamsburg. He is also actively working with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to establish a large-scale greenhouse, the first of its kind on public housing property in New York City.
Office of the Brooklyn Borough President
Director of Communications
Office of Council Member Rafael L. Espinal Jr.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
p: (718) 802 3700 | f: (718) 802 3778