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NYC's urban agriculture potential

NYC's urban agriculture potential

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New York City is the most dense major city in the U.S. So how much land could possibly be available to farm? You might be surprised.

New York City is the most dense major city in the U.S. So how much land could possibly be available to farm? With limited space in the city, would urban agriculture be more of an asset or a burden?

A new report from the Urban Design Lab at Columbia University's Earth Institute dives into these questions to explore the city's urban agriculture potential.

What's most surprising is that despite its density, the city has plenty of space to expand its urban farms. The report identified nearly 5,000 acres of vacant land that would be suitable for farming throughout the city's five boroughs. That's about six times the area of Central Park. All that without including 1,000 acres of NYC Housing Authority green space and other underutilized spaces that could be turned into farms.

The report admits that urban agriculture alone wouldn't be enough to feed the city. But with a more robust network of city farmers, urban agriculture can have a major impact on food security in neighborhoods where fresh, healthy produce is needed the most.

Some other interesting findings in the report:

  • Urban farms=green infrastructure
  • There is significant potential for urban agriculture to provide critical environmental services to the city through stormwater runoff mitigation, soil remediation, and energy use reduction.

  • Rooftops are numerous in New York City, but are not being utilized enough for urban ag
  • Existing green roof incentive programs have not been designed to support rooftop agriculture. Rapidly changing technologies and the skills and experience being developed by today’s rooftop farming pioneers will likely make wider adoption much more feasible in the near future.

  • Bureaucracy is getting in the way of the expansion of urban ag
  • Uncertainties over land jurisdiction and management remain a major hurdle to prospective urban farmers. City agencies, already stretched by budget cuts, often don’t have adequate capacity to provide oversight for this type of activity on their properties.

  • NYC has the infrastructure to support an urban ag boom
  • There are substantial opportunities to take advantage of underused existing refrigeration, food processing, and distribution infrastructure within NYC, which are all critical to delivering food from the urban farm to the consumer.

  • Urban farming is becoming be a legitimate business
  • In addition to selling food directly to the public, farmers have developed direct marketing relationships with restaurants and institutions, initiated revenue-generating education and training services, and can profit from the environmental services they are providing, such as tipping fees for collecting compostable waste.

    Read the complete report: "The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City"

    [Via The City Fix]

    Photo: Gonzlaught/Flickr

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    Tyler Falk

    Contributing Editor

    Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure