New Yorkers have been growing urban farms for quite some time, but it finally looks like the city government is officially supporting urban farming efforts. City Council passed two bills last week in an effort to support consumption and production of local foods and farming. The first bill supports and encourages the construction of rooftop greenhouses, while the second aims to free up land for urban farm use.
The new legislation states that buildings with a rooftop greenhouse will not be considered an additional story by the Department of Buildings. Greenhouses will be exempt from height limits, as long as they take up less than one-third of the rooftop. The legislation also calls for the city to maintain a database of unused spaces in order to transform them for urban farm use. Even better for local farmers, another bill will require city facilities like jails and health centers to purchase locally grown food.
Councilwoman Gale Brewer, no stranger to supporting environmental causes, was one of the lawmakers who sponsored the rooftop greenhouse bill. She believes that greenhouses will not only promote healthier eating, but also encourage economic growth.
“It’s been a really touchstone moment for much of the green community,” said Councilwoman Brewer to the New York Times. “Where can you go but up?
Not everyone agree with the new green initiatives, however. Councilman Lewis A. Fidler of Brooklyn, sponsored the bill to catalog the unused city properties, but voted against the bill encouraging rooftop greenhouses. Although he does support urban farming initiatives, Fidler is concerned about homeowners who will abuse the system. He cites instances in his district where homeowners would submit applications for greenhouses but instead, use the rooftops to construct extra bedrooms.
“I love the idea of greenhouses,” said Councilman Fidler to the New York Times. “I think that they would make a very interesting addition to the urban landscape. But these folks are probably snickering as they continue to use their bedroom.”
The bills are now being sent to Mayor Bloomberg, where he will most likely sign them into law, given his extensive record on supporting environmental causes and his goals for PlaNYC. The new legislation marks a huge victory for urban farming, environmentalists, and for all New Yorkers. With the passage of this exciting new green legislation, don’t be surprised if the city landscape soon starts changing. Here’s looking forward to more rooftop greenhouses!