NYC Rooftop Growers Catch a Break

August 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

After years of frustration, urban rooftop farmers now have reason to celebrate.  Last month, the New York City Council passed legislation that will make the lives of rooftop growers a little easier.  The legislation will help both greenhouse farmers and those that grow outdoors on soil-covered roofs.

The Council approved a resolution that will extend the city’s Green Roof Tax Abatement to owners of green roofs that grow vegetables and edible food.  The abatement — believe it or not — applied to roofs with hardy plant species, such as sedum, and not to those with food-producing plants.  The tax abatement of up to $100,000 — the abatement is applied at $4.50 per square foot — is for green roof installations that cover at least 50% of eligible roofs.

“A clear precedent of successful approved tax abatement applications will quickly lead to an increase in landowners’ interest in renting their roofs to rooftop farmers,” said Ben Flanner, head farmer and co-owner of Brooklyn Grange, a one-acre organic rooftop farm in Long Island City, Queens, at a public hearing in October.

Greenhouse growers gained something too.  Greenhouses were added to the list of rooftop structures that would not be considered an additional story, provided the structures did not exceed one-third of the roof space. This will make it easier for greenhouse entrepreneurs to meet the city’s rigid building regulations.

Though pleased, greenhouse growers pushed for more.  Viraj Puri, founder of Gotham Greens, the city’s only commercial food-producing greenhouse, and Benjamin Linsley, managing director of rooftop hydroponic greenhouse consultancy BrightFarms, asked Council members to consider increasing roof usage to more than a third.

To be commercially viable, said Puri, “a third is not going to work.”

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Entry filed under: City Farmers, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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