Growing Rooftop Farming in NYC

New York is leader in rooftop agriculture, with several innovative farms: the nearly one-acre Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street RooftopFarm, Gotham Greens, and the aeroponic growing system atop Bell, Book, andCandle restaurant. An affordable rental building in the Bronx will open with a new rooftop commercial greenhouse, and the Brooklyn Grange plans to launch a new farm on the Brooklyn waterfront to serve the dual purposes of growing food and capturing stormwater, thanks to a grant from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.
To make even more rooftops available for food production the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) released a proposed zoning text amendment on, on December 12, 2011 that would exclude rooftop greenhouses atop commercial buildings from the lot’s floor area ratio (FAR) and height limits. According to a recent study by the Urban Design Lab, there are approximately 1,200 acres of flat rooftops on private commercial or industrial buildings in New York City that are at or over the maximum FAR. The new zoning would make this potential growing space available.
To qualify for the exemption from FAR and height limits, greenhouses must:
·      not be on buildings that contain residences or other uses with sleeping accommodations.  DCP believes that residential building owners will turn rooftop greenhouses into additional living space instead of growing space.
·      onlybe used to grow plants (or if they are accessory to a community facility, are used primarily for plant cultivation.)
·      notexceed the building height limits by more than 25 feet.
·      have roofs and walls that have at least 70% transparent material (not counting for accessory office or storage space, which may take up no more than 20% of the floor space and have solid walls and roofs).
·      be set back from the perimeter wall by at least 6 feet all around if the greenhouse exceeds height limits.
·      incorporate a rainwater collection and reuse system to reduce the demand on the potable water supply and to minimize stormwater.
The proposed text amendment was referred out on December 12, 2011 and will go through a public review process, including referral for 60 days to all community boards, borough boards and borough presidents for review and comment, followed by review by the City Planning Commission and City Council.
For more information, or to download a copy of the text amendment, go to

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