New York Buildings With Communal Gardens
Joining a community garden or growing herbs on your kitchen windowsill are two tried-and-true methods for New York apartment dwellers to keep their green thumbs active. Now some new developments are offering residents space in on-site gardens, and at least one has created a farm on the building’s property.
At Hunters Point South, an affordable housing complex in Long Island City, Queens, a garden club with about 100 members helps tend a 2,300-square-foot communal garden on the 14th floor of one of two buildings. More than 300 people applied for garden club membership last year, according to Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for the Related Companies, one of the development partners. Those not chosen in a lottery have been placed on a waiting list.
The garden is run by GrowNYC, a nonprofit organization that builds and supports community and school gardens, among other programs. The garden is governed like many others in the city: Members must volunteer a certain number of hours per season and attend workshops in order to maintain membership and receive permission to work in the garden.
So far this summer, there has been a bountiful harvest of strawberries, string beans, Swiss chard and arugula, according to Gerard Lordahl, a director of GrowNYC who has helped shape the garden club. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we get over 1,000 pounds of produce by the end of the season,” he said.
GrowNYC will run the garden through the 2017 gardening season and then hand off the operation to garden club members who will elect a board and adopt bylaws. With so many residents on the waiting list, the club is exploring expanding its offerings to incorporate activities for nonmembers, like educational programs for children with an emphasis on where their food comes from, Mr. Lordahl said.
The harvest is shared by members, and some of the produce is sold for $12 a box to other residents.
The garden has a solar oven that has been used to make kale chips and sun-dried tomatoes, and parents have been enticing their children to drink smoothies by pedaling the bicycle blender, Mr. Lordahl said.
The Ironstate Development Company, the developer behind the Urby Staten Island rental apartments on the North Shore, has a for-profit farm atop an underground garage on the seven-acre property. David Barry, the president of Ironstate, said the urban farm was incorporated into the plans after designers thought about building common spaces that people might use and benefit from.
The developers invited Zaro Bates and Asher Landes, the partners of Empress Green, an urban farm operator and consultancy, to run the farm. The two started building the 4,500-square-foot farm and a rooftop apiary while the development was still under construction. Residents can volunteer to get their hands dirty if they like. These days, a variety of vegetables and herbs have been harvested and sold at the Bodega, the development’s ground-floor market.
Brendan Costello, Urby’s chef-in-residence, uses the farm’s produce in weekly cooking demonstrations and to make free treats for residents. Mr. Costello said his favorite dish so far was fried radish cakes with avocado sauce.
A weekend farm stand, which is open to the public, is growing in popularity, Mr. Landes said.
Some vegetables will be sold to a future Coffeed cafe that plans to incorporate the produce into light bites.
At 550 Vanderbilt in the Pacific Park complex in Brooklyn, a 3,500-square-foot communal garden will be installed before residents move in at the end of the year. Greenland Forest City Partners, the development partnership behind the condominium building, will even see that seeds are started for the 2017 growing season. But it will be left to the incoming condominium board to determine how to maintain the eighth-floor space.
The board might decide to assign individual plots to residents or keep the garden’s bounty communal, said Susi Yu, an executive vice president of Forest City Ratner. Inviting a restaurateur to come in as a consultant or to give cooking classes might also be an option, she said.
“Our garden is designed to be a gathering space,” said Ms. Yu, noting it will include a big communal table for residents to use. “Building nature into the daily life of residents was a deliberate decision.”
By Kaya Laterman