As NYC Charts Recovery from Covid-19, Brooklyn Borough President Adams Puts Forward Series of Recommendations to Boost Urban Agriculture in the City

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Contact: Jonah Allon, jonah.allon@brooklynbp.nyc.gov, 929-291-8881

AS NEW YORK CITY CHARTS RECOVERY FROM COVID-19, BP ADAMS PUTS FORWARD SERIES OF RECOMMENDATIONS TO BOOST URBAN AGRICULTURE IN THE CITY

Brooklyn, NY – Today, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams released The New Agrarian Economy Report, which details how Brooklyn and New York City can and must improve our urban agriculture. The New Agrarian Economy proposes ​measures aimed at ​improving racial justice, gender parity, and food sovereignty by ​investing in opportunity in the following sectors: green city infrastructure, localized food production, economic and educational revitalization (via job creation and skills training), and further environmental protections and recovery policies. Crucially, amidst the current pandemic, the report details how localized urban agriculture ​with a focus on equity can vastly improve health outcomes citywide.

For instance, unused NYCHA property, vacant lots, and unshaded rooftops have the potential to generate millions in income for the City if put to agricultural use. The financial devastation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic (unemployment rates in New York City are approximately 7% higher than the national average as of this fall) can and must be addressed by such creative economic stimuli as:

  • Allowing funds from the Department of Environmental Preservation (DEP) Green Infrastructure program to support urban farms as green infrastructure.

  • Leveraging unused city real-estate to be used for urban agriculture.

  • Expanding educational opportunities to further career development in agriculture and food processing.

Borough President Adams recalls how he reversed his diagnosis of type-2 diabetes and blindness in one eye by adopting a ​whole-food, plant-based diet, and emphasizes the universally beneficial health potential of consuming and cultivating plant-based foods. Urban agriculture can ​serve as the bridge between economic prosperity and human health.

“We see a return to, a revitalization and expansion of, urban agriculture as a key component in unlocking economic growth and employment opportunities necessary for healthier constituents, and ultimately, a healthier planet. It is imperative that New York City ensure sufficient access to nutritious and healthy foods for all its residents, regardless of race or economic status, to ensure they have the resources and abilities to reduce chronic illness as I did,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

The COVID-19 pandemic has ​fundamentally re-shaped New York City. This crisis has both exposed the ongoing impacts of historic systems of oppression, and engendered a newfound dedication to racial equity, mutual aid, and community action. Brooklyn Borough President Adams' ​report puts forward concrete proposals on how we can re​-think and re-develop urban agriculture to ensure the equitable distribution of and access to nutritious, locally produced foods. The New Agrarian Economy ​outlines how investing in food-producing green infrastructure, support​ing environmental and nutrition education as well as skill training for youth and the incarcerated, and creating opportunity for historically disadvantaged M/WBEs ​can promote an equitable, sustainable economic recovery in New York City while improving public health.

In 2017 Borough President Adams worked with Council Member Rafael L. Espinal Jr. to introduce legislation calling for the DCP to create a comprehensive urban agriculture plan for the city. He has also allocated over $2.5 million to advancing greenhouse studies in 17 Brooklyn schools. With the release of the New Agrarian Economy report Borough President Adams persists in his longstanding commitment to improving urban agriculture and expanding access to nutritious food for all New Yorkers.

“There is a deep rich history of communities of color leading the community garden and urban agriculture movement in NYC,” said Equity Advocates Policy Director Gabrielle Blavatsky. “We agree with Borough President Adams that the City of New York can and should do much more to protect existing community owned and operated urban farms and put funding towards the critical programs they run to provide healthy fresh food, job creation pathways, much needed greenspace, as well as nutrition and farming education in neighborhoods most impacted by food injustice and apartheid.”

“As a New York-based urban agriculture advisory firm that has carried out more than 20 consultations in the NYC area, facilitated more than 100 urban agriculture-related classes and lectures, and helped organize multiple weeklong AgTech conferences, Agritecture has had a front-row seat to the natural innovation and diversity of the urban farming ecosystem in this city. But without supportive policies, urban agriculture will not advance beyond a niche movement. We firmly believe in the vision laid out by Borough President Adams.”

“Since 2014, the NYC Agriculture Collective, The producer of global industry event NYC AgTech Week and registered non-profit, has worked to increase education, awareness and exposure to Urban Agriculture, food access and Green Building for New Yorkers. We believe that increased access to resources in these areas benefit the health, economy and resiliency of our city, and stand by all efforts in support of that mission,” said NYC Agriculture Collective Vice President Shelley Golan.

“Students who grow food get excited about eating it. Given the impact of animal-based and processed foods on the most common diseases, and the disproportionate impact on communities of color, there is a great need for urban agriculture with a focus on plant, rather than animal foods, and we are grateful to Borough President Eric Adams for not only prioritizing this, but taking concreate actions to improve the health of his constituents… and beyond,” said Coalition for Healthy School Food Executive Director Amie Hamlin.

“From Brooklyn to the Bronx and all boroughs in between, Eric Adams understands the value of urban agriculture and that access to healthy, just and fair food is a basic human right; that hungry and poorly fed children struggle in school and work harder to thrive, and that urban farms, urban agriculture and healthy, accessible green spaces provide opportunities for community development and self-reliance that mitigate our most pressing inequities and injustices - particularly for marginalized, over-extracted, communities of poverty and color. As NYC's most famous vegan and recovering diabetic, BP Adams knows first-hand that cheap food is both expensive and exploitive; he is to be commended for his advocacy and support of grass-roots organizations like Green Bronx Machine and others working to build equitable and inclusive paradigms where they are needed most,” said Green Bronx Machine Founder Stephen Ritz.

“Since launching our first school farm in Newark, NJ in 2009, AeroFarms has passionately continued our mission to build responsible farms both in the NY-Metro area and around the world to nourish our communities all year round with sustainable, fresh, nutritious, and delicious produce. We believe in the power of indoor agriculture to transform our food supply chain for a better, safer, more equitable food system and applaud Mr. Adams' vision to invest in NYC's farming ecosystem. We recently announced the first ever municipal vertical farming program with Jersey City and the World Economic Forum where we are building 10 indoor vertical farms in community centers and schools to provide access to local healthy leafy greens. We hope this initiative serves as a model for other cities around the country and around the world,” said AeroFarms Co-Founder and CEO David Rosenberg.

"Borough President Adams' plan paints a clear picture of what our food system can be, rather than the cluttered quagmire of unhealthy foods that it currently is. We couldn't agree more that practical steps to increase access to fresh produce and to educate our next generation of community food advocates are needed, and were delighted to see the work of so many Food Ed Coalition partners highlighted,” said Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy Deputy Director Julia McCarthy.

“Transforming New York City's local food production capacity, expanding food hubs, and reimagining and creatively using food infrastructure are significant and essential steps in ensuring the resilience of our local and regional food systems. As we continue to see the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate longstanding issues (from rampant joblessness to extreme food insecurity), we are inspired to see Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams offering a multi-faceted approach to building out a greener food economy,” said NYC Good Food Purchasing Program Campaign, Community Food Advocates Director Ribka Getachew.

This report is a call to action, as we begin to look beyond the pandemic, at remaking a food system that works for all New Yorkers centered in equity. At our Farms at NYCHA, we see every day the power of urban agriculture to provide accessible organic produce to our NYCHA communities while also serving as the grounds for job training for NYCHA young adults; creating opportunities for health, education, and community engagement; and delivering valuable environmental benefits. Green City Force is proud to be a part of New York’s New Agrarian Economy and continuing to grow our impact within NYCHA with the support of the Borough President, both in Brooklyn where we got our start and citywide,” said Green City Force Executive Director Tonya Gale.

“Research has shown that children who have access to gardens eat more vegetables, sometimes as much as three additional servings each week! Considering how nutritious vegetables are, and knowing only 1 in 10 children eat enough of them, any amount of increased consumption will have a significant and meaningful impact on our children's short and long-term health outcomes,” Balanced Executive Director Audrey Sanchez.

“New farms are popping up all over NYC, from rooftops, warehouses and trailers, to communal spaces, growing by 56% over the past 5 years based on USDA data. The pandemic’s early days of empty grocery shelves showcased the critical importance of a locally based food system, and urban agriculture has a robust role to play in developing pathways to increased resiliency in our local food system. I commend BP Adams for his visionary recognition of the economic potential of urban agriculture, and particularly, his laser focus on the need to engage our youth from all backgrounds in farming for a more just food system in the future,” said Cornell CALS Associate Dean for Land-Grant Affairs Julie Suarez.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated and shined a bright spotlight on the tremendous structural problems within our city’s, and nation’s, food system, as we watched its supply and distribution chains break down, our food businesses at all levels close, our food workers lose their jobs, and our citizens go hungry at exponential rates while food went to waste. Creating localized food economies (particularly in our most historically marginalized communities which have also borne the brunt of the pandemic), which bring in the latest technologies for growing, activate unused land and space in creative ways, create new production and processing companies, employ local residents, and train our youth to be, not just participants, but future leaders of these enterprises is a critical path to a robust, equitable, and food secure future. Teens for Food Justice's work empowering students in these communities to grow produce hydroponically in their schools, understand and teach others about nutrition, health and food policy, and build an advocacy movement for a just food system gives us clear insight into the importance of a strong vision and plan to make this possible. We applaud and support Borough President Adams for providing both through his New Agrarian Economy Report,” said Teens for Food Justice CEO and Founder Katherine Soll.

“The benefits of urban agriculture extend far beyond providing food to New Yorkers. Community and rooftop gardens are sources of valuable open space and provide important shared green sites to grow food, promote health and food education, serve as dynamic classrooms for New York City schoolchildren, create a sense of community, improve racial justice and encourage connection among community members. The Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center recognizes that urban agriculture throughout the five boroughs also provides ample opportunity for economic investment in green city infrastructure and localized food production. We at the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center stand ready to support strategies that will expand urban agriculture with a specific focus on equity throughout New York City,” said Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center Executive Director Charles Platkin, Ph.D., JD, MPH.

“We find ourselves working towards creating great possibilities that address the decades of divestments and inequity that continues to perpetuate itself in NYC's food systems despite the push for racial and social justice efforts in our communities. It is Universe City NYC's mission to bring Food Sovereignty and Intergenerational Economic Development to the East Brooklyn Community. We believe this plan supports the creation of sustainable food systems designed by the community, employed by the community. When we invest in a green future we are aligning our ecological perspectives and reducing threats to the health of the public and the local environment while building resilient food sovereign communities for generations to come,” said Universe City NYC Co-Founders Alexis Mena, Brittany Markowitz, Franklyn Mena and Jill Bellovin.

“At Bowery, we’re turning industrial buildings close to cities into smart indoor farms that provide communities with year-round green jobs and high quality produce that’s local, safer and more sustainable,” said Bowery Farming CEO and Founder Irving Fain. “We applaud Brooklyn Borough President Adams for advocating for more support and investment in urban agriculture, recognizing the important contribution to education, local job creation, economic revitalization and food security that modern farms like Bowery provide. His vision will accelerate our mission to democratize access to fresh healthy food, which has been built into our model from day one, and is an important step in creating an equitable food system that safeguards food access for all New Yorkers.”

“The New Agrarian Economy presents a vision of how urban agriculture can contribute to a healthy, sustainable, equitable, economically vibrant New York City, along with the specific policies to turn that vision into reality. Most importantly, it recognizes the diversity of our city’s farmers and gardeners, and the value of New York’s polyculture of growing technologies, practices and spaces. A local, healthy, fair food system will be essential to post-pandemic recovery, and this report is a foundation for building one,” said CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute Research Director Nevin Cohen.

“At Square Roots, we’re repurposing existing city infrastructure and turning that into indoor, controlled-climate farms. These high-tech deployments provide New Yorkers with year-round access to locally-grown, nutritious, fresh food, while creating meaningful jobs -- not just in modern farming, but in technology, engineering and many other disciplines,” said Square Roots CEO and Co-Founder Tobias Peggs. “BP Adams has long been a champion for urban and indoor farming, recognizing the outsized positive impact our sector’s efforts can have on the economy, the environment, and the health of local communities. His drive and vision inspires us to keep creating the modern, resilient, responsible, safe, and equitable food system this city (and indeed this country) both needs and deserves.”