37-18 Northern Boulevard
Long Island City, Queens
Architect: Bromley Caldari Architects
It isn’t difficult to stumble across a green building in New York City, but only a select few rooftops are literally awash with the mossy glow that radiates from mass quantities of kale leaves and pea sprouts. Last Wednesday, Brooklyn Grange, a commercial farm located on a rooftop six stories above the streets of Long Island City, Queens, officially opened for business. Led by head farmer Ben Flanner, the Brooklyn Grange team found the 40,000-square-foot space atop the former Standard Motor Products building after piloting a smaller rooftop farm in Greenpoint last year.
To transform the existing structure into 7.5-inch-deep beds, Brooklyn Grange worked with Jerry Caldari of New York–based Bromley Caldari Architects, which has been renovating the building for owner Acumen Capital Partners. “We were going to put a green roof on the building anyway, so when this came up, it seemed like a perfect fit,” Caldari said. To ensure that the roof could support 1.2 million pounds of soil, the team brought in Allied Engineering to x-ray the structure and calculate acceptable loads. Beneath the soil is over 20,000 linear feet of green roofing material, including a layer of root barrier; a thick layer of felt; and drainage mats to retain rainwater.
Among the required permits for the project, the team received a change of use from the city, certifying the rooftop as a bona-fide agricultural use. Equally important, the owner is taking advantage of New York City’s green roof tax abatement, which offers a tax credit of $4.50 per square foot up to $100,000. “That’s what really makes it viable and attractive to building owners,” Caldari said.
The project’s founders, who include several operators of Roberta’s restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn, see unique potential in the city’s unused roof space and hope to expand the business, aiming to “make urban farming a viable enterprise and livelihood.” To that end, Brooklyn Grange is open daily to visitors and sells produce directly to the community from on-site markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as to local restaurants, and recently announced plans to launch a seasonal farm share system.