After giving a brief lesson in New York’s Dutch history, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe opened a one-acre urban farm to a couple hundred local school children in Battery Park on Monday. It’s the Battery’s first farm in the area since the Dutch tilled soil there in 1625. The idea for the farm brought together celebrity chefs, architects, and community activists to work alongside the kids. The design, by the newly formed STUDIOperFORM, incorporated bamboo salvaged from last year’s Metropolitan Museum rooftop exhibit, Big Bambú. Design partners Shane Neufeld, an architect, and Scott Dougan, a set designer, used an silhouette of Zelda, the park’s resident turkey, as the basis for their design. Neufeld said that Zelda was never meant to be fully recognizable, instead, the design serves as narrative to teach the children about nature. As a native of Brooklyn, Neufeld said that he doesn’t recall ever having a garden. “We had a parking lot,” he said.
The idea for the farm was hatched by students at Millennium High School‘s Environmental Club and quickly gained momentum once they got Battery Park Conservancy President Warrie Price on board. Price said that with seven schools within walking distance, 683 students will be able to get their hands dirty. She added that even though 5000 bamboo poles were used to make the fence, they still have enough left over for furniture, should another design firm be inclined to offer their talents.
In addition to the children’s gardens, area restaurants will also use the farm to provide specialty ingredients for their own operations. Merchants Market will grow there, and the new Fatty Cue Kiosk and Fatty Shack will grow herb gardens. Fatty owner Kevin Pomplun said that they’ve already been talking about planting anise-hyssop, borge, and other rare ingredients to top off ice cream deserts and savory dishes. The amalgam of restaurants, kids, designers and neighborhood groups prompted Benepe to remark, “This is absolutely unique,” adding that the operation might serve as a prototype for other city parks.