Riverpark, New York’s Most Urban Farm
August 12, 2011
Photo: The New York Times
Not only is the new Riverpark farm one of the largest urban farms in New York, it is the city’s most urban farm, which is to say, it is the only one which functions (and thrives) in the throes of a truly urban environment. Developed through a partnership between the Riverpark restaurant and the Alexandria Center for Life Science, the farm covers 15,000 square feet of a suspended construction site at 430 East 29th Street near the East River–a stone’s throw away from chef Sisha Ortúzar’s kitchen at the Riverpark restaurant and the adjoining sandwich shop ‘Witchcraft, not to mention the Empire State Building or the grueling pavement and exhaust of Midtown. More after the jump!
Riverpark employs two full-time farmers to tend the farm’s 6,000 plants, which include 85 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, growing in movable planters (milk crates). The modular system of planting in milk crates allows the farmers, as well as assistants from the kitchen, to easily move and arrange the produce according to favorable conditions, such as sunlight and wind, and even aesthetic considerations, given that dining tables will soon sit in the midst of the farm to take advantage of the site’s views to the river and the city. The system also makes the entire farm easily portable, which it will have to be when construction work on the Alexandria Center’s west tower resumes. When that happens, the farm will relocate to another part of the center’s grounds.
What is perhaps most interesting is the affect that city has on the development and taste of the farm’s crops. Most of the greens are grown and harvested at the baby stage, when they can be used raw and before the exhaust has fully infiltrated the leaves. But the warmth that is generated from that same exhaust and heat-soaked concrete–which give rise to Manhattan’s heat island effect–makes it possible to grow plants, like okra and peppers, which are generally restricted to warmer, southern climates.
There are currently 600 similarly stalled construction sites in New York City. What new green-scapes and futures can be made of them?