December 28th, 2009
By Sommer Saadi
Green Right Now
Ben Flanner’s farm grows lush in summer with rows of squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce. And during all seasons, it provides a visual feast: a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline.
That’s because Flanner’s farm is on top of a vacant three-story warehouse building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
A 6,000 square foot slab of concrete covered in more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables (not to mention the herbs) is unusual, but it’s no longer rare. Communities are pushing for greater access to locally grown food, but with land in the city so expensive, non-profits, restaurants, residents and entrepreneurial farmers like Flanner and his partner Annie Novak are turning to the city’s most under-used and readily available spaces: its rooftops.
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a 145-corporate-member green roof and walls industry association, reported a 35 percent increase from last year in the number of constructed green roof projects nationally, which totaled more than 3.1 million square feet. That number is likely to increase as more city farmers discover, as Flanner and Novak did, that rooftop farms can be profitable ventures.