Greenpoint Gazette
Adam Janos
Yemi Amu and Joan Bartolomeo

A Vacant Slot, a Sliver of Light, and a Greener Tomorrow

BY Adam Janos

At 104 Moore Street, a vacant lot adjacent to a liquor store sits neglected and decrepit. Residents without trash pickup dump their garbage there, weeds tangle up to six feet high, and “regulars” have begun to loiter on the block. There is no storefront property here, and thus no anti-loitering law. The lot is the quintessential North Brooklyn eyesore, only making the news as the scene of a car accident last month, when a reversing elderly motorist crushed the fence and struck three pedestrians.

Now it looks like the eyesore is about to go away. A proposal from Joan Bartolomeo, president of the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), was recently approved by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to turn the lot into an urban farm extension of the Moore Street Market (aka La Marqueta de Williamsburg).

The urban farm represents one facet in what has been a continued revival of La Marqueta by the BEDC. The indoor market has been open for nearly 70 years, and is a landmark of the Hispanic Williamsburg community. While the city owns the building itself, the BEDC has been in charge of running the space since January 2009.

On Wednesday night, Bartolomeo and urban farmer Yemi Amu presented their vision of a greener Moore Street at a Community Board 1 meeting. Getting a letter of approval from the Board was the last hurdle before converting the uncomely lot into something more useful. CB 1’s Land Use Committee recommended approval of the urban farm extension, which was proposed at no additional cost to the neighborhood and the complete board voted on and approved the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting. Through earmark spending, the BEDC has secured well over $1 million at the federal, city, and borough level.

With money and community support, the only real issue, it seems, is daylight for the crops. The 2500 sq ft plot is obstructed by its neighbors, and as such receives very little sun. That forces Amu and her fellow farmers to think creatively about how to best utilize the space.

Currently, they plan to use the sun-deprived areas to raise small animals. Chickens will provide eggs, and rabbits will provide fertilizer. That fertilizer will be consumed by worms, which will in turn be consumed by fish in a pond or tank. The fish droppings will then fertilize the farm’s plant life through hydroponic growing techniques, and when the plants are fed to the rabbits, what’s known as a closed-loop farm will be completed.

The produce best suited to the limited sunlight includes a lot of greens such as kale and lettuce, root vegetables like carrots and radishes, and fungi like mushrooms. The BEDC hopes the neighboring market can benefit directly from the farm’s output by selling the greens to local shoppers and organic Brooklyn restaurants. They also plan to work with local public schools to make the farm an educational experience for youngsters, and a summer camp come June.

Whether all those plans come to pass or only some, many in the community are excited a secure green space is coming to fruition. With the board’s vote, the garden will hopefully see the light of day.


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