Adams, Espinal At Forefront Of Urban Farming Movement


Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams  (D) and City Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr. (D-Bushwick, East New York) made an appearance today at the Ashford Street Abundant Garden to announce new urban agricultural legislation.

The community garden on 330 Ashford St. in East New York is one of more than 60 gardens disregarded as a vacant lot by land developers.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams
City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr.

Adams and Espinal are at the forefront of an initiative that would require New York to maintain a report on urban farms in order to create a comprehensive urban agriculture plan, as well as extend community gardens’ licenses.

Last month, the two lawmakers unveiled the city’s first-ever website dedicated to a one-stop shop for all information relating to urban agriculture for community gardeners and urban farming practitioners. The City’s Department of City Planning (DCP), and the Parks Department’s GreenThumb program, along with the City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS) contributed to the creation of the website and are available resources.

The package of legislation the two worked on and that Espinal recently introduced in the city council includes requiring the DCP to develop a comprehensive urban agriculture plan, have the Parks Department issue a report on community garden food processing and agriculture, and extend the period before a community garden license can be revoked.

“We got a real problem with food deserts. We have a real problem with the lack of proper land space. We have a real problem with clarity of how to go about moving this important, futuristic agenda of using hydroponic, aeroponic rooftop gardens,” Adams said.

Ashford Abundant Garden Coordinator Lyeta Herb tills the garden. Photo by Christian Spencer.

“The problem can be solved. The question mark can be persuaded into an exclamation point. New York City can lead the way of urban farming,” Adams said.

Although Adams does not consider himself to be a vegan, he claims his strict plant-based diet cured his life-altering diabetes.

Ashford Abundant Garden Coordinator Lyeta Herb said the garden has not received city funding in the last two years. The gardens once used the city’s funding to support its operations like the construction of their pergola.

“We use these [garden] beds for East New York farms. We try to really to produce for our farmers’ market,” Herb said.

Ashford Abundant Garden Coordinator Lyeta Herb enjoys a fruit from her labor. Photo by CHristian Spencer.

Espinal is familiar with the type of situations urban farmers like Herb deal with on an ongoing basis, and think the city should intervene.

“There is not enough support coming from City Hall. There is not enough protection from City Hall, and I am hoping to change all of that.”

Espinal cites Adams as a “living testament” on the impacts of healthy eating and inspiration for him to become engaged with the farmers’ community.

According to Adams and Espinal, urban farms is estimated to be a $9 billion industry in the United States with the potential to feed 20 million New Yorkers.