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Festival puts focus on farm for public housing

One of the first models in the nation of a working farm on public housing property is open to visitors as part of the month-long Archtober design festival in New York City starting tomorrow.

Last week, the farm’s designers — architect Gita Nandan and landscape architect Elliott Maltby, both of thread collective — led a “Building of the Day” tour of this one-acre innovative urban agriculture space, where produce is donated to families in need or sold at farmers markets.

Called the Red Hook West Urban Farm, the new outdoor space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, was developed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) as a prototype to be replicated on at least five other sites, as part of their Urban Agriculture Initiative.

When it opened, this initiative added an architectural dimension to the Mayor’s Obesity Task Force.

Red Hook West Farm

Red Hook West Farm

The farm is a built representation of thread collective’s work in urban agriculture, green infrastructure, and resiliency, and serves as a site of education, job training, and community engagement. In this way, it is the opposite of the urban “food desert” and a source of knowledge and economic vitality.

The landscape design overlays existing, informal pedestrian paths over the east-west orientation, optimal for growing fruits and vegetables, yielding a dynamic pattern of planters and gathering spaces.

Level planter tops accentuate existing topography, while trees and benches punctuate the pattern.

The project was initiated by Added Value, a local non-profit with a 3-acre farm a few blocks down the road, and is maintained and operated by Green City Force’s Clean Energy Corp.

The team is based primarily at the NYCHA Farm at Red Hook Houses, where they work to expand access to green space and healthy food for public housing residents.

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The farm was developed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) as a prototype to be replicated on at least five other sites.

In addition, the Corp supports community composting activities at Added Value’s Red Hook Community Farm, maintain Planters Grove park at Lillian Wald Houses, and educate NYCHA residents on simple ways to conserve energy and water through the Love Where You Live Challenge.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest public housing authority in North America, with developments throughout the five boroughs. NYCHA’s Garden and Greening Program manages one the largest and longest running public gardening program in the nation and has supported residents in developing more than 650 community based garden plots.

Building on this tradition, NYCHA partnered with Added Value and Green City Force in 2011 to launch model NYCHA farm with the hopes increasing opportunities for NYCHA communities to have access to healthy fresh produce, horticultural training opportunities, and building community capacity.

The Archtober tour comes on the heels of thread collective’s work on Lowlands, a vision for the public spaces of NYCHA housing developments recommending varied “green infrastructure strategies” to boost community engagement and ecological resiliency.

In this way, thread collective hopes to make urban housing safer and healthier, while also strengthening existing corridors and linking together residential, commercial and retail sites.

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