New York City’s iconic event space at the Javits Center in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood shut down during the pandemic and hosted a hospital and mass vaccination site. Now, with apple and pear trees and more than 50 crops growing on its rooftop, it has reopened with in-person events that serve food produced from its own urban farm in hopes of connecting people to how their food is grown.
“We really expect it to be a place where we can grow a decent amount of food in an efficient manner for the convention center,” said Ben Flanner, co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, the company that designed and manages the farm. “It’s a beautiful space, and I think it can be very inspiring from a what-is-possible standpoint for the hundreds of thousands of people that come through the convention center.”
The one-acre farm on the Javits Center’s 200,000 square-foot roof officially opened in September. The Brooklyn Grange team was able to plant and harvest several fall crops, including radishes and salad mixes, for New York Comic Con 2021, which the Javits Center hosted in early October. The Javits Center and Brooklyn Grange — which also operates its own rooftop farms in Brooklyn that produce 100,000 pounds of organic produce each year sold through markets, a CSA program, and wholesale — expect the farm to provide 40,000 fruits and vegetables to be used in Javits Center meals each year.
“We’re very excited for the fact that all the food can be consumed right in the building where it’s being grown,” said Flanner. As the harvest is rolled down the hallway on carts to the kitchen on-site, no fossil fuels are consumed for transportation, and the operation virtually eliminates the carbon footprint of packaging. “Nothing needs to be loaded into a van and delivered, and that reduces quite a lot of the logistics,” he adds.
The new rooftop space, which includes the farm, orchard, greenhouse, enclosed glass pavilion, outdoor terrace, and solar panels, was part of a $1.5 billion expansion project at the Javits Center that added 1.2 million square feet of event space. The center, which opened in 1985, installed a 6.75-acre green space on the roof in 2014, which at the time was the second-largest in the country and is still the largest green roof in New York. The Javits Center partnered with institutions including Drexel University and the New York City Audubon Society to study the green roof’s effects and documented 35 species of birds and five species of bats that made their homes there.
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