A GIS Suitability Analysis of the Potential for Rooftop Agriculture in New York City

Urban Planning Thesis

Danielle Berger

Elliott Sclar, advisor

Urban agriculture and the capacity to grow food in urban landscapes has become a significant aspect of sustainable development especially in New York City. Urban agriculture is part of the larger idea of green infrastructure, which has environmental benefits ranging from reducing storm-water runoff, mitigating the urban heat island effect, reducing the need for energy intensive cooling systems in the summer months and increasing biodiversity. Urban agricultural projects have gained traction in progressive cities across North America like San Francisco, Portland and Vancouver. New York City presents many challenges to urban agriculture, primarily the lack of open space for commercial urban farms due to the dense built landscape. In response to this issue, New York City has looked to rooftops for urban agriculture solutions. A handful of rooftop farms already exist in the city, most notable Brooklyn Grange and Gotham Greens, which are two of the most successful urban farms in the world.

This study looked at the potential for rooftop urban agriculture in New York City through a GIS analysis. The model utilized publicly available datasets to identify the buildings with the greatest potential for rooftop farms, greenhouses, or intensive green roofs. The model subsequently also identified roofs with the structural potential for extensive non-agricultural green roofs. The model focused on the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone on the south side of Newtown Creek and has identified over 50 acres of suitable roof space for agricultural projects. The results of this model ultimately spurred investment and increase awareness about the potential for urban agriculture and green roofing infrastructure among the public, policy makers, advocacy groups and investors.