Officials unveil plans for Bergen Beach community farm

Officials unveil plans for Bergen Beach community farm
Grain Collective

This green dream is coming true!

Officials recently revealed designs for the community farm they want to plant on a two-acre, overgrown plot next door to a Bergen Beach school.

Plans for the growing patch on Avenue N between E. 71st and 72nd streets call for creating a greenhouse, several raised beds for planting crops, a kitchen and classroom, a storage shed, restrooms, an orchard, and a central patch of artificial turf where kids can roam.

The spot will be a boon for students enrolled at nearby schools including Avenue T’s PS 312 and Avenue N’s IS 78, whom the farm’s planners hope will learn the benefits of homegrown food once it opens.

“It’ll be both a community attraction and community builder,” said architect Runit Chhaya, whose Gowanus-based landscape-design firm Grain Collective prepared the plans along with officials from the Department of Education’s School Construction Authority, which manages the construction, design, and renovation of schools in the city.

Education Department bigwigs will start requesting proposals to build the farm from private developers later this year or early next, according to Chhaya, who said shovels should be in the ground by summer 2019.

“We will do the construction drawings and there’ll be a public bid for a contractor to build it, and the lowest bidder will get the contract,” she said Runit Chhaya.

Bergen Beach Councilman Alan Maisel, who announced the project earlier this month, kicked in some funds to construct the $6.5-million farm, and said the rest of the bill will be split with money allocated by Council, the mayor’s office, and the borough president’s office.

The green space will be accessible to the disabled, and will be protected by an eight-foot, stainless-steel fence designed to look like tall blades of grass, according to Chhaya, who hopes it will eventually attract students from all of Community District 22, which in addition to Bergen Beach incorporates neighborhoods including Mill Basin, Marine Park, Manhattan Beach, Flatlands, parts of Sheepshead Bay, Flatbush, Midwood, and Ditmas Park.

“Kids in the middle of Brooklyn can learn how to use a farm,” he said.

Following the start of construction, workers will remove topsoil from the site and cap the land with a synthetic lining, before laying a new layer of clean dirt in areas where edible plants will grow, which will help prevent some toxic materials common in city soil from seeping into the growing spaces, Chhaya said.

The farm’s flower beds will be planted at ground level, but its orchards — which will grow on the Avenue N and E. 71st Street sides of the park — beds for edible greens, and greenhouse will be raised off the ground by a little more than two feet, according to the plans.

And although most activity on the farm will take place in the warmer months, the greenhouse will allow plants to grow there year-round, Chhaya said.

Maisel hopes to eventually open the growing patch to all local residents in addition to area students, and suggested its produce could be donated to do-good groups, or used to prepare healthy lunches at local schools.

But he said Education Department leaders will make the final call on whether to allow the entire community to use the space.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors who have experience growing things in the neighborhood,” Maisel said. “It’s up to the Department whether it’s open to the public.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.