Rogue beekeepers no longer have to worry about the cops anymore, thanks to a ruling last week by the Board of Health that has finally made their apiary activities legal.
The change in policy will allow urban bee farmers to freely and openly practice their faith, a decision that affects hundreds of hobbyists and the bees that pollinate Brooklyn’s garden flowers.
Beekeeping was previously banned with penalties up to $2,000, but persistent lobbying from sustainable-food advocate and former Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) encouraged the Health Department to re-examine honey making and determine that responsible beekeeping did not pose a threat.
“Free at last, free at last, God almighty,” said Yassky. “Now New Yorkers will have the opportunity to pursue this activity legally, and the Health Department can make sure that people know how to do it safely.”
The borough’s beekeepers celebrated their new legal status at a party in Boerum Hill last Thursday night sponsored by Just Food and Gotham City Honey Co-op.
“It’s wonderful to hit this milestone, and now we are mainly concerned that the benefits are reaped by community gardeners and people in our city,” said Liane Newton, organizer of a beekeeping social group that claims 650 busy bees, a veritable hive of activity — and one that, until this week, was very much underground.
“It gives children and adults an opportunity to learn about nature and food production on a small scale that is close to home.”
Fort Greene-based beekeeper John Howe was among the party’s eager attendees.
“It’s a great day for beekeeping,” he said, adding that he can’t wait to get back on the roof and start buzzing around.
“It’s just a great boost for the hundreds of beekeepers … who can come out of the closet and keep bees out in the open,” said Howe.
The policy change is already creating a lot of buzz in Brooklyn stores, such as the Greene Grape on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, which carries Howe’s honey, charging $14.99 for a small jar.
Store manager Michael Hayes said he would stock more of Howe’s Brooklyn Bee brand because his customers are demanding it.
“That stuff is as local as it gets for this store,” said Howe. “It’s made only a few blocks away.”
Apiarist Jim Fisher said beekeeping benefits local agriculture and community gardens — thanks to all those pollinating drones.
“With legalization, we can honestly say we can tool up and grow food,” said Fisher. “Water, food, and sunshine they can get. Pollination is difficult unless you have some kind of flying insect.”