Aug. 1, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
Elected officials gathered on a rooftop farm in Long Island City on Monday, July 31, newly leased by The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens (VBGCQ).
The rooftop farm, called Sky Farm LIC, is around one acre in size and is located atop the Standard Motor building, located at 37-18 Northern Blvd. The rooftop has beehives, plant crops, and is a haven for migratory birds.
The farm will serve as a learning hub for kids and the community, with VBGCQ set to offer educational programming pertaining to agriculture, healthy meals, green spaces and sustainable living at the location.
Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farming business that has overseen the farm for the last 10 years will assist with the management and maintenance of the property. Brooklyn Grange also operates urban farms in Brooklyn.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, state Sen. Kristen Gonzalez, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, as well as Council Members Julie Won and Tiffany Cabán attended the event.
Costa Constantinides, the CEO of VBGCQ, said the organization was excited to forge a partnership with Brooklyn Grange.
“Brooklyn Grange planted the seed more than ten years ago here at the farm, growing a strong educational foundation of learning around urban farming, healthy eating and growing,” Constantinides said. “Now we will continue to nurture this soil to grow the next generation of youth here in Western Queens into stronger environmental activists providing 4,000 of them access to this oasis for sustainable growth and urban farming.”
Constantinides said that kids and adults will get a chance to start seedlings, plant crops and harvest vegetables at the farm.
The farm will continue to produce organically grown vegetables and honey, Constantinides said. He said that urban roofs are an important part of making New York City a more sustainable place to live.
Richards said he was glad to see VBGCQ and Brooklyn Grange coming together in a project aimed at educating young people about sustainability.
“With this innovative new rooftop farm, our western Queens community members will have more access to fresh produce and will learn more about how to take care of our ecosystem,” Richards said. “Our collective mission to create a more sustainable and greener Queens becomes a reality with achievements like these.”
Meanwhile, Anastasia Cole Plakias, the co-founder and chief impact officer at Brooklyn Grange, said the organization wanted to team up with VBGCQ in order to help young people access fresh, healthy food.
“We’re gratified that the farm will support programming that strives towards food equity and improves health outcomes among young New Yorkers,” Plakias said. “We look forward to supporting VBGCQ with the maintenance of not only the farming operation… but the continued stewardship of critical environmental resources that mitigates stormwater flooding, reduce urban heat island effect, and benefits even those in the surrounding neighborhoods who do not directly interact with the space.”
The farm will be available to the 4,000 children VBGCQ currently serves across several sites each year. The organization is currently constructing a new five-story clubhouse at 21-12 30th Road that will include a 1,000-seat basketball arena; a regulation-size swimming pool; art studios for visual arts, music, dance and audio production; a tech center for robotics, research and STEM training; a new planetarium; dozens of education rooms; a community theater space with 175 seats; the teaching kitchen; a rooftop with solar panels and much more.
The clubhouse will replace the existing building at the site and will be part of a development owned by the club that will include 229 affordable units in a 14-story building next to the facility.