Susan Chin Executive Director of Design Trust for Public Space urged City Council members to adopt a transparent, collaborative planning process for the Urban Agriculture legislation Intro 1058.

Design Trust for Public Space

On June 11, 2019, the Design Trust for Public Space testified at a hearing convened by the New York City Council Committee on Land Use, regarding the Urban Agriculture legislation, Intro 1058, co-sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal and Brooklyn borough President, Eric Adams. The legislation would create the first comprehensive citywide urban agriculture plan and land use policy to address gaps and disparities in access to land, programs and funding opportunities for urban farms and gardens, throughout the five boroughs. Details on the legislations Intro 1058, Intro 1059 and Intro 1059 can be found here.

The testimony by Design Trust Program Manager, Samira Behrooz, addressed the City Council members of the Committee on Land Use urging the need to incorporate a "transparent planning process",  led by a food systems expert to establish "systems of accountability" in executing and creating the Urban Agriculture Plan. Samira further stressed on the importance of creating a plan applicable to all forms of urban agriculture, including schools gardens, community gardens, permaculture gardens and vertical farms and not just commercial ventures. 

The proposed roadmap for achieving a robust, transparent and, equitable process includes:

1. A citywide task force—composed of City agencies, support organizations, and gardeners and farmers representing a variety of types—for reviewing the development and implementation of the Plan. This task force would build off of the Urban Agriculture Task Force with NYC Parks established through Five Borough Farm, and the roundtable convened by Brooklyn Borough President Adams in Spring 2016. 

2. Open forums at many points in the Plan’s development process, including input-gathering in each borough at spring gardening and farming events, such as GrowTogether and Making Brooklyn Bloom. 

3. Communication within the City and with gardening and farming support organization and advocate networks, including GreenThumb, NYCHA’s Garden and Greening Program, 596 Acres, and the New York City Community Garden Coalition

"We recognize that a comprehensive plan like this takes time, especially with these systems of accountability. The City Planning should engage an expert in food systems to lead the planning process. We are happy to connect developers of the Plan to community garden and urban farm stakeholder", she added. 

The Five Borough Farm policy recommendations, in collaboration with Added Value Farms, NYC Parks, Farming Concrete and the many community garden stewards outlined the creation of an urban agriculture plan that,

  Establishes goals, objectives, and a citywide land use scheme for garden and farm development.

  Integrates urban agriculture into existing City plans, programs, and policy-making.

  Addresses disparities in access for gardeners and farmers to funding, information, and other resources by creating more transparent and participatory processes. 

She closed her testimony urging that the needs of all gardeners and farmers be included in a citywide, comprehensive urban agriculture plan that would benefit all New Yorkers.

To make a better plan, we encourage City Council to include a citywide task force, open forums, and regular communications with community gardeners, urban farmers, and local support organizations in the legislation. Engaging these key stakeholders will ensure a robust, transparent and equitable urban agriculture plan that benefits all New Yorkers.

Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, executive director of Design Trust for Public Space