A stalled site is a construction site where work has been temporarily suspended. In the wake of one of the greatest economic crises in history, the number of stalled sites has increased tremendously; in New York City alone there were over 600 stalled sites reported by the New York City Department of Buildings in July 2011. Showing how the land of a stalled site can be put to productive temporary use is a key goal of the Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center.
Located at 430 East 29th Street in Manhattan, the Riverpark Farm was developed through a partnership of Riverpark restaurant and the Alexandria Center for Life Science-New York City. Created under the direction of Riverpark’s Chef/Partner Sisha Ortúzar, Riverpark Partner Jeffrey Zurofsky, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.’s Executive Director of Corporate Strategy Scarlet Shore, the Farm is already supplying dozens of varieties of fresh produce to the adjacent Riverpark restaurant. In September 2011, the construction fence at the site will come down to reveal a unique green space offering private outdoor dining at a Farm Table with views of the city, the East River, and the unique urban farmscape.
“We feel very fortunate to be able to grow our own vegetables in the middle of New York City. This is a great opportunity not only for our guests who will get to eat hyper-fresh produce, but to the members of our staff that want to be more connected to the food they cook,” said Sisha Ortúzar, Farm Co-Founder and Chef/Partner at Riverpark. “The incredible support and collaboration with Alexandria has made this a reality, and serves as a model for making productive use of stalled construction sites citywide.” As a former member of the team at Gramercy Tavern, Sisha played a critical role in the growth of the Craft Restaurant Group and created the ’wichcraft concept, where he has since served as chef and creative director.
Restauranteur Tom Colicchio, owner of the Craft Restaurant Group, Riverpark Restaurant partner, and farm-to-table pioneer commented: “Congratulations to Sisha, Jeffrey, Alexandria, and the Riverpark family for literally bringing the farm to the table. They have also brought the Farm to the heart of the city, providing a unique green space as well as a community resource to show how fresh, healthy food can be produced just about anywhere.”
The Farm’s location is the future site of Alexandria Center’s west tower, the second phase of a potential 1.1 million square foot science park, where construction was temporarily suspended due to the unprecedented worldwide financial crisis. When construction on the west tower resumes, the Riverpark Farm, which was created with portability in mind, will be relocated to another part of the 4-acre Alexandria Center campus.
“The Farm is a true reflection of innovation and teamwork,” stated Shore. “Here, in a few short months, we have transformed a temporarily idle construction site into a productive urban farm – making purposeful use of 15,000 square feet of space until construction resumes on the west tower. We are proud to be a part of such an exciting project and encourage other developers to learn from our experience and consider additional, similar projects.”
There are presently over 6,000 plants growing on the farm, which include about 100 different types of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Many of the plants began their life at Wilklow Orchards in the Hudson Valley prior to the availability of the Farm site. Planted entirely in milk crates, the plants were subsequently relocated to the Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center. Fall crops will be planted and grown entirely at the Riverpark Farm, as will next season’s spring crops. For more information about the Farm, visit: www.riverparknyc.com/riverparkfarm or call (212)729-9790.
The Farm was created with advice and support from GrowNYC, a non-profit focused on improving New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs, green markets, community gardens, and education initiatives such as Learn It, Grow It, Eat It (LGE) and the School Garden Initiative. Riverpark is also working with the Fresh Air Fund (FAF), a not-for-profit agency that has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities, as part of a summer internship program involving the restaurant and the Farm.
Architected by ORE Design and Technology, the farm’s simple but effective modular approach of employing milk crates stacked on pallets makes the whole farm portable within hours, and enables sites previously thought unsuitable for urban agriculture to be viable for farming. “Thousands of soil-filled milk-crates sitting on a concrete foundation is just another way to think about a farmer’s field,” said Zach Pickens, one of the urban farmers at the Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center. “Add some sun, water, and patience and a great harvest will follow.”
Source: Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.