The Big Apple has made moves to broaden it's menu. The City Council has passed bills to encourage rooftop greenhouses and to increase the land available for urban farming. Here are some particulars:
Int. No. 338-A amends § 27-306 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York and BC 504.3 of the New York City Building Code. The amendments add greenhouses to a list of structures which do not count against height restrictions, so long as the aggregate area of structures does not exceed one-third of the roof area in size. This same section's exclusion for solar thermal and solar electric collectors offers a tantalizing synergy of sustainability: rooftop greenhouses heated and powered by solar collectors.
Int. No. 452-A adds a new section, 6-130, to chapter one of title six of the Administrative Code of the City of New York. The new section encourages agencies to make best efforts to purchase New York state food by mandating the development and incorporation of procurement guidelines into food-purchase and food-related service contracts.
Additionally, in Resolution No. 507 the City Council called upon the state legislature to extend the Green Roof Tax Abatement, section 499-aaa of the New York State Real Property Tax Law, to owners who produce live food-producing plants. Were the New York legislature to heed the City's call, rooftop farmers could see tax abatements of up to $100,000.
These may seem to be small changes, but actions like this by a city as large as New York City can have a large effect. The new procurement policy brings the substantial buying power of the New York City institutions into the local food movement, bringing a degree of certainty to the market and making the investment risks a bit more palatable. The rooftop greenhouse makes productive use of New York City's vast quantity of rooftop space. Combined with a solar collector system and greywater or stormwater recovery system, the rooftop gardens could be even more of a boon to the urban environment. Were the Green Roof Tax Abatement to be expanded to live food-producing plants, more landlords may be enticed to feature rooftop garden space for their tenants, providing urban dwellers a connection to the environment as well as fresh nutritious produce. Landlords and tenants would be able to realize the insulation benefits of green roofs while the City realizes the benefits of reduced energy demand and less stormwater. As New York City reaps the benefits of urban agriculture, we may see other East Coast municipalities take a more active role in promoting urban agriculture.
(NYTimes mentioned that the City is taking an inventory of properties it owned or leased for the purpose of identifying space useable for urban agriculture, however I was unable to find the source of this and unsuccessful at getting in contact with the author. I will update this post if I verify this.)