NYC Food by the Numbers: Urban Agriculture

by nycadmin

Even before the Department of Housing Prevention and Development released a request for bids to develop affordable housing on land that included 17 community gardens, urban agriculture has been a hotly debated subject in NYC among advocates of the power of community gardens and urban farms, and those who support the development of affordable housing. Here we provide an overview of the urban agricultural landscape of NYC, highlighting numbers from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s recent report How Our Gardens Grow: Strategies for Expanding Urban Agriculture as well as other NYC publications including the 2014 Food Metrics Report and OneNYC.



In 2011 it was estimated that there were at least 700 farms and gardens that grow food in NYC (1). In 2014 the number of GreenThumb registered gardens grew to 586. (2)

45 new community gardens were constructed on NYCHA sites in 2014; 70 more are projected for 2015 (3) (exceeding the 600 NYCHA gardens citywide estimated in 2011) (1) and 436 of approximately 1800 New York City schools have registered garden projects with Grow to Learn. (2)



100 properties have been identified as potential sites for urban agriculture as a result of Local Law 48 of 2011 requiring the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to develop a database containing an inventory of land suitable for urban agriculture products and providing GreenThumb with contact information of those interested in gardening there. (3) The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation has established 5 farmers markets at community garden sites. (3)



In its survey (4) of Manhattan public schools, senior centers and NYCHA community centers with working garden, farms, hydroponic labs and greenhouses, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office found that:

  • 58% of the gardens surveyed were started within the past five years, and 26% had been started within the past year.
  • 16% of respondents had been operating their urban agriculture site for 10 or more years.
  • 24% of gardening programs featured a hydroponic system in a classroom or on a rooftop, 20% have a rooftop greenhouse and the rest (approximately 56% have traditional outdoor gardens or planters.
  • Composting systems were reportedly used by approximately half of the respondents.

The report concludes with recommendations to improve and strengthen urban agriculture in NYC. These include increased city government support for urban agriculture (through local elected officials discretionary funding and the participatory budgeting process), further integration of gardening into education and enrichment programming at schools and community centers, additional tracking of information on urban gardens, and the creation of more cohesive citywide initiatives around urban agriculture such as training programs and networking opportunities for urban gardeners and farmers.

In Vision 2, Healthy Neighborhoods, Active Living, OneNYC includes commitments to the study of “additional emerging agriculture opportunities,” to support urban farming with “necessary infrastructure,” and assistance in farm stand sales and nutrition and cooking education, larger-scale urban farming projects and to create food-producing gardens at NYCHA developments. (3)


1. Cohen N, Reynolds K, Sanghvi R. Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City. Design Trust for Public Space. 2012.

2. City of New York, Mayors Office of Food Policy 2014 Food Metrics Report. 2014.

3. City of New York. OneNYC: The Plan for a Strong and Just City. 2015.

4. Manhattan Borough President’s Office, How Our Gardens Grow: Strategies for Expanding Urban Agriculture. 2015.


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