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Even in a metropolis as dense as New York City, unused and under-utilized spaces are scattered throughout the five boroughs. Often waiting for development, as these sites sit idle, the opportunity to capitalize on their community-benefitting potential is being overlooked. One such opportunity is the ability to address food awareness and basic accessibility to fresh, local produce by providing the means to grow it. By addressing this concern, we can also further youth education and community empowerment, through sustained care and land cultivation. In many instances, however, land-use policy prevents implementation of traditional farming practices, and paved surfaces prevent many communities from putting shovel to ground. Small-scale urban gardens on unused green lots have taken the first step, but these gardens often rely on private owners turning a blind eye or the use of illegal guerilla gardening techniques. These temporary solutions risk messy legal clashes and the possibility that the lot will need to be returned to the owner, which would threaten the destruction of all the community has worked to build. Even when private owners agree to the use of their lots, the nature of more permanent installations often forces individuals to take on the liabilities that come with corporate negotiations.
Blacktop Farming is an initiative that seeks to reclaim these under-utilized paved lots, and negotiate with private owners, in order to provide communities with an opportunity to grow and re-engage with their food and provide school children with a means to learn about the food source, early health care prevention and healthy eating, and green economy. Using co-operative food growing operations (gro-ops), Blacktop Farming will offer scalable, modular solutions to farming on lots of all sizes and compositions, wherein the community plays a vital role in development and maintenance. Each gro-op module will be built on rescued wooden pallets, for ease of removal or relocation, and consist of a raised-bed, subirrigated garden constructed from locally reclaimed materials from the theatre industry and New York City scaffolding. Raising the garden bed mitigates policy concerns around land use. Small scale gro-ops could be placed on school grounds and in playgrounds for the purposes of education. Larger scale gro-ops could reside on industrial parking lots North of the city for the purposes of food production.