Old MacDonald is moving on up and she is up for the challenge. Hopefully she will inspire others to search for these opportunities and also to grow your own food.
A Staten Island apartment complex is hiring the city’s first resident farmer to run its organic mini-farm, rooftop beehives and compost operation.
Zaro Bates, a Brooklyn woman with extensive urban farming experience, is a hired consultant on the project who will help find the farmer to live on site at the $150 million, 900-unit Urby Staten Island rental complex in the Stapleton section.
“A farm as a selling point, an amenity, like a gym — that’s what this is,” said Frank “Turtle” Raffaele of Queens-based cafe chain Coffeed, which is helping Ironstate Development get the initial 3,000 to 5,000 square feet of street-level crops going. “It’s going to be really game-changing.”
The farm will supply herbs and vegetables to an on-site Coffeed restaurant, and its veggies will be sold to tenants and visitors in the complex’s grocery store. Plans call for a full-acre farm in another year or two.
The farmer will also be expected to teach workshops and organize volunteer farmhands at the waterfront development.
The urban farm is a bid to woo authenticity-seeking, locavore hipsters to a new urban frontier — where studios and one- and two-bedroom flats will rent for $1,700 to $2,700 a month.
“They are definitely trying to attract a younger, creative crowd,” said DB Lampman of Staten Island MakerSpace, a workshop a block away from Urby that hopes to draw in the arty newcomers.
The site, a former Navy base, has been a wasteland since the military abandoned it in 1994. Its pier will remain in use as a dock for FDNY vessels and other official craft.The city is pumping $32 million into the Urby property to build a public esplanade on the harbor.
Produce from the Urby farm will eventually stock a shop that Raffaele plans to open four blocks away at Tappen Park, in the heart of the hardscrabble ’hood.
Locals hope the hip development will integrate into the area.
“What we don’t want is a bifurcation, a divide,” said Kamillah Hanks of the Historic Tappen Park Community Partnership. “But these guys are not your grandfather’s developers. They’re participating in the neighborhood as they gentrify it.”
Others still have doubts.
“Having a real farm there is a whole lot better than an ugly piece of grass,” said Ed Pollio, co-owner of the gritty 5050 Skatepark across the street. “But the developer seems to be thinking this is Manhattan or Brooklyn. I’m not so sure Staten Island is ready for that.”
But Raffaele insists he’ll keep the neighborhood’s flavor intact.
“People keep asking, is this the next Bushwick? The next Williamsburg?” he said. “I say no, it’ll be its own vibe.”