Lizzie Horvitz, Urban Program Assistant, New York
Last Tuesday, the NRDC New York team and supporters from our New York Council had the opportunity to visit the Brooklyn Navy Yard—a city-owned industrial park on the Brooklyn waterfront. We were lucky enough to be toured by the talented Andrew Kimball, Brooklyn Navy Yard’s CEO and President, and Aisha Glover, Director of External Affairs. I’m not sure about anyone else, but when I think of a Navy Yard, I think of an abandoned site crammed with old war ships. I could not have been more wrong.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard, which encompasses 300 acres and 40 buildings and includes four active piers and three dry docks, is quickly becoming the national poster child for urban industrial green jobs—it has created over 5,000 jobs in the past 7 years.
In 1971, the Navy Yard reopened as a City-owned industrial park. Today, it is home to many diverse industries such as movie studios, ship repairers, electronic distributers, jewelers, and it even serves as the temporary home of the New York Bikeshare Program. There are numerous clean energy businesses in the area but even those that don’t fit that profile are showing a commitment to the environment. The yard includes numerous LEED-certified buildings, solar panels, and wind generators. Indeed, there is no sign of green washing here; this park is truly the real deal.
As NRDC New York Director Mark Izeman expressed in a 2010 blog, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has become the national model for a green jobs industrial zone. We all have heard the broad consensus that greening the economy partly by creating new green jobs is crucial to our future, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard proves that this is possible. In May of this year, the Labor Department said that at least 3.1 million Americans are employed in green jobs, a sector that now accounts for about 2.4 percent of the country’s national employment. New York reported 248,400 green jobs, second only to California. At NRDC, we see the potential for New York to serve as a model and a leader for other cities throughout the country and around the world. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is perfect example.
So what job is greener than urban farming? Among the many businesses that inhabit the Navy Yard is Brooklyn Grange’s 45,000 square foot rooftop farm. This is Brooklyn Grange’s second rooftop farm in the city and was supported by a Green Infrastructure Grant from the Department of Environmental Protection. This farm is now beginning to grow delicious vegetables and serves as a perfect addition to the industrial park, as urban agriculture is the ultimate green job.
Food is arguably one of the best new areas for creating jobs. Aside from the many positive environmental impacts like stormwater mitigation, the counteraction of built-up heat in urban areas, and keeping the air clean, this farm will provide tomatoes, herbs, beets and other vegetables. Furthermore, as NRDC delves further into local, sustainable food work, and as more and more city dwellers are taking an interest in buying locally or maybe even growing their own food, New York can take the lead on finding creative ways to make this happen in such a metropolitan area. Urban farms like the one we saw on Tuesday are just one answer.
Just a day after the 4th of July, I can’t help but think about patriotism and nationalism. The Brooklyn Navy Yard represents so many different industries and people coming together, working to create a green economic future, and fighting against one of the largest problems America faces today: climate change. I laud Andrew, Aisha, and the rest of the Brooklyn Navy Yard team for setting an example of the direction in which we all should be headed.
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