A New York City affordable and supportive housing development has opened with a unique greenhouse and aquaponics farm on its roof.
The horticultural therapy provided by the farm is part of the on-site wraparound services that will be available to residents at the Bronx community.
“There’s a real emphasis on sustainability and connection to the natural world at Bedford Green House through both the greenhouse and the aquaponics gardening system,” says Paul Woody, vice president of real estate at Project Renewal, the nonprofit developer behind the project.
The longtime organization prides itself on incorporating occupational therapy into its supportive housing and shelter programs.
Located in the rooftop greenhouse, the aquaponics farming system contains fish, vegetables, herbs, and microgreens growing in a symbiotic ecosystem. The fish live in large tanks connected to a bio-filter that breaks down fish waste and carries nutrients to the plant roots, while the plants help clean the water for the fish. The space outside the greenhouse will be used for organic farming in planter boxes to grow vegetables that are less suited to aquaponics. Residents will work with Project Renewal’s horticultural therapist to grow their own food year-round, alongside their neighbors.
Beyond being a food source, the farm will allow residents and staff to build important connections, and the goldfish and koi will serve as community pets for people in the building, says Woody.
Officials add that access to these green and light-filled spaces will be especially beneficial during winter months when cold and darkness can contribute to depression.
The nonprofit has successfully operated a similar program at a shelter site that has an adjacent greenhouse.
The opening of the first phase of Bedford Green House brings needed affordable and supportive housing to the Bronx, with 71 apartments set aside for New Yorkers who previously experienced homelessness, families impacted by mental illness and substance use disorder, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Another 46 apartments are for low-income households earning up to 60% of the area median income.
Project Renewal’s multidisciplinary team will provide wraparound, on-site services, including case management, occupational therapy, and entitlements support.
“Bedford Green House is what climate and housing justice looks like,” said Adolfo Carrión Jr., commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), in a statement. “Project Renewal is giving low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers a new outlook on life with the opening of Bedford Green House. This development is a model for housing New Yorkers with dignity, while providing the services needed to live healthy lives. Thanks to Project Renewal, our partners at the city and state, and the entire development team for making this innovative and sustainable project a reality.”
HPD was among several financing partners involved in the approximately $60 million first phase, providing low-interest subordinate financing, inclusive of HOME funds. HPD also provided an allocation of low-income housing tax credits and financing under its supportive housing new construction program. Bank of America is the tax credit investor and provided the construction letter of credit.
The New York City Housing Development Corp. supported the project through its Extremely Low- and Low-Income Affordability program. The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance provided funding through its Homeless Housing and Assistance Program. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, TD Bank, and Deutsche Bank Foundation contributed grant funding, and a predevelopment loan came from the Corporation for Supportive Housing.
Operating funding is being provided by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and New York City Human Resources Administration.
Later this year, construction is expected to begin on a second phase with 116 additional apartments, nearly half of which will be reserved for low-income seniors; a 2,400-square-foot medical clinic; a gym; and The Molly B. Kronick Library and Learning Center for residents. The medical clinic in phase two will offer primary care, pediatrics, podiatry, digital radiology, and other health care services to the whole community.