Update: The Produce News reports that the store will open Tuesday, December 17.
A new Whole Foods store is hardly newsworthy but this one is. There are several unique things about this store. The most unique feature is a hydroponics greenhouse on the roof. For foodies and locovores what could be more local? It will be fun to visit when it opens.
For those outside NYC who do not know the Gowanus neighborhood, it is home to the polluted Gowanus Canal, a relic of the industrial age. Wikipedia calls it "one of the most polluted bodies of water in the U.S." It is now a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site. The canal is but a short distance from the new store at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 3rd Steet.
The new Whole Foods store is also close to the adjacent brownstone neighborhoods of Park Slope and Caroll Gardens. Park Slope is the long-time home of Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. These are neighborhoods with ideal demographics for Whole Foods.
On a visit to Brooklyn, back in 2001 when I was living in California, I walked the Gowanus Canal neighborhood. A Whole Foods Store with a hydroponics greenhouse on the roof was beyond imagining.
Gotham Greens of Greenpoint (site of their first rooftop greenhouse), will operate the greenhouse. The company has three principals, Viraj Puri, Co-founder and CEO, Eric Haley, Co-Founder and Jennifer Nelkin, Greenhouse Director.
I met Jennifer at the Brooklyn Food Conference in 2009. At that time, she managed the highly popular Science Barge, a floating hydroponics demonstration barge moored on the Hudson River in Manhattan. It is now permanently located further up the river in Yonkers.
Jenn, a native New Yorker, is a graduate of the renowned U of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC). I have spent much time researching the education of NYC urban agriculture and horticulture leaders. Unbelievably, Jenn is the only one I have found who has a higher education degree in the modern sciences of agriculture and horticulture.
Many others have college degrees but not in the science of horticulture. Most have liberal arts degrees of one kind or another. Have a degree; work a summer or two on a farm and you can quality as an “urban agriculturist” or "urban farmer" in NYC. It is rather absurd but true.
I currently live and work in a city that prefers growing in the ground even though much of it is contaminated, but that is changing. Jenn and Gotham Greens along with BrightFarms are evidence of a movement toward 21st century commercial food growing methods in the Big Apple.
Hopefully it is now time for more progressive horticultural leadership for home gardeners as well.
View from 3rd Avenue - Whole Foods is due to open before the end of the year
Photos by Greenscaper - Views atop the greenhouse under construction on 3rd Street
View from 3rd Street
Photos by Greenscaper - Entrance to the parking lot on 3rd Street