Given how valuable space is in New York City, the city’s rooftops are strangely empty. But a proposal from the city’s planning department could change that by making 1,200 acres of commercial rooftops available for urban farmers to open greenhouses across the city.

City law imposes restrictions on how tall buildings are allowed to be in different areas, which is one reasons why rooftops stay empty — developers often build to the maximum height possible. The planning department’s proposal would allow buildings to add rooftop greenhouses above regular height restrictions. And according to a study from the Urban Design Lab, that would mean 1,200 acres of empty, flat rooftops would be eligible for green penthouses.

Besides the promise of fresh, city-grown vegetables (and fresh city-grown jobs), creating greenhouses up on these roofs has another benefit for New York. Rooftop greenhouses will be required to incorporate rainwater collection and reuse systems, which will help the city mitigate the pressure that big rainstorms puts on the sewer system.

The one big catch here is that residential buildings can’t participate in the program. As Nevin Cohen, a New School prof who studies urban agriculture, explains, the planning department “believes that residential building owners will turn rooftop greenhouses into additional living space instead of growing space.” Which, yah! Wouldn’t the dopest New York apartment ever be one nestled on a rooftop, among fields of veggies? It’d be like having your own private garden! UM I MEAN don’t be silly, planning department, we would totally abide by the spirit of the law.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.