By Gabriela Resto-Montero
UPPER EAST SIDE — Manhattan beekeepers celebrated a sweet victory Tuesday following City Council's decision to lift a ban on keeping honeybees in the city.
The unanimous decision is a huge step forward for the local food movement as well as beekeepers, said Jim Fischer, who heads the Gotham City Honey Co-Op.
"Local food has suddenly become legal," Fischer, of the Upper East Side, said. "It's more about the ability of the urban agricultural system to work now."
Openly keeping beehives means community gardens will now benefit from pollination and produce more vegetables for residents, Fischer said.
The new law allows beekeepers to maintain honeybee hives after they register with the Department of Health and agree to control swarms to protect neighbors.
"We have the opportunity to create a whole new generation of beekeepers," he said.
Lifting the ban has smoked out underground beekeepers like Andrew Cote, of the Lower East Side, who maintained hidden hives for years.
"I believe now that the law has been lifted that many of the good law-abiding citizens of NYC wll join our hive to learn more about beekeeping and many of them will take up the hobby," Cote wrote in an email from Ecuador, where he is working with Bees Without Borders.
For city residents who love the meditative aspects of beekeeping, developing their hobby has meant taking trips to New Jersey and living vicariously through other keepers, said Anna Bridge, a core member of the New York City Beekeepers Association.
"I've been abstaining on keeping bees for six years now," Bridge said. "I'm very excited to start keeping bees next month."
Flat rooftops and community gardens make the best locations for hives, she said.
"It is also delicious," Cote said of beekeeping. "And, as jaded New Yorkers, a little extra sweetness will not go amiss."