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'Floating Garden' Coming to Long Island City

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 22, 2012 7:09am

LONG ISLAND CITY — Corn stalks and pear trees growing in the middle of the East River?

One New Yorker says it’s possible — and he is building what he calls a "floating garden" off Long Island City to prove it.

This weekend, Karim Ahmed, 22, an architecture student at The Cooper Union, will plant sunflowers, kale and corn in floating lumber containers, which are now being assembled, into a 20-by-20-foot garden anchored to keep the structure stable.

In the future, he plans to add pear trees to the garden.

Ahmed, a Windsor Terrace resident, worked on a prototype at Boswyck Farms in Brooklyn, and after pre-fabricating the parts at Bushwick shop “Table of Content," he transported pods covered with tarp to Anable Basin between 45th and 46th avenues in Hunters Point. There also are plans to build a floating beer garden there, and a tech incubator has also been proposed for the area.

“The goal of this project is to assess the possibility of open water agriculture,” said Ahmed, who raised more than $3,000 for the project on his Kickstarter page, a fundraising website.

His garden-in-the-river, he said, will explore “the possibility of growing produce on the waterfront of New York City.”

He said that the idea of floating farms has been explored throughout history, including so-called “chinampas,” or artificial islands used during Aztec times to grow crops.

It's also part of a growing trend seeking alternative ways of farming in dense urban areas, which in New York City include rooftop farms and vertical farming.

Ahmed explained that there are many advantages to growing plants in floating gardens instead of in soil. An inert medium used for the gardens is less prone to bugs and pests, he said on his Kickstarter page.

Moreover, because the system is closed, no chemicals will seep into the watershed and very little water will be wasted.

“This project is important because we need to rethink how we get our food,” he said in a video promoting his project.

“The current model of agribusiness and mechanized megafarms is neither healthy and environmentally safe nor economically viable," he added. "We need to find alternatives to these methods and begin seriously pursuing implementing new ideas to preserve a future for our food.”