Bay Ridge

Food for thought: Telecom High School opens greenhouse

Students to grow their own food on rooftop

October 13, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilman Vincent Gentile (left) praised the School Construction Authority (SCA) for building the greenhouse. SCA Director of External Affairs Fred Maley, Capital Planner Bryan McGinn and Manager of Operations Karen Becker (left to right) attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. Photos courtesy of Gentile’s office
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Students can grow their own vegetables and eat them too, now that a state-of-the-art greenhouse has opened at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Bay Ridge.

Located on the roof of the school at 350 67th St., the new greenhouse is a 1,242-square-foot space that will give students the chance to learn about botany, hydroponics, nutrition, food production and other topics relating to a sustainable environment, officials said.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and officials from the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA) were among those attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility on Oct. 7. Principal Xhenete Shepard and Assistant Principal of Technology David De Martini hosted the ceremony, which was also attended by students of the school.

“Education is not just about textbooks,” Gentile said in his remarks at the ceremony. “Benjamin Franklin famously said, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ That’s exactly what is going to happen here in this greenhouse. Students will be involved.”

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The greenhouse is a fully automated, climate-controlled environment that is regulated by the opening and closing of the roof and by exhaust fans that pull cool moist air through an evaporative cooler.

The facility also contains a weather station and a climate sensor that communicates with a central control system to maintain suitable conditions inside the greenhouse. 

Students will learn to nurture crops from seedlings to harvest in a series of hydroponic systems that include seedling starter trays, vertical planting towers and Dutch-bucket systems. Each of the systems provides a soil-free environment for food harvesting.

The greenhouse will allow for educational programs to run throughout the year. 

Planning for the greenhouse began several years ago when Phil Weinberg, now deputy schools chancellor, was the principal of the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, according to Gentile, who recalled that Weinberg spoke with a great deal of passion about the project. “Phil is an extremely bright man and has a keen eye for extracurricular education and the benefits that it brings,” Gentile said. 

Funding for the construction of the greenhouse was provided in part by Gentile, who secured $725,000 in the city budget. “I felt it was my duty to take Phil’s vision and to advocate for its production,” he said. Former borough president Marty Markowitz allocated $250,000 toward the project during his tenure at Borough Hall.

The SCA spent $1.9 million to reconstruct the roof to provide an additional 5,700 square feet for outdoor planting projects. 

The greenhouse is valuable, said Gentile, because “it will promote healthy eating and spark interests and career ideas for our high school students.”


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