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New York City, 24 August 2011

Buy Local, The Mayor Says

But what about New Jersey tomatoes?

In New York’s latest attempt to promote the purchase of locally grown food, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed into law on Wednesday a bill urging city agencies to buy more often from the state’s farms and processing facilities.

Among the law’s provisions, the Mayor’s Office of Contracts Services will publish an annual report on its Web site outlining the amount and type of locally grown food each city agency has procured. The law also calls for vendors to provide the Department of Citywide Administration with information regarding the origin of their food.

At the same time that Mr. Bloomberg praised the goal of buying locally, he acknowledged the risks inherent in shunning other states’ goods.

“I can only hope that people outside the state will not stop buying New York State products,” he said. “That’s the old trade-war issue.”

Marcel Van Ooyen, executive director of GrowNYC, said connecting regional farmers to such a vast network of buyers could have a substantial impact.

“The city has an immense purchasing power,” he said. “From our perspective, it’s great.”

The mayor also signed a bill to exempt rooftop greenhouses from being counted toward buildings’ height and floor area measurements. The greenhouses will join structures like roof tanks, air-conditioning equipment and chimneys as apparatus that are not factored into buildings’ official totals, easing limitations on the construction of such structures.

In a statement, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, noted the progress of urban farming.

“Even in a city as highly developed as New York, urban farms are growing at an astounding rate,” Ms. Quinn said. “This legislation aligns itself with this trend, making it easier for New Yorkers to grow their own food.”

Mr. Van Ooyen said the legislation could curtail disputes that often serve as obstacles to greenhouse additions on city roofs.

Mr. Bloomberg also signed three other measures, including one that will require the Department of Citywide Administration to maintain a searchable database of all city-owned and city-leased property. One goal, the mayor said, is to gather information regarding whether properties might be suitable for urban agriculture.

When he finished signing each document, armed with many more pens than anyone could require to complete five signatures, the mayor offered the remainder as gifts to those in attendance.

“Major waste of city money,” he joked, circulating the pens.

From NY Times