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New York: Bee City?

After graduating from UNC on Sunday morning, I decided to treat myself to a week in New York. I stayed with a friend, Emily-Kate, who graduated from NYU on Wednesday. Emily-Kate studies Community Health and Sustainable Agriculture at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. That’s a fancy way of saying that she has created her own major from a wide range of schools within NYU.

Recently, for an environmental studies class called “Food and Animals,” Emily-Kate and two classmates made a short documentary about beekeeping in New York City entitled “Bee City.” I was shocked to learn that until April 22nd of this year, beekeeping was illegal in the City, where under the Health Code, bees were regarded as pests. Despite the ban (and possible fines ranging from $200 to $2,000), countless individuals continued to keep bees on their roofs and in their gardens. For the documentary, Emily-Kate spoke with community members who kept bees as well as the nonprofit, Just Food, which worked closely with beekeepers to overturn the ban. The effort to legalize bees took over two years.
What many people don’t realize (like Mayor Giuliani, who imposed the ban) is how vital bees are for every ecosystem, including urban environments. After taking a beekeeping course this past semester from the Orange County Beekeeper’s Association, the importance of bees in our society was made clear to myself and a number of my peers. Quite simply, they perform a large portion of pollination across the globe and without them, we’d struggle to find food.
As with many lessons learned during my environmental science career, everything has a place in our ecosystem and it’s our responsibility to respect, if not understand, these roles. One of my favorite quotes from the film is from an older man who keeps bees on his rooftop garden. Regarding the illegality of beekeeping, he said “I thought it was just like jay-walking–no one gave a damn.”

Posted on: May 18, 2010, 9:00 am Category: The Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with: ,

4 Responses

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  1. Emily-Kate said


  2. Great article Laura! Good to know the ban was overturned.

  3. Sarah said

    It’s shocking to me that it was illegal to keep bees in New York. Glad to know that people got together to change such an absurd regulation.

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