Regular readers here know well of the unfolding disaster of New York's vast socialist-model public housing empire known as the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA. In a post back in May, I compiled data on NYCHA's catastrophic financial state from a report put out by the de Blasio administration titled NextGeneration NYCHA. The problems include: multi-hundred million dollars of admitted annual operating losses; rent collections that cover barely a third of operating expenses and nothing at all for capital improvements or property taxes; an annual federal operating subsidy of over $2 billion, which effectively hides that the real operating deficit of the projects far exceeds $2 billion per year; $16+ billion of unmet capital needs, and no source of money to fund that gap; and a complete lack of any plan to fix the financial crisis other than transferring many NYCHA expenses off its budget and into other places in the $70+ billion City budget where they can be hidden outside of public view.
Well, you will be glad to know that in an op-ed in today's Crain's New York Business, philanthropist Laurie Tisch is announcing the latest initiative to turn things around, which is -- to establish farms on otherwise-underused NYCHA real estate.
You wouldn’t expect to find a vegetable farm at a public housing development in New York City. But a one-acre farm at Red Hook Houses—the first-ever large farm on New York City Housing Authority property—is growing cabbage, collard greens, butternut squash and basil. Soon, new urban farms will sprout on five more NYCHA properties in Brownsville and Canarsie in Brooklyn, East Harlem, the Bronx and Staten Island.
These new farms will increase access to fresh produce in communities with high levels of poverty, food insecurity and diet-related diseases, while also serving as hubs for education, community engagement, and job training for residents. The workers will be supplied by Green City Force, a nationally recognized AmeriCorps program that recruits and trains 18- to 24-year-old NYCHA residents and pays them to work on environmental sustainability and energy-efficiency programs at Housing Authority sites. These young people gain rigorous job training and career planning support that propels them into jobs.
Really, you can't make this up. Of course this is a "public-private partnership" with the full backing of the de Blasio administration. Indeed, according to Tisch, the initiative is part of de Blasio's "Building Healthy Communities" program.
Ms. Tisch appears to be one of those well-intentioned but completely uninformed New Yorkers with more money than she knows what to do with. She acquired her wealth by inheritance from her father, Preston Robert Tisch, who was a principal in Loews Corporation and an owner of the New York Giants football team.
I wonder if Ms. Tisch or anybody in the de Blasio administration might stop for a moment to ask why there are no farms in New York City on private land. It's not too hard to figure out. The reason is that the land is way too expensive to make it possible to farm profitably. Here are some listings for land for sale in Brooklyn. It's $10 million per acre and up. And by the way, there's no such thing as a full contiguous acre. Mostly it goes by tenths and even hundredths of an acre. In Sullivan County -- less than 100 miles away -- you can get land for $4000 - 5000 per acre in multi-hundred acre parcels.
But since the NYCHA land is publicly owned in a socialist-model arrangement, we can pretend it's free! At huge effort we have provided the people with $100 tomatoes and $200 squashes, and then suppressed the costs through public ownership so that nobody realizes how completely nonsensical this is.
Meanwhile, of course, we have what is officially designated as a "crisis" of lack of affordable housing. But instead of using that underused NYCHA land in Brooklyn for more housing, where it might actually make sense economically, we'll require developers to provide "affordable" apartments on land in Manhattan that costs not $10 million per acre, but more like $100 million. It's how North Korea and Cuba found the route to starvation. In New York, the great and the good think that it all makes perfect sense.