The Report "The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City" reveals that there's a lot more open land even in one of the most densely packed places in the US than most people think. This simply backs up what we know from other cities around the world which do much more urban farming than New York City - that while no major city will ever feed itself, there's enormous potential to raise food in urban areas.
"We have identiï¬ed almost 5,000 acres of vacant land likely to be suitable for farming in the ï¬ ve boroughs, the equivalent of six times the area of Central Park. In addition to this land, there are many other potential sites, including over 1,000 acres of NYCHA green space, underutilized open spaces, and Greenstreets. There are also many other potentially suitable sites and properties that are not included in these designations that would greatly expand the total amount of land available for agricultural production. Each of these different types of sites would demand different approaches and strategies if they are to be deployed for agriculture. In this regard, existing data on land availability and suitability is inadequate to understand true capacity, and information on public (municipal) land is insufï¬ciently accessible."
Read the whole report! Aaron Newton and I emphasize the importance of urban agriculture - particularly urban animal raising on the enormous quantity of food wastes produced in cities, and the use of urban green space to produce local, high value crops. It is good to have a real estimate of what could happen even in New York City!
5,000 acres sounds like a lot... until you realize that NYC has over 8,000,000 people in it. How many people can be supported on 5,000 acres? 20,000? 40,000?
While it's nice to have green space for gardening/farming, I think it's even more important for people to have the opportunity to disconnect from the city.
That would be $22,000 per acre times 5000 acres equals $110,000,000 in vegetable and small fruit crops potential value annually. Whether sold, given away or just eaten by the gardeners, that's enough veg for 100,000 people, every year. A sliver of New York's population, true, but it all helps. Growing the gardeners that will be needed to intensively farm 5000 acres may be an even larger benefit.
So you want to use this precious land for raising food animals, which is far less efficient than simply growing food crops for humans? Madness.
Jeff, I don't think you understand me - no, I mostly don't want to use this precious land for raising food animals, in the sense of grazing it (although I do think that some sheep to keep down the grass in central park make a heck of a lot more sense than fossil fueled lawn mowers ;-)) - the animals are poultry, rabbits and pigs, which take up comparatively little land mass and can be fed largely on the wastes already being thrown into landfills. Some small portion of it would house rabbit hutches and poultry coops - whose manures would feed those many gardens, but the animals would make use of something that is now being thrown away for the most part. There's nothing "less efficient" about that - what's inefficient is trucking billions of pounds of food waste into landfills.
Eric, noting that cities don't support themselves doesn't change the fact that 5,000 acres can produce a lot of food. It is true that mega-cities like NYC will have to get smaller - but that doesn't mean they are going away - cities of a million existed long before fossil fuels and there's very little doubt (particularly when set at the mouth of rivers and at the site of historic ports, that they will continue to exist. It just isn't an either/or proposition.