Whither New York?

Some really great revealing articles lately on CEO Mayor Bloomberg’s New York in which, as you know, only the financial market and corporate and developer Friends of Mayor Mike are given ‘breaks’ while everyone else has their public space reduced and privatized, continually monitored, and their neighborhoods and communities across the five boroughs sacrificed for these same FOMM. I’ll highlight some of the pertinent points from a few of these articles today and in the coming days.

What follows is an excerpt from a most interesting article from the March 2009 Atlantic magazine, “How the Crash Will Reshape America,” by Richard Florida. He addresses NYC’s over-reliance on Wall Street and asks … what would Jane Jacobs say?

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Whither New York?

In the short run, the most troubling question for New York is not how much of its finance industry will move to other places, but how much will simply vanish altogether. At the height of the recent bubble, Greater New York depended on the financial sector for roughly 22 percent of local wages. But most economists agree that by then the financial economy had become bloated and overdeveloped.

Financial positions account for only about 8 percent of the New York area’s jobs, not too far off the national average of 5.5 percent. …

New York is much, much more than a financial center. … Elizabeth Currid’s book, The Warhol Economy, provides detailed evidence of New York’s diversity. Currid measured the concentration of different types of jobs in New York relative to their incidence in the U.S. economy as a whole. By this measure, New York is more of a mecca for fashion designers, musicians, film directors, artists, and—yes—psychiatrists than for financial professionals.

The great urbanist Jane Jacobs was among the first to identify cities’ diverse economic and social structures as the true engines of growth. … Jacobs argued that the jostling of many different professions and different types of people, all in a dense environment, is an essential spur to innovation—to the creation of things that are truly new. And innovation, in the long run, is what keeps cities vital and relevant.

In this sense, the financial crisis may ultimately help New York by reenergizing its creative economy. … When I asked Jacobs some years ago about the effects of escalating real-estate prices on creativity, she told me, “When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.” With the hegemony of the investment bankers over, New York now stands a better chance of avoiding that sterile fate.

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