If NYC Sucks, Let’s Fix It

[Public Draft Version 1]

There’s a certain sector of NYC society that is wringing hands, gnashing teeth and all but keening and rending garments over the supposed exodus of people fleeing a worthless, dangerous New York. Are you kidding me? Crime is still at an all-time low and there’s plenty of life left in this place. When we are fully back, we will set new attendance records for broadway and museum attendance, and founders and tech workers will continue to come here. They will still be drawn to the culture, amazing food, educated workforce, and quality of life that even a shaken New York can provide. This is a work in progress and I hope you’ll chime in and improve it.

According to a report released by the Partnership for New York City, A Call for Action and Collaboration, New York City’s problems, as a result of the pandemic, will be difficult and time consuming to correct. As many as a third of small businesses in the city may never reopen. Cultural, social and entertainment attractions will likely remain closed until next year, and unemployment is above 18%. That pretty much qualifies as sucking.

But despite this stark reality and tales of people abandoning the city for safer and greener pastures, the city is saying, “I’m not dead yet”. This week, the NY Times reported that Facebook is leasing all of the office space in the James A Farley Building. This brings to 2.2 million square feet of office space leased by Facebook recently.  This counts as a vote of confidence that New York City is worth investing in. 

New York City Leads

  • Among the top financial centers in the world
  • Advertising capital of the world
  • World-class universities
  • Rich in tech talent and young ambitious people still want to live here
  • Breadth of businesses in NYC includes, FinTech, PropTech, HealthTech, EdTech RetailTech, AR and VR, Blockchain, UrbanTech, SupplyChainTech, Cyber Security, Media, and more.

Not only does this richness make our city more resilient but it adds another quality that attracts the intellectually curious. Novelty. You get to learn about other accomplished people and what they do.

In fact, Richard Florida has recently expressed fears (Why Richard Florida Worries Cities Will Recover Too Quickly From COVID)   that the major cities in the U.S. will recover too quickly to make them more inclusive.  But he tempers this concern with optimism that there will be a force exerted by YIMBY (Yes, In My Backyard) that will once again make NYC an affordable, hospitable place for artists, musicians, and creatives. But he predicts this window will last as little as 2 years before gentrification strongly takes hold again.

For New York City to once again be a great, wonderful, messy city we need to have a diversity of incomes, cultures, ethnicities, and businesses. Florida quotes the great urbanist, Jane Jacobs as describing cities as, “collections of diverse bundles of peoples and diverse bundles of neighborhoods.” and Florida concludes, “And that’s what makes them great.”

How do we create a great New York City that retains vibrancy and variety but welcomes all who would build things here? People who want to join the mess that is New York to build businesses, create art, make music, mount theater. Not all housing should be luxury housing. Not all office space should cater to the tech behemoths of Facebook, Apple, Google, etc. We need offices for small and medium businesses, lofts for artists, black box theaters for experimental theater, small performance spaces for dance and music. Without this variety, New York City will become sterile.

Florida goes on to say that his hope is for urban innovation to be a “… broad, multi-disciplinary effort of tech neologists and engineers and unrest,…”

But… we must grant ethicists and the full range of stakeholders a seat at this table or we risk perpetuating inequality or introducing unintended consequences.

Jane Jacobs can have the last word here, “ “When a city gets boringeven the rich leave.” 

Note: This is my thinking out loud. I welcome your suggestions on facts to cite, ideas to expand on, you calling BS on any thread – all if offered in a spirit of goodwill. Thanks!

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