Grim Future of Cities: State’s Growing Budget Hole Threatens New York City Jobs, Services

Yves here. A post below from the enterprising independent news site, The City, provides an update on the increasingly wobbly condition of New York City finances, in large measure because the state has cut back on “city aid” without clarifying the ultimate source of those funds.

Interestingly, the budget shortfalls for New York City and New York state result from a sharp decline in sales tax revenues, while income taxes have held up, somewhat countering the notion that people are decamping New York City in droves. Nevertheless, the article below gives an idea of the magnitude of budget and headcount cuts that are coming, even in the face of increased demand for some services, making the fiscal squeeze even worse. This general pattern will be replicated, with varying degrees of severity, all across major and even some smaller US cities.

Another article, by James Altucher, claims that NYC is Dead Forever. Perhaps his NYC, and the NYC many people loved, is dead and not coming back. I have trouble with this theory generally because world cities tend not to die, even if they go through reversals. Rome survived the Visigoths and the fall of the Roman Empire, for instance. And frankly, the NYC I liked best, of the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, was already dead due to the Disney-fication of the city. So what, or more precisely whose, New York City are we talking about?

Altucher tries arguing that New York City has suffered a more serious and lasting blow than it did during its fiscal crisis. Even though he points to falling rents and sales prices, even with the Covid-19 exodus, New York City isn’t having co-ops sell for $1 and proof that you could pay the maintenance. While even then, New York City was the place to be for the entertainment, publishing and advertising industries, along with Wall Street, Wall Street, which was the biggest economic engine for the city, was in a deep and expended decline, due to the one-two punch of the deregulation of stock commissions, the deep equity bear market, and stagflation also trashing bonds. Big company execs who had headquarters in Manhattan were alarmed at the decline in services; many were contemplating and some did relocate their offices out of the city.

Even in its grubby and crime-ridden state, New York City was still expensive. New MBAs on top investment banker pay had to live with a roommate. Altucher talks about the food being a big draw for the city, but when I was young, yes, there were excellent restaurants (and frankly the best of the 1980s were better than any time after that) but regularly eating out well was limited to food columnists and those on expense accounts. In fact, if you worked in Wall Street, you were in a food desert. The options were few and not very good.

But “expensive” for a young person then paled compared to what was coming. When I was young, there was still a class of moderately affluent people who worked regular hours (think employees of the auction houses who might have a modest trust fund, established doctors) who would go regularly to theater or the symphony. By contrast, the young professional strivers worked like fiends because that was what they had signed up for, so partaking of the cultural life of the city was a non-starter (if you bought tickets to a show, the odds were greater than 50/50 you’d give them away). Over time, the ranks of the local theater-goers has thinned and Broadway and off-Broadway became more dependent on tourists.

And did he forget about the crime back then? I was never worried about my personal safety (although denizens practiced basic city smarts, like avoiding empty blocks late at night) but having my wallet lifted was a too-frequent experience. You never pulled out your wallet on the street, which meant if you made a purchase in cash, you needed to put the change in your wallet and put the wallet in your pocket or bag before leaving a store. If you went out in the evening, you carried a $20 in your pocket as “mugger money”. Some friends in non-doorman buildings suffered break-ins. You didn’t take the subway if you had the time or income not to, and women on the trains never wore decent or “could be mistaken for decent” jewelry. Women sporting gold chains would have them snapped off their necks.

One effect of the crime level was only the very well off (or middle/lower income parents who had bargain apartments) raised their kids in Manhattan; middle and even a fair number of upper middle class earners would move to the ‘burbs sometime in their child’s toddlerhood if they could snag a decent house or mansionette.

And the homeless were part of daily life. When I was able to afford living in a townhouse off Madison, I would be the first up and out in the morning. The building had an outer door, a tiny vestibule, and then the inner door, which had the buzzers for the apartments next to it. The outer door was always unlocked. In the colder months, I step carefully over the homeless man who slept in our vestibule so as not to wake him up. I was never sure if I succeeded in my effort to avoid rousing him, but he was polite enough not to move if so.

Similarly, when I would walk down Madison to midtown in the very early morning (before 6 AM to get to my gym, natch), there was at least one homeless person, per side of the street, per block, sleeping in the doorways of the boutiques.

So when I read this section of the Altucher piece, I marvel at how much expectations have changed:

One friend of mine, Derek Halpern, was convinced he’d stay. He put up a Facebook post the other day saying he might be changing his mind. Derek wrote:

In the last week:

• I watched a homeless person lose his mind and start attacking random pedestrians. Including spitting on, throwing stuff at, and swatting.
• I’ve seen several single parents with a child asking for money for food. And then, when someone gave them food, tossed the food right back at them.
• I watched a man yell racist slurs at every single race of people while charging, then stopping before going too far.

And worse.

I’ve been living in New York City for about 10 years. It has definitely gotten worse and there’s no end in sight.

Mind you, I am not saying this is swell. But these all amount to lifestyle indignities. I’ve seen homeless people go crazy in public too; this was not hugely unusual until Giuliani largely drove them out of Manhattan…no questions asked as to where.

The point is in the last 20 years, New York City has seen so much gentrification and lifestyle policing that it as a long way to go before it gets to 1970s level conditions. Yet rents have already dropped a lot.

Now in fairness, reader jr who lives what I infer is (or was) a very nice area of the West Village, reports that the cute store have significantly emptied out and the hookers and drug dealing, which used to be concentrated on Christopher Street, appears to have spread in combination with a marked increase in violent crime. So pockets of the city are already getting rough.

The health industry was the biggest employer in Manhattan in the early 1990s, and Manhattan is still full of top MDs and teaching hospitals. The big reason I still go to New York City is my doctors. Similarly, traders do need to work together to be effective, and having back offices not too remote makes sense, so a core of finance is very unlikely to leave.

If rents fall enough, and they ought to, you’ll see bohemians and artists come back into Manhattan, which might lead to the hollowing out of Brooklyn, and funkification eventually leads to gentrification. I don’t see New York City losing all that much of its food vibrancy, but it won’t be mid and upper tier restaurants, which are dying all over the US; the days of plentiful and varied dining out may be over for good and New York City isn’t alone in losing out. But there’s great ethnic cuisine in Queens, so it’s not as if there won’t still be thrilling food, it just won’t be as convenient or necessarily in prettified settings.

Finally, for what it’s worth, Amazon doesn’t think cities are dead: Amazon Bets on Office-Based Work With Expansion in Major Cities. Not that I like viewing them as an authority, but they presumably have some data and analysis to back this contrarian view.

By Greg David ( Originally published at THE CITY on August 17, 2020

With Congress essentially gone until Labor Day and a dire fiscal update from Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are running out of time to deal with budget crises that just took another $1 billion hit.

In the short term, the state is withholding 20% of city aid and de Blasio says up to 22,000 municipal layoffs loom. In the long term, the city and state face extended problems from the pandemic-created recession that require permanent reductions in spending, fiscal experts say.

“Little to no progress is being made in closing the gaps,” said Maria Doulis, vice president of the Citizens Budget Commission. “Federal aid appears increasingly distant, and it will be harmful to wait too long to act. The governor should develop and make public a plan to close state budget gaps.”

The budget squeeze intensified when the Cuomo administration announced last Thursday that revenues had fallen $1 billion more than expected — mostly due to a decline in sales tax collections but also because of weakness in some business taxes as well as taxes and fees from motor vehicles. (The one piece of good news is that income tax collections, including 2019 payments deferred from April to July, had met projections.)

In response, the Cuomo administration has begun withholding one dollar out of every five in local aid while it sees whether federal funds will be forthcoming. For New York City, that amount would grow to $3 billion for the fiscal year that began July 1.

A spokesperson for de Blasio said, “With stimulus talks in Washington stalled, we need borrowing authority from Albany as soon as possible to avert drastic cuts and layoffs.” City Comptroller Scott Stringer did not respond to a request for comment on the withholding of aid, primarily earmarked for education, and its impact on the budget.

Jobs Threatened

The mayor has set October as the date for implementing his threatened 22,000 layoffs if he cannot reach a deal with the city’s unions to reduce labor costs by $1 billion, in the absence of outside aid.

There is little doubt budget cuts will mean a major loss of jobs. State and city jobs in New York City fell by 19,000 in June compared with last year, a little more a third of them in education.

Statewide, the drop in government positions is 90,000, with two-thirds of them in education, and the national figure is 1.3 million. Moody’s Analytics estimates the national number would double without federal money.

The job cuts are likely to grow and be more severe in New York than elsewhere. When the pandemic hit, the municipal bond-rating firm Moody’s Analytics said the budget problem New York State faced was the third worst in the country, with only New Jersey and Louisiana facing a more difficult situation.

Federal Help Calls Grow

In the meantime, some programs will require more money.

For example, with unemployment resulting in the loss of health care coverage, the total of those enrolled in Medicaid statewide has increased 264,000 since February, two-thirds of them in the city. The state pays about a third of the cost of Medicaid, with localities chipping in another 17%. The program spending this year is expected to reach $83 billion.

The drumbeat for federal aid, meanwhile, grows louder and the pressure on Washington to act will increase.

In a webinar Friday by the union-based Economic Policy Institute, economists ranging from George W. Bush economic advisor Glenn Hubbard to Barack Obama economic advisor Jason Furman said money from Washington was crucial to avoiding worsening the economic meltdown.

“We just went off the fiscal cliff” for states and cities, said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “And there is going to be real damage to the economy.”

But aid from Washington appears unlikely to solve the long-term problems for the state and the city. Over the next four years, the Cuomo Administration estimated last week, the state faces a loss of $62 billion in revenue from what it expected before the pandemic.

“The biggest problem for the state is the enormous, recurring structural budget gap starting next year and into the future,” said E.J. McMahon of the conservative-leaning Empire Center. “Cuomo clearly hopes that starting in 2021, (Democratic presidential candidate Joseph) Biden and a Democratic Congress will provide states and local government a couple of year’s worth of added stimulus.

“But even a foreseeable Biden package won’t fully close future New York State budget gaps,” he added.

This story was originally published by THE CITY, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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  1. cocomaan

    I participated in Occupy pretty heavily there for awhile. When it became clear to me that nobody was going to listen to anything we said, I bailed, moved out to the country. And at times, it seemed like the long commutes weren’t worth it, even to live in paradise.

    Now it seems like real wisdom. Don’t regret it at all. Cities are going to be awful places to live for the next few years.

  2. Carolinian

    I lived for awhile in the East Village in the late ’70s and like to think of it as the last time you could live in Manhattan without having a lot of money. It was a time when the spirit of the place was represented more by the Daily News or the Village Voice than the NYT and Wall Street Journal. Crime was a thing and people had burglar grates on their windows and multiple locks on apartment doors.

    There’s a new movie out about that ’70s figure Pauline Kael called What She Said, and she’s shown saying that she’d lost interest in horror films because living in NYC was enough of one for her, a tiny woman constantly afraid of being mugged. All coming back?

    And things may not be so rosy down here in the South either. A local story on our library said they expect a big hit to their budget because of this year’s drop in county tax revenue.

  3. The Rev Kev

    I was thinking about how Yves was saying that it is not the same city that she knew in the 80s and 90s and it certainly is not the same city that it was at the beginning of the year. New York seems to redefine itself with every generation and my first impression of New York came courtesy of a 1948 film called “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.” I wonder how many New Yorkers would recognize this New York. The problems of tiny apartments as depicted in this film has stayed the same-

    Yves has also talked about how the city has been Disneyfied and how for several decades the plan was to get ordinary people out of Manhattan and reserve it for the elite. Well I say let them have it. But like in the film “Escape from New York”, turn it into a giant maximum-security prison with a 50-foot (15 m) wall surrounding the island, having the bridges mined, and all inhabitants are sentenced to life terms there. Bezos could share a flat with Zuckerburg with Gates above them banging on the floor to tell them to keep a lid on it.

      1. jr

        I for one am sticking it out in Manhattan, thank you all very much. I’ve already got my fall accessories lined up: anti ballistic googles, CS spray, personal alarm, N95 filtered bandana masks, and I’m ordering some pocket marine distress horns. I’m dressing extremely “Gray Man” this season. I keep some loose singles in my pocket for panhandlers. I’m indoors by 7:30 max. It beats having to eat pizza from Dominoes, thats for sure. And why is it necessarily safer out in the middle of nowhere? No safety net at all? 45 minutes for a firetruck to arrive? If there are any firetrucks. Nah, I’ll stay here and watch “Serpico”.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          I’m old enough to to have lived through the NYC-as-tough-working-class town-with-a-reformist-bent era (“Naked City” tv show, etc.), the 1970’s NYC-as-a-dysfunctional-hellhole (“The Warriors,” “The Taking of Pelham 123,” most anything by Sidney Lumet or Scorcese from that period, etc.), and then NYC-as-glamor-playground-for-the-affluent (take your pick of many)…

          In March, the city was transformed overnight, unlike the previous periods, which evolved at a merely fast rate. Overnight, the city’s mighty position and future are open to question, as it was in the mid-70’s; if anything, its more dire now, since NY State’s finances are so much worse than before, the federal government more dysfunctional, the economy more hollow.

          New York ain’t goin’ no place, but it’s definitely about undergo an extended how-the-mighty-have-fallen period. Maybe it will become a place where politics and art that matter can be produced again (trying to find a silver lining)…

          1. jsn

            It’ll be interesting to see how they justify $3,000 sf residential real estate prices in a city that can’t afford to fix the plumbing or power, or police itself for that matter.

            A lot of the trophy real estate appears to have been used for money laundering, this drove prices to a level of fantasy only a decade of shameless QE could sustain. A few years ago when the city started requiring “beneficial ownership” be disclosed, that market suddenly went stagnant. I suspect sales would require sellers to cover exposed collateral, so the shiny objects mostly just sit there empty to sustain the illusion.

            Now all that wealth on which the property tax base rests is really hard to explain and they’re aren’t any CCP refugees to sustain the Ponzi. “The markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent,” yeah sure, but how much longer?

  4. Paul

    Apparently Mick and Keith diagnosis of shattered rather than crushed likely prove once again.

    Should be interesting if we see not insignificant numbers of off site workforce be they 100% 80% 50.00001% remote time bargain for, get officially relocated/reassigned for personal & corporate convenience. Too many reasons corporate & workforce would seek a variant of shopping for advantageous work flow zip code hubs for virtual warehousing of remotable functions. This prospective activity seems poised to offer significant secondary potential to several tax jurisdictions.

  5. DSB

    An interesting introduction to the article. I was intrigued by your identifying the mid-1980’s to mid-1990’s as the period you liked best. My only reference period is the latter half of your best time period.

    I have come to say I survived it for the reasons you mention and more. In addition to the items you mention above, the drug dealers were everywhere. A walk down Broadway through midtown was like walking through the perfume department of Macy’s or Sak’s.

    It was an in your face,shall I say abusive environment in which to live? Next to the Trinity Deli during the summer, a couple ConEd guys opened a manhole and found a young homeless man encamped there. They kicked him out and would not let him take any of his possessions with him. I remember him to this day, walking naked but for his white briefs in front of hundreds of people during the lunch hour. It was cruel. I wish I had done something – it is a failing I live with.

    I remember the outcry over the killing of Brian Watkins (Provo, Utah) during the US Open in 1990. The difference today, my opinion, is I don’t know what it takes today for people to say enough.

    The son of one of my friends is leaving NYC. He, his husband and their son are moving to flyover country. He is early thirties with degrees from NYU and Columbia. He does social work, while his husband works on Wall Street. My friends daughter, her husband and their two kids are leaving too. Headed for the same city in flyover country. I talked my daughter out of moving there for law school at NYU for fall 2020 intake.

    I agree with you, it won’t die, but there are better places to enjoy the important things in life.

    Thanks for triggering some memories and reflections.

  6. TimH

    In the Bay Area, at least the bottom U from Palo Alto around and up to Fremont, there’s been a noticable exodus up to nearer Lake Tahoe, where a house can be got for half the price of an apartment and it’s away from the agricultural central valley pollution.

    But the cosmopolitan and weather advantages will keep the top tier in the Bay Area. The other tier has always had it tough, and that won’t improve.

    San Franscisco is a very different environment to South Bay.

    1. Tom Stone

      TimH, San Francisco has already taken a big hit and there’s more to come.
      In July the inventory of SFH was up 96% YoY.
      That’s SFH, Not condo’s.
      There are tens of thousands ( No exaggeration) of recently built or soon to be finished Condo’s in SF, more than 90% priced above $1MM.
      A lot were purchased by overseas (Mostly Chinese) buyers and many have been used as vacation rentals.
      The homeless population is already large and is about to grow dramatically.
      21 Million Americans are facing eviction, SF has a reputation for being friendly to the homeless and these newly homeless are going to head to where winters are survivable.
      I’m already seeing significant numbers of people living in RV’s in Sebastopol, both sides of Morris St are lined with them
      This is new.
      It’s going to get real rough for a lot of people and they will find someone to blame..

  7. elissa3

    Maybe it’s the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, but for this oldster the NYC of the 1950s was the peak during my lifetime. At 8 years old I was able to take the subway or bus (with a change) to school every weekday. Manhattan neighborhoods were affordable for middle class families. NYC had roughly 90% of the population it has today, but it truly felt like you were living at the center of the universe. The self confidence (OK, maybe arrogance) that that engendered in New Yorkers was invaluable to me for many succeeding decades.

    Yes, there are cycles and New York came back after the bad days in the late 70s, but it was different. My dad used to repeat that “the middle class is the cement that holds a society together”. I think he had a good point.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I wasn’t there in the 60s but one of my older friends maintained it was the best time, lots of great people, many fun cheap events, lots of parties, city still relatively affordable if you lived in not the best ‘hood.

  8. Shiloh1

    Second from last paragraph of article applies to Illinois, specifically Chicago, too. News flash to Mark Zandi, famous rear-view mirror prognosticator:: the numbers were always inevitable to go over a fiscal cliff, chickens from last 3 decades coming home to roost, just sped up a year or two now, especially on the pension funds. Chicago cops are retiring at double the pace of previous years, for example. These cities/mayors and states/governors are Banking on a Biden Bailout. Be prepared to Pay Your Fair Share via wild debasement of the currency..

    Got gold?

  9. TBellT

    My former neighborhood in Brooklyn just had to undergo a publicized tracing operation because of an uptick in cases. My mother said “well aren’t you glad you left”. No I am not. I still miss it and I view it as worth the risk. I miss being able to walk without purpose. I miss seeing the small moments in people lives that I’ll never see again but feel some brief kinship.

    The suburbs lack any character, moving out here I now understand the term “atomization” on a visceral level. Sure I’m incredibly safe, never leaving the house except for groceries but that’s because I see very little value in going outside anyway. I don’t get any takeout since it’s all sub-par anyway. A downgrade from the plethora of options I used to have.

    If anything I feel a sense of loss, similar to when Trump did his ICE raid scare last year that turned it into a ghost town for a week or two. That my memories of that time would never be able to be replicated again. And a sense of guilt knowing that my problems are not material in nature and that my former neighbors are having to deal with truly difficult times.

    I’m aware I’m outside the norm. Of four PMC friends who all left NYC in the last year and a half for reasons unrelated to Covid I’m the only one who says I would return. Possibly it’s because I don’t intend on having kids.

    1. Harold

      I live in a neighborhood with an “uptick”, probably the same one mentioned above. Just tonight on our evening walk my spouse and I were saying that, despite everything, how nice it is without all those tourists and commuters, and with fewer cars.

  10. Kiers

    I can’t help but feel this whole “crime wave” schadenfreude on behalf of Trumpfuhrer and Fox News (aside: who should’ve long back lost their so called fcc license to muckrack, in any case the Murdochs’ already have spun off the valuable properties from their News holding co.) has been orchestrated: (1) Cy Vance (a beacon of propriety, says a google search) is refusing to prosecute “protest” (broad definition); (2) The “Court Officers Benevolent Association” (aside: I never knew such a thing existed but can guess as to the “types” it enrolls) has gone on criminal-trial “strike/go-slow”; (3) NYPDs illicit gun unit is on hiatus(! go figure); (4) in January, well before corona was something other than beer, bail reform came to be in a sudden relenting of over 30 years of anglo-saxon harshness to policing excesses on minorities since the “crime-bill”; (5) then subsequently corona was known for other than leading to drunks, and NYPD’s newly elevated Commish Shea tipped his hand showing his loyalties(a computer-smarts economist with street chops, i take it) when (what i thought was a “black-op”) of excessively, conspicuously, national-news-reel worthy brutal social-distancing policing was performed because the SBA did not want this PITA “assignment” of mask policing, served its purpose and led to a reversal by the mayor requesting such tasks of the NYPD, (6) followed by BLM and de-fund movement p*ssing off the force unions wholesale and leading to a policing “strike” / go-slow.

    All of this is cheered on by Fox. by Trump, by the benevolent unions and frankly, i think they all talk to each other on a regular basis, and are in cahoots. Demockracy in Action…..not what they teach you in civics class.

  11. Alex morfesis

    New York City in the 70’s was crushed by the transfer of shipping to California and the Pacific trade with Japan and Korea and the jet airplane killing the slow cruise world of the multitude of docks on the Hudson, along with the end of railroads as we knew them and the abandoning of rail lines across the region and the nation. The housing in New York City was built with owner provided heat and when the oil shocks hit, the fixed rentals needed to preserve housing via rent stabilization threw all the numbers off. The construction unions were banging cups for an underground underwater highway to be built, disrupting any opportunity to reuse the piers until the plan died…but by then the piers and the entities controlling them were scrambled and garbled and could not easily be put back together again. The disneyfication of times square with it’s TIF never really had the intended effect as certain retailers invaded between the Ed Sullivan theatre and the old newswire building on 42nd Street. Mostly Faith Hope Consolo banging tables about how per square foot there was no greater concentration of consumers than in Manhattan. The collapse of Wall Street fixed commissions and the continued fixed interest rates were disrupted by the adjustment to money market accounts began the turn of events from messy to better. Olympia and York grabbed a bite out of the city while managing the birth of Battery Park City.Jack Kent Cooke pushed thru legislation to have old buildings “landmarked” so he could cash in his purchase of a subject to demolition Chrysler building and orange man bad called in his families old tammany Hall chits from Abe beame and created a mythical tax break which he was able to capitalize and build aand rehab where everyone was running for cover. The federal highway systems completion led to many folks leaving “cramped old new York” for other parts of the country. Ed Koch took some payola and eliminated parking meters in Manhattan, driving up polution and congestion while also summarily pushing 200,000 onto the streets of New York by illegally shutting down city owned properties managed by HPD in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn, forcing people who could into more expensive housing, beginning the long March of increased costs for apartments in the City.

    There were many things happening at the same time to create the demise that was New York City in the 70’s into early 90’s. If one were to look at the slow downs from the Spanish plague and world war 2, we can probably find a quick jump back to life once the crisis was over. The urban disruptions caused by the Urban Institute and Urban Land Institute are long past their sell by dates. Only Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Baltimore could not push back against the nonsensical black diamond A/O mindset of mies van der rohe and his black boot cronies with their preposterous notions of urban planning.

    The larger buildings in NYC have either converted the utilities to renter paid or have common area maintenance fees to go with NNN leases which are distribute the risks from increased costs.

    The USA has the highest OECD interest rates but those days are done and interest rates will fall for real estate to below 2% fixed for the average homeowners and 3% fixed for commercial real estate.

    Change is a part of life… New York was a swampy mess a few hundred years ago, traded by the Dutch for some nutmeg on Run Island…then a money laundering capital for pirates…and then a money laundering location for many others over the last few centuries…

    New York will adjust and grow again as it always has….

  12. jr

    People around here are definitely noticing a difference. A number of acquaintances have mention taken extra security measures such as staying indoors after dark or avoiding ATMs. That’s easier to do since they have shut down most of the banks ATMs around here. That didn’t bother me too much because it was actually cheaper to withdraw my UI from the bodega ATM than my own BoA.

    I picked up a canister of pepper spray for the guy who runs my coffee spot, he pulls into the hood early from Brooklyn. He gets apprehensive when he talks about it. I’m getting him an airhorn too. It’s a weapon AND an alarm.

    A coffee buddy who has that app “Citizen” or whatever was genuinely scared by the beating-murder the other night. It happened right around the corner from him. All of these people are West Village veterans, they are fully seasoned in the usual craziness. The cafe owner has had to chase meth addled nude transvestites out of his shop at 10 AM in the morning. No one really blinked when a guy was shot in his apartment in a drug related robbery about a year plus back. I mean it was shocking, but not in a sustained way. This seems more existential.

    All that that being said, there is a pleasant gloss on things at the moment. The sidewalks aren’t crushed with droves of tourists. Eating dinner in the middle of the street is fun and only the very most popular places need reservations, and not all the time. You can hear the birds sing. There are considerably less condoms, coke baggies, vomitus, bottles of every description, bras, hair extensions, cracked heels, and pizza crusts laying around on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The meth? coke? heroin? dealing vape shop, the one where the guy brashly offers bulk deals on edibles when you walk in, had put out a table and chairs for their guests. And to Yves point I’ve actually moved to an even nicer part of the Village than I was in before with a much more bucolic street scene.

    But every other storefront is shuttered. The building we left was half empty and the one we moved into seems less occupied. Lots of graffiti, always a presence and one I enjoy, and no one cleaning it up. I haven’t seen as many moving trucks on this side of things; they were a daily, multi event occurrence on my old street. But then I haven’t seen the 30 something neighbors I met when we moved in, not once. They aren’t here. Could be vacation. The building has 30 or so units, I’ve met maybe eight people including the super in the two weeks we have been here. When I came to look at the place, a young woman who I met at the front door asked me if I was moving in. When I said yes, she said good because everyone else had moved out.

  13. nlowhim

    The short term goal is dealing with Covid. The long term is dealing with Climate Change (which will bring us a thousand covids in term of pandemics and similar worldwide issues). If cities die (and only in the US because bigger cities in other countries have managed quite well) fighting CC becomes that much harder.

    1. Carolinian

      Great link!

      Tudorism, like the Colonial and Georgian styles, was borne out of this seething milieu; it was “a style for the WASP,” writes Gavin Townsend, “a fortress symbol of established Anglo-American lineage at a time when Poles, Slavs, Italians and other ‘undesirables’ were seemingly flooding the country.”[5] Tudorism first gained popularity around 1910 in upscale WASP suburbs like Riverdale, Forest Hills Gardens, Tuxedo Park, Bronxville, and Scarsdale, where the town center is a stage set Elizabethan village. But by the time the Tudor tide flooded the outwash plain, it was largely stripped of its revanchist edge. Tudorism was popular in Brooklyn not because it channeled a lost Anglo-Saxon past, but because it evoked the wealth and status of the city’s elite suburbs. By emulating the emulators, outer-borough Tudorism thus turned a style for the rich into one for the masses; Scarsdale “banker’s Tudor” became the “teller’s Tudor” of Hollis and Flatbush.

      Around here the “Tara” style is popular for homes from some decades back. These are wood sided demi-mansions with a porch and two story columns across the front. I can’t imagine where they got the idea.

      The real Tara was a false front, now stored in a warehouse outside Atlanta.

  14. Dita

    I’m a third generation Manhattanite, and not about to be run off now. Yes, things are changing fast, the citizen app on my phone has been blowing up especially since the unemployment supplement expired. But, NYC is a great city, not a nice one.
    For me, what Nelson Algren wrote about Chicago is true of this city as too, that it’s like loving a girl with a broken nose–there may be lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real.

  15. Jeremy Grimm

    My daughter has dug-in at her apartment in Brooklyn. Her roommate is moving out at the end of this month and she has no prospects for a new roommate. She had been working as a bartender — but lost that job in March. I’ve been helping her pay rent and made sure she paid down her credit card … for the second time. But she seems stuck in a strange limbo. I don’t know how long I can continue helping to support her, especially since I am not sure staying in Brooklyn or her trying to take over the lease on her apartment is such a great idea. It’s as if she is unable to believe there won’t be more Federal support on top of her unemployment check and unable to believe that things won’t be better before the unemployment checks stop.

    I feel in a similar limbo. I am reluctant to decide what is best for my daughter but I am retired and not exactly flush. Brooklyn rents, even where my daughter lives are much higher than I pay for the place I rent in Jersey. I had been planning to move to a smaller town in Upstate but the situation in NYC, and the state funding situation in NY and my home state has me rethinking my plans for the future. I was already wary of how much Albany would squeeze Upstate for funds to build whatever project someone cooks up for dealing with the ocean’s rise.

    I used to enjoy visiting my daughter and visiting NYC on occasion. I haven’t traveled to NYC or Brooklyn since last year. My daughter wants to come home for a visit — but she’s afraid she could bring Corona with her and I told her getting tested with its costs and delays would be an exercise in the pointless. So many of the things I enjoyed in my simple retired life seem to be disappearing before my eyes.

    1. Tom

      Why waste good money on paying NYC rent when the situation is such that she won’t be able to get a better job. Too risky to take the entire lease. Ask her to come back and join you to save the money, spend good quality time with the family and evaluate her future options from there.

    2. guere

      Parents who are paying for their children’s rent really hurts the ability of the people who still need to live in the city for work to find accessible housing. I am sorry you daughter lost her job but I am wondering what value she sees in draining you of your retirement

  16. Altandmain

    Another article, by James Altucher, claims that NYC is Dead Forever. Perhaps his NYC, and the NYC many people loved, is dead and not coming back. I have trouble with this theory generally because world cities tend not to die, even if they go through reversals. Rome survived the Visigoths and the fall of the Roman Empire, for instance.

    A case could be made that the “capital of the world” NYC may be gone for the foreseeable future. To be honest, it was already trending that way. The rise of China in particular meant that other cities would have inevitably challenged NY for dominance.

    Rome may still be around, having survived the fall of the Roman Empire, world wars, etc, but it is no longer as center of the Western world the way it was during the height of the Roman Empire (ex: the dominant city of the world, with the exception perhaps of the Ancient Chinese).

    And frankly, the NYC I liked best, of the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, was already dead due to the Disney-fication of the city. So what, or more precisely whose, New York City are we talking about?

    I suspect (although I can’t prove), Altucher means the NYC that was the plaything of the upper 10%.
    He’s a venture capitalist and hedge-fund manager. The one where there is what amounts to a servant class to serve him and well, as others have noted a Disneyland style Manhattan for the world’s plutocrats. That and I guess for some, real estate to park their ill gotten money.

    This NYC had to do the way of the dinosaur. The question becomes what happens next? As has been noted, maybe one bright side will be that a humbled NYC might be once again affordable to the working class. I have known of low wage workers who endure brutal 1.5 or 2+ hour commutes each way to get to work because it is all they can afford on their meager wages. Something had to give there, as that is no way to live.

    Cities should be for working class people, not for playthings of the ultra rich.

  17. Yen

    Sounds like there was a structural issue with NYC that it couldn’t be sustained that easily. Besides I’m not sure if we as humans want clean neat homelessness free cities. We as humans want some of the dirt and grime and strife and disorderliness. Otherwise Singapore would be the perfect city, not the depressingly boring place that it is.

  18. BlakeFelix

    I don’t know if this matters much to the article, but Rome fell pretty hard, it technically survived but it was down to a few thousand people for a few hundred years.

  19. anon in so cal

    Brings back memories of cutting my high school classes and heading to the Thalia to see Werner Herzog films or Bunuel near Union Square. Was last in NYC on the upper west side in January. Wonder how the NYCB will fare? It is difficult under any conditions to generate and retain audiences.

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