“I want to live in that city”

Posted: 9 October 2013 in Uncategorized
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Who would want to live in the city New York has become?

The New York City where good food is plentiful but increasing numbers of people simply can’t afford it:

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger estimates that these cuts would amount to $205 million in New York City alone, with a family of four, for instance, potentially receiving $36 less a month to spend on food. The cuts essentially scale back SNAP benefits to levels set before the recession. The 2009 Recovery Act provided the program with an increase, which expires next month.

The irony of course, is that in a place like the Bronx, evidence of recovery is not altogether obvious. Although 15,000 jobs were added in the borough between 2007 and 2012, according to a recent report by the state comptroller’s office, the average unemployment rate for the year so far stands at 12.7 percent; in 2009 it was 11.9 percent.

These hardships are easily observed at the city’s SNAP offices near Yankee Stadium, where lines are long (and where, in contrast to the Bloomberg administration’s health-above-all-things ethos, the building housing the offices also hosts an outpost of Checkers, purveyor of burgers, cheese steaks and a cheesecake-layered sundae). . .

As his days in office dwindle, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been reminding us of his unimpeachable faith in the value of attracting the very rich to the city. The more of them there are, he believes, the better off those in the lower rungs will be, a claim challenged by the fact that although more wealthy people moved to New York during his tenure, the poverty rate did not decline. It is doubtful that among the friends helping Carmen are any of the billionaires the mayor calls such a “godsend.”

Most people would rather live in the New York city David Byrne envisions:

One would expect that the 1% would have a vested interest in keeping the civic body healthy at least – that they’d want green parks, museums and symphony halls for themselves and their friends, if not everyone. Those, indeed, are institutions to which they habitually contribute. But it’s like funding your own clubhouse. It doesn’t exactly do much for the rest of us or for the general health of the city. At least, we might sigh, they do that, as they don’t pay taxes – that we know.

Many of the wealthy don’t even live here. In the neighborhood where I live (near the art galleries in Chelsea), I can see three large condos from my window that are pretty much empty all the time. What the fuck!? Apparently, rich folks buy the apartments, but might only stay in them a few weeks out of a year. So why should they have an incentive to maintain or improve the general health of the city? They’re never here.

This real estate situation – a topic New Yorkers love to complain about over dinner – doesn’t help the future health of the city. If young, emerging talent of all types can’t find a foothold in this city, then it will be a city closer to Hong Kong or Abu Dhabi than to the rich fertile place it has historically been. Those places might have museums, but they don’t have culture. Ugh. If New York goes there – more than it already has – I’m leaving.

But where will I go? Join the expat hipsters upstate in Hudson?

Can New York change its trajectory a little bit, become more inclusive and financially egalitarian? Is that possible? I think it is. It’s still the most stimulating and exciting place in the world to live and work, but it’s in danger of walking away from its greatest strengths. The physical improvements are happening – though much of the crumbling infrastructure still needs fixing. If the social and economic situation can be addressed, we’re halfway there. It really could be a model of how to make a large, economically sustainable and creatively energetic city. I want to live in that city.

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