New York Has Been More Silent Than Ever. Here Are 15 Reasons Why It’s Losing the Life That It Once Had.
Welcome back Aluxers. While cities and communities the world over have taken a hit from the pandemic, some have had it harder than others. Today we’re talking about a city that’s had it bad. Some are saying New York might never recover.
It’s the city people have long gone in search of opportunity, fame and fortune. The one Frank Sinatra was talking about when he said if he could make it there, he could make it anywhere. The city that can boast the skylines that we probably all think of when we close our eyes and picture the word ‘city’. That’s right Aluxers — word is, that New York is in serious trouble. And some are even saying it’s dead forever. Stick with us to the end, and find out why.
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With this provided, let’s dive straight into the article and find out the first reason why New York is losing its luster.
Cost of Living
No prizes for guessing that the pandemic takes center stage in this story. But even before COVID reared its ugly head, signs of the Big Apple’s fall from grace were already on the cards.
For five years, New York has been losing population. And the biggest culprit? The sky-high cost of living. Pre-pandemic, you’d have been looking at an average of $2500 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment. And $1900 just for a studio. That’s pretty far from most people’s definition of affordable — even on a New York salary.
On top of that, slap on the higher taxes than elsewhere in the USA, and it’s little wonder that plenty of New Yorkers were already moving on to pastures greener than the Big Apple.
This one does go hand-in-hand with rising costs of living. But we’re talking about something more specific here — the loss of character of neighborhoods that happens when prices shoot up. Businesses that have been a defining part of the community for decades, but rents, taxes and general cost of living going up, can no longer afford to stay in businesses. And it’s something that’s been going on for well over a decade.
Blogger Jeremiah Moss has been documenting New York’s hyper-gentrification on his blog, ‘Vanishing New York’, since 2008. In it, he paints a nostalgic, but sad picture, taking snapshots of much-loved local businesses that are being forced to close down. From florists and gas stations to bars and ethnic deli stores. As well as the human casualties of rising prices, he argues that New York has been losing the character that makes it New York.
The Stress, the Skyscrapers and the Claustrophobia
Having the nickname ‘the Big Apple’ makes it sound nice and laid-back and cheery. And yes, life in New York can be exhilarating and filled with adventure. But about as far from laid back as can be — and not always cheery. On top of all the living expenses, you’re surrounded by skyscrapers — the noise of the traffic — people always in a rush, and getting in your way, because you’re in a rush too. To sum up — stress. And headaches. Not to mention the harsh winters
YouTuber Casey Neistat left New York for good a year before the pandemic. In an interview on h3h3 Podcasts late in 2019, he said ‘New York is so harsh to anyone who lives in New York… There’s no living there. Only surviving.’ In his new home, LA he’s been enjoying the beaches, sun, surfing, hiking. And the fact that it runs rings round New York when it comes to bringing up kids. For him, and many others, once you leave the Big Apple, there’s no turning back.
The Pandemic Hits — and Takes Out NY’s Office Space
It’s time for the pandemic to come into the story. Whatever part of the world we call home, we all remember the moment the pandemic took hold where we are. In New York, that moment happened on March 20th. New York was the worst hit area in the USA, and emergency laws came into effect. Among the first casualties was the city’s office spaces.
Workers in New York’s Midtown went online, just like workers everywhere else. Lots of them left town to save on rent. And for New York, that meant the world’s most famous skyline was now an empty shell of unused office space. And before long, companies started to realize that online business was doing just fine. More about that later.
By August, still less than 10% of midtown office space was occupied. And only a quarter of companies plan on going back by the end of the year.
Smaller Businesses Start to Close Down
At the same time, non-essential businesses were shut down too. But regardless of whether they were still open, working online, or unable to do business at all, they had it tough. Especially with midtown New York empty. There were federal and local handouts – but they weren’t enough.
Coffee shops, hardware stores, dry cleaners started to disappear. And suddenly, the hustle and bustle was replaced by boarded up shop fronts. Between March and August, 2800 businesses closed down — more than any other American city. And the New York Times estimates that a third of them may never open again. And with them, have gone more than half a million jobs.
Restaurants Take the Worst Hit
As the food capital of the USA, what would New York’s be without its lively restaurant scene?
Well, this isn’t a hypothetical question anymore. Because nearly a third of the businesses that closed are restaurants. And with them, another big slice of New York’s personality.
You may remember, even Lady Gaga’s dad, who runs Joanne Trattoria, set up a GoFundMe campaign to keep it running. You may also remember that it didn’t get the warmest public response, and he stopped that campaign after a few days. Latest we’ve heard, Joanne Trattoria is still in business. Thousands of others aren’t.
Cultural Life Comes to a Standstill
With workers going remote, on furlough, or out of a job, and with the city under lockdown, the dominoes started to fall one by one.
With the bars, the clubs, the shopping districts were all empty — and with Broadway closed until at least spring 2021 — the ecosystem of artists and performers who’ve long been the heartbeat of New York, had to put activity on hold. And some of them started to leave. One of those who left was James Altucher, owner of a comedy club, and a former hedge fund manager. He got New Yorkers talking when he wrote a blogpost ‘New York is Dead Forever’. In it, he argues that New York may have sprung back from other disasters, like 9/11.
‘OK, buy NYC always comes back … Yes, it does. But this time is different. You’re never supposed to say that, but this time, it’s true.’
People Move to Other Cities
Before the pandemic, there was a trend for moving away from New York. And other big cities too— take a look at our video ‘15 Reasons Why People Are Leaving the Big Cities’. But for New York, the pandemic just stepped this up a few gears.
Some of them who went to Nashville, Austin, Miami or Denver, may have planned it as a temporary move. But with lower cost of living, and surroundings that make it easier to breathe, more and more of them aren’t looking back.
We mentioned Casey Neistat. He says that being in Los Angeles is like permanent vacation.
And James Altucher moved to Florida. Despite a lifelong love affair with New York, he admits, he’s kind of getting used to the sun.
People — and Companies — Get Used to Working Remotely…
A decade ago, this might have been different. Back then the thinking would have been — I’ve got a high-paying city job. And I can’t get all my meetings done by conference call — even if the company would allow it.
That was then. But now, it’s all possible. And a lot of companies are more than happy with it. They get the added bonus of not having to pay for Manhattan office space any longer. Barclays, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley even say it’s unlikely their employees will ever return.
Colleges Are Working Remote Too
New York has long been well-known for its universities and student population. And college has long been one of the reasons people move to NYC.
But a lot of those are working and studying remotely too. That includes Columbia University, which is doing all its fall classes this year online. One of their big concerns is the number of out-of-state students who would have to quarantine.
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Lack of Safety
Even before lockdown turned central New York into a ghost town people were feeling less and less safe in New York. The number of shootings was going up. And rising costs of living had also led to a spike in homelessness.
All of this got worse when the pandemic hit. And in the train wreck that is 2020, along came the civil unrest. As Altucher himself puts it ‘Nothing wrong with the protests, but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building.’
For a lot of people who’d stayed faithful to their beloved New York and stayed put, this was time to leave.
A Depressed Property Market
It’s not hard to figure this one out. People moving out means residential property lying empty. Businesses closing down means commercial property is boarded up. Workers who still have a job going remote — means office space that might never be filled up again.
Lease signings on office space are about half of what they were in 2019. And many owners are going for short-term contact that they would have turned down last year.
Even with prices down — some say 30 to 50% — that’s not enough to convince people or companies to move in. We could be looking at more and more landlords who can’t afford to pay their mortgages, going into foreclosure. It’s not just New York’s financial health that’s at risk – it’s also its status as the world’s corporate headquarters.
Other Cities Are on the Rise
While New York goes into paralysis, other trends are happening elsewhere. And one that could really spell ruin for New York talent moving to smaller cities.
That could be computer programmers or bankers who are now working remote, hundreds of miles away. Or it could be restauranteurs or small business owners who can’t survive in New York and set up shop somewhere smaller and quieter. That means the high quality of living we usually associate with New York is shifting to smaller cities too. But without the prohibitive costs.
Places on the rise, especially with millennials and Gen-Zers, include Tucson Arizona, Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbus Ohio, and Tulsa Oklahoma. Tulsa is even offering remote workers $10 000 to work remote from there.
For the cities that are looking at their best, check out a quick-list of “30 Most Beautiful Cities in the World.”
Tourism Is Down
OK, tourism is down everywhere. But in New York, it’s not just because travel is more difficult. Even once the crisis is over, and travel becomes easier — if New York doesn’t make a comeback, how many tourists are actually going to want to go there?
With Broadway closed, a fraction of the restaurants there used to be, and with its cultural heart stopped beating, it looks unlikely for at least a while.
Pre-pandemic, 8% of all employment in New York state was sustained by tourism. And it generated $8.2 billion in state and local taxes. Now, this is likely to take a nosedive too.
New York Could Fall Into Disrepair
Even before the pandemic, NY was facing a tax crisis, with a $9 billion deficit. Now, with property tax, company tax and income tax are in freefall. Office workers have relocated to other states, and don’t contribute to New York’s tax base. The problem just went into overdrive.
And it all means, there’s a risk that New York could be neglected for years to come. Without taxes to keep everything running efficiently, and with landlords who can’t afford to do renovations or repairs on their property, it’s just possible that we’re looking at a downward spiral in which NY goes into a sad and sorry state of disrepair.
How have cities in your country changed during the pandemic? And of course, if you’re from New York, live there, or know the city well, do you think New York is dead?