New York City, "Luxury Product" Or "Net Loser"?
February 13th, 2007

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Joel Kotkin (author of “The City: A Global History”) begins an essay by quoting Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling New York City a high-end product, maybe even a luxury product — and then spends the rest of his article arguing why he thinks that New York cannot remain a superstar city without a shift in attention away from the affluent and towards the needs of the middle class.

Economic and demographic trends suggest that the future of American urbanism lies not in the elite cities but in younger, more affordable and less self-regarding places, Kotkin writes. He cites Gotham Gazette demographics columnist Andrew Beveridge as expressing skepticism over Bloombergs projection of a gain in New York Citys population of a million people over the next 25 years, and claims that the city might actually face a decline in population unless it pays attention to basic issues that affect the middle class — high housing costs, taxes, regulation, schools and lack of support for diverse small businesses, particularly in the outer boroughs.

Kotkin says that true progressives like Harry Truman or Fiorella La Guardia understood that great cities become so, in large part, due to the strivings of the upwardly mobile middle class and families, not the elites of any stripe.

By on February 13, 2007, 9:16 am
In category: Community Development,Demographics,Gotham City,Public Finance | 3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “New York City, "Luxury Product" Or "Net Loser"?”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    February 14th, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Mr. Suburb doesn’t get it.

    In 1945 the whole country was full of viable urban neighborhoods where you could walk to things, and take transit to work. Supply exceeded demand. And, because the suburbs and Sunbelt weren’t built yet, there were few places where a middle-income family could own a detached house and drive on wide boulevards and highways to stores and workplaces with plenty of free parking. Demand exceeded supply. This set off a 40 year self-perpetuating trend, and at the end of it, Kotkin said people should listen to the market and realize transit and cities should be abandoned.

    Now, however, the whole country is full of places where you have to drive everywhere, and houses are available. Supply exceeds demand to such an extent that older suburbs with smaller houses face the same kind of protracted decline cities did in the 1970s.

    Meanwhile, much of urban America is no longer economically viable, having been transformed into dumping grounds for the poor and troubled that suburbanites left behind. Demand exceeds supply, and as a result the price of viable urban places — New York, San Francisco, Boston, parts of Chicago — has soared to the point where, yes, only the rich can afford them.

    Listening to the market, the very market Kotkin said should be listened to when cities were declining, the real estate industry (with its characterisitic confidence and hype) has decided to simply re-create urban America — in half-dead older cities, within newer Sunbelt cities, even in the middle of surburbs. It is the real estate industry that is pushing new transit lines and transit-oriented development, not ideologues opposed to Kotkin. In Downtown San Diego, they have built so much that what they thought would be an enclave of the elite will, after a condo crash, be a really nice, walkable, mixed income neighborhood.

    The only way New York will once again be affordable is if Philadelphia, Baltimore, and even Buffalo — not to mention a “Nassau Hub” in the suburbs — are seen as viable alternatives. The demand for what Kotkin disagrees with exceeds the supply, so the solution is to increase the supply.

    And my fellow planners should remember, urban and small town America was built by the market; suburban America was the product, in part, of government zoning, housing subsidy and infrastructure investment policies. Without those policies, the future might have arrived sooner.

  2. OpenHouse New York : THE HUNT : New York Meets Its New Gilded Age And Worries Says:
    July 19th, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    […] We are living a new Gilded Age, a time of wealth concentrated in ever fewer hands, when $2.4 million buys a fixer-upper in TriBeCa and when two professional incomes per household are not enough to make the middle class feel financially secure. Increasingly, people are concerned about the impact of wealth on New York, as New York Times blogger Sewell Chan notes. Pugilistic unions and Garment Center denizens want to step on the brakes. It has been four years since Mayor Michael Bloomberg called this city a “luxury product” for the affluent, but that’s only because he’s become too politically savvy to keep saying such things. His administration is all about huge development. As City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden told a business crowd in February, “We’re a big city, and we need big projects.” […]

  3. August Bolz Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Hi guys, I am also diagnosed with a form of OCD :s I just have to have my volume on a round number with increments of 5! How silly is that, it is the only thing that I am obseissive about though. If you want you can check out my facebook page about it:

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