Friday, February 13, 2009

How the Crash Will Reshape America ... and NYC

Putting on his nerd cap, Mr NYC directs you to an interesting article in this month's Atlantic magazine.

Called How the Crash Will Reshape America by Richard Florida, it explains and also literally maps our nation's economic crises. This recession-almost depression is hitting some areas harder than others, and it will literally reshape various cities and regions in this country that will affect generations to come.

This article reminds us that the economic crises is very uneven (and very unfair) in its distribution and impact. If all politics is local, so are all economies. There really isn't "an economy", or a single "American" economy, there are thousands of them -- a patchwork quilt of American economics that make a highly complex, volatile, and hard-to-understand whole. In this regard, it may be that trying to "fix" the American economy, as President Obama and the Congress are trying to do, is impossible. But doing nothing is unacceptable when people's lives are being destroyed.

So how does this affect NYC? Will our city be re-shaped by the crises? Florida's article posits an interesting theory. To sum it up, he writes:

"Lean times undoubtedly lie ahead for New York. But perhaps not as lean as you’d think—and certainly not as lean as those that many lesser financial outposts are likely to experience ... New York is much, much more than a financial center. It has been the nation’s largest city for roughly two centuries, and today sits in America’s largest metropolitan area, as the hub of the country’s largest mega-region. It is home to a diverse and innovative economy built around a broad range of creative industries, from media to design to arts and entertainment ... In this sense, the financial crisis may ultimately help New York by reenergizing its creative economy. The extraordinary income gains of investment bankers, traders, and hedge-fund managers over the past two decades skewed the city’s economy in some unhealthy ways ... The great urbanist Jane Jacobs was among the first to identify cities’ diverse economic and social structures as the true engines of growth. [Jacobs said] 'When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave.' With the hegemony of the investment bankers over, New York now stands a better chance of avoiding that sterile fate."

I agree with Florida that the city's economy needs to diversify more and that our city is well-positioned to do so. Let's hope that's the silver lining in this crises, and that New York will be better for it in the end. And once more, Jane Jacobs will be proved right by history.

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