So what are we going to do about it?
June 18, 2018 12:23 PM   Subscribe

The Death of a Once Great City: The Urban Crisis of Affluence. What are we going to do about a New York that is, right now, being plundered not only of its treasure but also of its heart, and soul, and purpose?

New York today—in the aggregate—is probably a wealthier, healthier, cleaner, safer, less corrupt, and better-run city than it has ever been. The same can be said for most of those other cities seen as recent urban success stories, from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, Atlanta to Portland, Oregon. But we don’t live in the aggregate. For all of New York’s shiny new skin and shiny new numbers, what’s most amazing is how little of its social dysfunction the city has managed to eliminate over the past four decades.

The average New Yorker now works harder than ever, for less and less.

More disturbing than any potential fiscal or physical collapse, though, is the moral collapse that New York has suffered. Today, life in New York too often seems like a sci-fi version of itself in which we barely notice as our fellow human beings are picked off by the monsters living among us.
posted by hydra77 (55 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I put on my They Live glasses and this article just read "Capitalism is the problem."
posted by entropone at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2018 [66 favorites]


I have a lot of swirling thoughts about this article (and this genre of article) and I don't even know where to begin but I will make one observation in response to this quote:

Chain stores, of a type once unknown in New York, now abound. On those same ten blocks of my neighborhood where so many stores have been emptied out, I count three pharmacies, six bank branches, seven nail-and-beauty salons, three Starbucks, two Dunkin’ Donuts and three 7-Elevens, five phone-and-cable stores, four eyewear shops.

The astronomical explosion of chain stores in New York really was something to see. I moved there in 1998 and there were chains of course (both local and national) but by the time I left in 2015, the average New Yorker could pretty much never shop at anything but a chain (and some of those "local" chains, like Duane Reade, were now owned by multinational corporations). The entry of 7-11 into New York was particularly egregious, to me. But, then, I knew native New Yorkers that were positively ecstatic about the chains. And those chains, back in the late '90s and early '00s, were viewed as a way to "revitalize" neighborhoods. Was this in good faith? I don't know. Sometimes, it was. Sometimes, it wasn't. But I don't know many people that are entirely pleased with the results.
posted by Automocar at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


Articles like this seem to be at least half "The world is different from when I was a kid!" His descriptions of NYC a few decades ago are sepia-toned fantasies. And much of the rest is "Not every problem has been solved!"

There are lots of things that sadden and frustrate me about the state of NYC, SF, LA and every other major American metropolis. But a grumpfest like this is unilluminating and tiresome, and offers nothing helpful for how we might ameliorate these cities' current problems.
posted by PhineasGage at 1:29 PM on June 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


In Washington, an army of cranes has transformed the city in recent years, smoothing out all that was real and organic into a town of mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in.

I've lived in DC for ~20 years, grew up in the suburbs and started hanging around it in the late '80s, and have been involved in local history circles here since the late 90s. A few observations:

1. There is still, in spite of gentrification, a lot of "organic" local, DIY culture here. Some of it is being pushed to the margins (e.g. into the bordering areas of Prince George's County, MD, which in many ways feel more like old "D.C." than Washington itself these days), but it is far from dead.

2. Other than a few passing encounters on Capitol Hill, I've seen very little evidence of obvious, settling-down MAGA-ism in town.

The changes in the city constantly foist a stew of conflicted feelings on me - I remember the civic dysfunction and brutal violence of the 80s and 90s, but also the art, culture, and higher quality of life that cheap rent made possible for those who could take advantage of it. I know enough about the past of the city to understand that the dilapidated quasi-stasis of that time was an anomaly, and that the norm is an unjust, heedless, constant overwriting of the past in which any kind of fairness, decency, or beauty is at best accidental, or fought tooth-and-nail for.

I think it's easy for those of us who were born in the postwar era to see what's happening now as the death of cities, vs. a return to the norm in the context of a connected world in which the very idea of small-scale, local culture may itself be obsolete. As the article points out, much of the current economics of prosperous US cities is likely unsustainable, short-sighted, and vulgar, but that's likely a return to historical standards as well.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:31 PM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think it's easy for those of us who were born in the postwar era

Umm. Which war?
posted by notreally at 1:37 PM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


What I like about New York is that the only constant is change. The city reinvents itself over and over again and that is how it remains dynamic. It avoids nostalgia. Nostalgia is sentimental and leads to stasis. People have been complaining about how much worse the city is now than it once was forever. At the Village Vanguard, near the bathroom, there is a framed article from the early 80s, complaining about how the village was not nearly as good as it used to be. I guess there is another constant: complaining about change.

I think "we added more housing and it didn't help!!!" is a terrible argument against adding more housing. We have a housing shortage. We need to add a lot of housing. Some of it is not going to be charming. Some of it is going to be ghastly and glassy and ruin the city just like Cooper Union did(?) (I kind of like that new Cooper Union building).

I don't like chains either. And I find profuse retail vacancy to be a waste. I think there should be a vacancy tax.

This article is tough to read though. It's so negative and hand-wring-y about a place that still has a lot of potential. We are not great at a lot of things lately. We can do better. I believe we will reinvent ourselves again.
posted by millipede at 1:41 PM on June 18, 2018 [17 favorites]


I would encourage you all to read the article again. The author points to a couple of constructive ideas about 2/3 of the way through:
When it comes to the retailers, others have dared to suggest reinstituting commercial rent control. David Dinkins even made that idea part of his winning mayoral platform back in 1989, though—as happens with so many winning Democratic Party campaign promises—once he was elected, Dinkins quickly made it clear that he had no intention of seriously pursuing any such popular measure.

Unbeknownst to most New Yorkers today—so thoroughly has even the rumor of it been stomped out—the city did have commercial rent control for eighteen years, from 1945 to 1963. This was the most widely prosperous time in New York’s history, and an era that many New Yorkers still remember as the city’s golden age. How much that was because of commercial rent control is probably unquantifiable, but obviously it didn’t hurt.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:47 PM on June 18, 2018 [26 favorites]


There are lots of things that sadden and frustrate me about the state of NYC, SF, LA and every other major American metropolis. But a grumpfest like this is unilluminating and tiresome, and offers nothing helpful for how we might ameliorate these cities' current problems.

I disagree that this can be written off as a grumpfest that offers nothing helpful. Yes, it's got a grumpy tone and a narrative structure but the author points to numerous important pieces of data that describe the state of the city, and policy decisions that drove the outcomes. I think reading this piece as a bitter "NYC isn't the way it was when I found it!" screed is really not doing justice to the fact that NYC is an increasingly unlivable, untenable place and drives inequality instead of offering opportunity. And that this has not happened by accident.

And about offering helpful things about how we might ameliorate the city's problems - I know it's a long read, but there's a whole section at the end headered with "So what are we going to do about it?" Ctrl-F if you want to engage in that without the lengthy problem statement. The author identifies transit and housing as two really key areas in which to invest in the city's residents, a few different ways to fund those investments, and both policy and cultural decisions that leaders can make to start to drive change.
posted by entropone at 1:48 PM on June 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


That's one constructive idea. I read it. It's still one constructive idea in a very negative article.
posted by millipede at 1:49 PM on June 18, 2018


Continuing to read after that will yield others.

And what you may be perceiving as "negativity" may be "frustration" on the part of New Yorkers about how the city has been shooting itself in the foot lately.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I read the whole article. I didn't feel the need to respond to it line-by-line. I disagree with a lot of it and have issue with the tone.

I've lived here since 2000 so I understand the frustration. I think having the city build a ton of low-rise projects (funding????) is probably not the answer.
posted by millipede at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


NYC is lucky in that it gets slightly more talented writers to write the "it was better in the olden days" column. In my newspaper, the local crank wrote (paraphrasing) "back in ye olden days we didn't have all these cheap apartments which are springing up nowadays" and then spends half the article talking about how the young school teachers all lived in boarding houses and I'm pretty sure he didn't do it ironically.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:59 PM on June 18, 2018 [15 favorites]


Some quality curmudgeonery:

New York University has torn down much of the historic West Village, including most of what was the landmark Provincetown Playhouse and a home that Edgar Allan Poe once lived in. NYU partially re-created the facade of the Poe house. Quoth the raven: Fuck you.
posted by lalochezia at 2:20 PM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


Move to Chicago. All of New York's problems and pretty much none of its charms.
posted by Chitownfats at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think having the city build a ton of low-rise projects (funding????) is probably not the answer.

...the article identifies exactly where it would like the funding to come from?

I still love this stupid city. I think even the article's micronarrative is exaggerated. Yes, retail blight is very much a problem on upper Broadway. But within short walking distance in that neighborhood he's talking about are: a Xi'an Famous Foods (local chain founded by immigrants), a decades-old slice joint, a butcher with associated burger place, a dry cleaner, a wine shop, a locksmith and knife sharpener, a bodega, two diners (one currently closed because of a horrible fire, hopefully returning), a well-liked dive bar, those derided hardware stores (v useful; alternative is Target), a bagel place, a furniture store that is part of a local chain, a respectable liquor store, another Fujian takeout place, another medium-sized (by city standards) grocery...

But these are real problems he's putting his finger on. The rise in the poverty rate is especially disheartening.
posted by praemunire at 2:49 PM on June 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


The article cites ending 421-a as the funding source and doesn’t get into the math. Building, administering, and maintaining a meaningful amount of new public housing would cost a ton. He doesn’t get into the math because the math doesn’t work.

I can’t support building low density housing of any cost, for any audience, in this city.
posted by millipede at 2:56 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Building, administering, and maintaining a meaningful amount of new public housing would cost a ton.

No kidding. The question is whether the alternative is worse. In today's market, ALL THE NEW CONSTRUCTION IS FOR RICH PEOPLE. The problem is not just an aesthetic objection to glassiness, it is that ALL THOSE UNITS ARE FOR RICH PEOPLE. A lot of housing stock has been added in the past decade or so. IT IS ALL FOR RICH PEOPLE.

can’t support building low density housing of any cost, for any audience, in this city.

I did not think I would ever again in my life see someone advocating for high-density housing projects in the city, but I guess...here we are.
posted by praemunire at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2018 [18 favorites]


It's still one constructive idea in a very negative article.

You know, it's actually OK to point out problems. Problems need to be pointed out. Sometimes you don't want to muddy your valid and accurate pointing-out of problems with half-baked ideas for solutions.
posted by kenko at 3:39 PM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


ALL THOSE UNITS ARE FOR RICH PEOPLE

Once you've lived long enough, you'll see that rich people move into new housing, upper middle class moves into the vacated rich peoples housing, middle class moves into former upper middle class housing ... all down the line. The working class moves into the former middle class dwellings. Finally, the poor move up a rung into the former working class and lower middle class housing. The old homes of the poor are demolished for more rich people's housing. And so it goes.

When you build public housing for the poor, such as the high rises I lived next to for many years in NYC, you disrupt this self-organizing dynamic, and create permanent halls of poverty.

In other words, if you want more housing for lower income people, build more housing for the rich.
posted by Modest House at 3:42 PM on June 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


posted by Modest House at 8:42 AM on June 19

I suppose that statement is against your own interest, so I should accept it. But isn't the new housing also lower density? I don't even expect that it's designed with an eye towards, e.g., eventually subdividing the ginormous apartments, or accomodating the additional entries, elevators, and utilities they would need. Ideally, there'd be a way of encouraging high-quality, high-density, new construction.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:23 PM on June 18, 2018


Once you've lived long enough, you'll see that rich people move into new housing, upper middle class moves into the vacated rich peoples housing, middle class moves into former upper middle class housing ... all down the line. The working class moves into the former middle class dwellings. Finally, the poor move up a rung into the former working class and lower middle class housing. The old homes of the poor are demolished for more rich people's housing. And so it goes.

....I'm 48, personally, and still haven't seen anything remotely like this happening.

How long is "long enough" to actually see this happen? Should I give it another 2 or 3 years?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2018 [20 favorites]


I did not think I would ever again in my life see someone advocating for high-density housing projects in the city, but I guess...here we are.

No, here we are not. I do not advocate for high density housing projects. I am trying to see how you could twist my words to come to that conclusion and it is a challenge. I advocate for high density housing. More of it. Tons of it. Not built by the city. I don’t advocate for housing projects at all. In fact, very few people who know anything about housing policy have for some time.

Nycha has a hard time maintaining their existing properties. The solution to housing in New York is not public housing of any density.
posted by millipede at 4:41 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Once you've lived long enough, you'll see that rich people move into new housing, upper middle class moves into the vacated rich peoples housing, middle class moves into former upper middle class housing ... all down the line. The working class moves into the former middle class dwellings. Finally, the poor move up a rung into the former working class and lower middle class housing. The old homes of the poor are demolished for more rich people's housing. And so it goes.

I've lived in NYC for 26 years and been a tenant attorney for 14 of those years, and this is not happening. My poor clients in the Bronx, one of the poorest places in the country, are paying $1500+ for shitholes.
posted by Mavri at 4:47 PM on June 18, 2018 [27 favorites]


The astronomical explosion of chain stores in New York really was something to see.

Do they still have Blimpie?
posted by lagomorphius at 4:59 PM on June 18, 2018


People keep saying, oh you just need to build more housing, low supply means high rent, rent control/stabilization depresses supply, so you just need to build lots of new market rate housing. New housing in NYC has not been subject to rent regulation in decades. The prices keep going up. Developers have been putting up new towers everywhere for years. Prices keep going up. There is plenty of housing in NYC, you just have to be rich to get it. I often wonder how long this can possibly go on before there is a market correction. The answer so far is "forever." You cannot see the end of rich people in this city. Will we reach a point where DHS is housing 50% of the city? Or will companies establish dorms, and McDonald's will ship in immigrant workers into a form of indentured servitude or company town?

I thought this article was great. Yes, there are still pockets of diversity of people and businesses, but they are harder to find with each passing year. Change is good, but not all change is good. Turning NYC into a vast outdoor mall for rich people is not good change.
posted by Mavri at 5:03 PM on June 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Turning NYC into a vast outdoor mall for rich people is not good change.

Totally agree with you. Building public housing projects is a really bad solution to this.

Or will companies establish dorms

Actually this is a thing that used to happen. Not "dorms," but developments. Look up Electchester, Queens (which was actually built by a union rather than a company, but conceptually similar).
posted by millipede at 5:11 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Once you've lived here long enough, you'll see that the poor people move to other cities, middle income people move into the poor people homes...all down the line.

The east village is one of the most expensive districts in Manhattan and most of the tenement buildings here are very old, six floor walkups. They were built for poor workers and now are for the rich.
posted by bhnyc at 5:18 PM on June 18, 2018 [15 favorites]


I'm not really sure Atlanta fits that narrative in the same way others do.
posted by bongo_x at 5:27 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Remember when Dave Letterman would send Larry "Bud" Melman out to do a remote in Times Square, and they were never really sure if he'd make it back alive?

One thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that rich people are boring and that the places that cater to them are fucking boring.
posted by klanawa at 5:28 PM on June 18, 2018 [11 favorites]


rich people move into new housing, upper middle class moves into the vacated rich peoples housing, middle class moves into former upper middle class housing ... all down the line.

As mentioned in the article, a great many of these new units are purchased purely as investments. No one's moving into them, so aggregate demand remains the same, or even increases when these glorified financial instruments supplant buildings where people were actually living.

you'll see that the poor people move to other cities, middle income people move into the poor people homes...all down the line.

Exactly.
posted by Iridic at 5:31 PM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


The east village is one of the most expensive districts in Manhattan and most of the tenement buildings here are very old, six floor walkups

This is true. The east village is also zoned with height restrictions, which limit the supply of apartments. Imagine if a significant portion of those six-floor walkups were instead 36-floor apartment buildings. There's actually not an endless supply of rich people who want to live in the east village. There's just more than can currently do so.
posted by millipede at 5:33 PM on June 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think it's easy for those of us who were born in the postwar era

Umm. Which war?


The last declared war in which the United States fought.
posted by the sobsister at 5:35 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think of this article, and apply its ponderings to a city I know better, Portland Oregon, and I see Portland in this article too. I've been here a while, and have seen the city go through a huge boom in housing and business. We're not yet completely taken over by the 1%, but costs are certainly going up. Is that just how life is, or can something be done differently? (I truly don't know.)

I mean, back in the early days of NYC, there was housing that was cheaper, but it was tenements that were decried for being horrid places to live. New housing was probably built on tenement land as they were torn down. It was most likely more expensive than the cost of living in a tenement. Yet it is generally painted as a good thing that tenements were torn down. So where is that intersection of livability and affordability?

I think of the uproar in Portland surrounding evictions at an apartment building that had been recently purchased. The building had been neglected for years, and rent was cheap. Residents were furious that the new landlord wanted to clean up and repair the building (and then raise rent). But I feel like in the same vein, residents could have easily gotten into an uproar about the horrid state of their apartments. I really don't think there's an easy answer.

Is it just human nature to complain that prices keep going up?
posted by hydra77 at 5:40 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is it just human nature to complain that prices keep going up?

Nah, its just living under an economic system that demands constant growth at all times.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:51 PM on June 18, 2018 [15 favorites]



"In Washington, an army of cranes has transformed the city in recent years, smoothing out all that was real and organic into a town of mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in."

Nonsense.

Since the turn of the century, Washington has changed dramatically for the better, and not only for the very rich. Areas that had suffered decades of decay have been revitalized. Every year, it's become younger and more diverse. There's a thriving cultural community, and DC's restaurants---at all price points---are the best they've ever been. And don't forget the Caps.

Sure, rents are too high. Has there ever been a time when anyone wrote an article saying rents are too low?

I bailed on the article part way through, because the author's non-stop whining about the good old days got tired fast.

The line I cited above, though, with the silly "...mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in" statement made me angry.

For the record, Trump won 4.1% of the vote in Washington, compared to Sec. Clinton's 90.5%. Don't blame us for the Trump crowd. They don't fit here, and the vast majority of us can't wait until they're in jail, or back in Oklahoma, or anywhere other than Washington.
posted by bcarter3 at 5:59 PM on June 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


So what are we going to do about it?

Nothing, obviously. Which is why the developers get to make the hard decisions and reap the profits, and why the housing market has been turned into a gambling casino for people with way too much money.

The solution is homes for the homeless. Pretty sure they don't much give a damn how fancy it is. Public housing, like space programs and border fences and freeways, is a way to push taxpayer dollars into the -right- pockets.

Low-density, under community control, outside the city, with sensible mass-transit options. And local businesses for jobs. Paid for the owners, without blood-sucking mortgages.

The big city experiment has been a conclusive failure. You richies enjoy it while you can, while all the people who can't afford to work for you any more leave you to do your own teaching, street repairs, gas-pumping and laundry.

You'll realize, too late, that we're all in this together. So enjoy your condos as long as you can, until you need someone to fix your careless neglect.
posted by Twang at 7:06 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


All over the world, people are converging - the percentage of human population living in cities is higher than it has ever been, and continuing to rise. Cities are the most environmentally efficient organization of humans ("Everywhere Should be More Like New York"). But unlike the years of sprawl development in the U.S. (and elsewhere), when developers could build on 'greenfields' without much opposition, infill development to house this influx of people is much harder because of land costs and neighborhood opposition to increasing density. Big cities are not "a conclusive failure," they are the only hope for humanity's future, with a lot of work still to be done to make them increasingly livable.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:13 PM on June 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


There's actually not an endless supply of rich people who want to live in the east village.

Developers are not interested in developments in NYC that don't have the return of expensive condos or "luxury" rentals. This is fairly obvious; they aren't doing them, haven't been doing them for years. Anything with a lesser ROI, the capital gets allocated elsewhere.

But, if they were...where is the East Village going to get the infrastructure to support the populations living in 36-story buildings?
posted by praemunire at 8:16 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don’t advocate for housing projects at all. In fact, very few people who know anything about housing policy have for some time.

Because the left got hijacked by neoliberalism on this topic long ago? Our most prosperous era was also an era of extensive public housing projects. When whites were then forced to start sharing them with blacks, funding was slashed and the results were predictably terrible, exposing some implementation flaws but not debunking the entire concept.

Nycha has a hard time maintaining their existing properties. The solution to housing in New York is not public housing of any density.

The market isn't doing the job. It is no solution at all (just ask Boston, which somehow failed to become a renter's paradise when rent control was repealed ~20 years ago). Maybe it's hard to appreciate if one's personal circumstances insulate one from the housing market, but the numbers are out there and they are grim. You're at "let them eat cake" levels here.
posted by praemunire at 8:24 PM on June 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


you'll see that the poor people move to other cities, middle income people move into the poor people homes...all down the line.

it wasn't poor folks moving from new york into my city, but a substantial amount of them, unfortunately willing to pay twice the usual rent. and so, rents have more than doubled because new yorkers weren't willing to negotiate lower rents. now, many of the poor folk have been moved out of the working class housing, and new yorkers are living in that housing stock.
posted by eustatic at 4:24 AM on June 19, 2018


Once you've lived long enough, you'll see that rich people move into new housing, upper middle class moves into the vacated rich peoples housing, middle class moves into former upper middle class housing ... all down the line. The working class moves into the former middle class dwellings. Finally, the poor move up a rung into the former working class and lower middle class housing. The old homes of the poor are demolished for more rich people's housing. And so it goes.

This only ever happens in cities where the middle class and lower economic class are progressively earning more over generations, and their incomes can keep ahead of the cost of living. That's not happening in NYC. It never happened for everyone who lived here, and for those it did, it hasn't since I was a child. I'm in my 40's.

I've lived in Queens or Brooklyn for almost my entire life. I've been raising a family here. My wife and I both work very hard and earn a decent living.

We have been utterly priced out of the housing market here. Our salaries are not going to allow us to buy a house in a decent area, but we can't save for one (or afford a million dollar mortgage) so it's moot anyway.

I speak with my friends. Their parents spent less than a tenth of what they did on houses in the area back in the 60's, 70's and 80's. Taxes were far lower, proportionally. Cost of everything is high. Gasoline, food, etc. We all struggle.

So we're moving elsewhere. Where renting a much newer, substantially larger house in the quasi-suburbs will be between one to two thousand dollars less per month than here. Within walking distance of a highly rated school.

I'll miss living here. I'm a New Yorker. The opportunities are endless. The diversity wonderful. But hopefully I'll be able to save for my kids' college tuitions and live with less stress.
posted by zarq at 5:05 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


I didn't know (but should have, I guess) that the poverty rate in today's "crisis of affluence" New York is so much higher than in the "Bronx is burning" days.

It's funny that all of the criticisms of this article boil down to "it's too negative!" That's not much of a critique. This is nonfiction, folks, it's supposed to convey facts about the actually-existing world, not Pollyannaish reassurance. And maybe you haven't noticed, but in that actually-existing world it ain't all peaches and cream lately.
posted by enn at 6:16 AM on June 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


where is the East Village going to get the infrastructure to support the populations living in 36-story buildings?

Same place the upper east side and midtown get it? Which infrastructure are you talking about specifically?

Because the left got hijacked by neoliberalism on this topic long ago?

Or because public housing projects, at least as they operate in New York, are maintained poorly at high costs and are generally not places people want to live if given the option. Section 8 is a far better program.

The market isn't doing the job. It is no solution at all (just ask Boston, which somehow failed to become a renter's paradise when rent control was repealed ~20 years ago). Maybe it's hard to appreciate if one's personal circumstances insulate one from the housing market, but the numbers are out there and they are grim. You're at "let them eat cake" levels here.

The market right now suffers from housing kept at artificial scarcity by NIMBY downzoning, of which the east village is simply one example. I’m amused that you decided I’m 100% against rent control when I didn’t say a word about it. Honestly I believe in a medley of solutions to the housing crisis in New York, with radical increase of supply at the forefront and “let’s build new projects” not included because I have a masters degree in city planning and I know 20th century urban history.

You know nothing about my personal circumstances and the “let them eat cake” thing (really??? How does having reasonable, practical doubts about whether nycha can or should take on the work and expense of managing a meaningful level of new buildings when they’ve done a terrible job at keeping their existing properties habitable equate to “let them eat cake”??) is extremely rude and the kind of comment I’d expect from an ignoramus who supports ignoring all lessons from history and building new public housing in the 21st century.
posted by millipede at 6:23 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Same place the upper east side and midtown get it? Which infrastructure are you talking about specifically?

Whenever neighborhoods are upzoned, residents worry about the trains. This is not a unreasonable worry, especially since the East Village isn't exactly a transit hotspot currently.
posted by Automocar at 7:00 AM on June 19, 2018


[Friendly reminder this needs to not get personally heated about any one person in the thread. I know a lot of people have strong feelings and high personal stakes in this topic, but for discussions on this site to work, people can have different views on a complicated topic.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:12 AM on June 19, 2018


Whenever neighborhoods are upzoned, residents worry about the trains.

Yes. Capacity can still be added on the F line, which stops at the southern edge of the neighborhood. There are also a ton of bus routes which have declining ridership--which means there is capacity. I'm sure someone is going to pipe up that bus routes are useless because of traffic, and I'll counter with "congestion pricing to fund transit."
posted by millipede at 7:12 AM on June 19, 2018


I speak with my friends. Their parents spent less than a tenth of what they did on houses in the area back in the 60's, 70's and 80's.

These discussions are also clouded by history, and everyone thinks that costs are an endless march upwards, but that's not exactly true. My parents home in 1982 (not in NYC) was worth more then than than it is now. Fast food costs less, most processed food costs less, soda costs less, vegetables cost more.
The clouds of history also downplay the bad times - look at the number of people who seriously lament that kids have to wear seatbelts in cars and the slightly smaller (but still exists!) subset who remember drinking booze while driving. Sure it was great as long as you weren't personally impacted by the huge number of horrible deaths!

On NYC in particular, housing cost less because NYC lost mass amounts of population over those decades. It lost 100,000 people between 1960 and 1970 and 800,000 people between 1970 & 1980 so of course housing was cheap. Approximately 1 in 20 houses was empty. Counter that with today, when 400,000 people moved to NYC between 2010-2018, pushing its population to its highest ever. I guess if you want that same feeling of cheap houses then you have to move to Cleveland.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also: height does not equal density. Often high-rise luxury buildings are less dense than what they replaced. 432 Park Ave (the "pencil building") has only 125 units. It's hard to compare that directly to its predecessor (the Drake Hotel, with 400+ rooms), but let's look at the derided "low-density" NYCHA housing that keeps getting bashed in this thread. The 14-story building NYCHA is putting up around the corner from me (compare to the pencil building's 85) will have 163 units. And I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that a lot fewer of those units will sit empty most of the year because their residents are cruising the tax havens of the world on their superyachts.

In Chicago, where I used to live, almost all new development—even when it gets a lot of pushback for being too tall—is actually much less dense than lower-rise older housing, because of parking requirements and because newer development is sold to rich people who want more space per person. If you support density and infill development (as I do), you should not be uncritical toward tall luxury buildings.
posted by enn at 8:37 AM on June 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


you should not be uncritical toward tall luxury buildings

And I'm not. Where did I say that I think ultra-tall, pencil-thin condos should be what's built? You're taking something very general that I said ("taller") and applying it to something extremely specific and at the far end of the spectrum of possible developments. I'm simply saying that there is currently a height restriction in the east village. New buildings can only be so tall. If they could be taller, and have the same number of apartments per floor as they currently do, there would be more apartments. It's that simple. I was also speaking specifically of rental housing, which rarely sits empty because residents are cruising tax havens on their yachts--and, also, even though it's something people cite all the time, it's is not nearly as large of a problem as this thread would have you believe. It's outrage filter. What percentage of apartments in NYC do you think actually sit empty most of the time?

but let's look at the derided "low-density" NYCHA housing that keeps getting bashed in this thread. The 14-story building NYCHA is putting up

14-story is not low-density, particularly for Astoria. That's not the level of density of the projects mentioned in the article.
posted by millipede at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


What percentage of apartments in NYC do you think actually sit empty most of the time?

Well, according to the Times in 2011, in Manhattan it was around 4% and rising. That's pretty significant. The Manhattan vacancy rate is under 2% right now.
posted by enn at 5:03 AM on June 20, 2018


2011 was kind of a long time ago. I'd wager the issue has become more complicated with AirBnB.

Anyway, I support some version of a pied-a-terre tax.
posted by millipede at 7:07 AM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Since the turn of the century, Washington has changed dramatically for the better, and not only for the very rich. Areas that had suffered decades of decay have been revitalized. Every year, it's become younger and more diverse.

Um, no. Younger, sure, but more diverse? 1970, 71% of DC was black. Today it's 49%. We also have the highest income inequity in the country, and one of the highest poverty rates (which grew specifically among blacks). And that growth is specifically tied to an influx of young rich white people.
posted by veery at 11:34 AM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


These discussions are also clouded by history, and everyone thinks that costs are an endless march upwards, but that's not exactly true. My parents home in 1982 (not in NYC) was worth more then than than it is now.
i'm not sure an anecdote about your parents' home dispels the clouds of history... the statistic i read was that on average to owm a home today requires 11x the labour hours it did in the '70s (can't find source now but i'll see if i can find it later)
posted by LeviQayin at 8:49 AM on June 24, 2018


the statistic i read was that on average to owm a home today requires 11x the labour hours it did in the '70s

That would be interesting to see, but also would need context. So many things are SO much relatively cheaper now. As someone shooting past middle age I'm stunned at how cheap things are sometimes. Not that that is going to last.
posted by bongo_x at 5:29 PM on June 25, 2018


Somebody needs to let the web developers at Harpers know about CSS media queries.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2018


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