Gotham Under Pressure

Megan hears the footsteps:

The first model for an urban renaissance was, after all, New York.  But while New York's renaissance was certainly a product of a lot of factors, all of the institutional improvements were funded by the post-1982 financial services boom.  New York City is projecting its 2010 revenue will be down 30% from FY2008.  That's three years after the recession started.

Those tax revenues supported New York's extraordinarily odd income structure.  New York has extraordinarily generous poverty benefits, made possible because so many of its residents make so much money that they don't really miss the extra taxes.  A city with a more normal income distribution couldn't support that level of spending.  So if the financial industry really is permanently smaller and less lucrative, what happens to the 650,000 New Yorkers in public housing, the one in three New Yorkers on Medicaid, the 50,000 or so on TANF, and so forth?

Presumably they get fewer services, and get angrier, and commit more crimes, which don't get solved as rapidly by the smaller police force.  And the families with children start moving back out.  And presumably this problem is replicated in cities like San Francisco and Seattle which depend, indirectly, on revenue generated by the financial markets.

Heh, I wish. Then maybe I could afford to actually live in a city. OK, that's a pretty stupid way of looking at cities. The larger problem, at least here in NY, is the seeming insanity of being middle class and living here. I'm slowly coming to grips with the fact that we probably can't continue to live here--the boy's getting big, Kenyatta has dreams, and I'm writing. (Always a bad idea, if you wanna be rich)

I love Harlem, but I don't know whether it's worth crying over it's rise. And, despite Megan's prognosis, I'd be shocked if prices (over the long term) didn't keep going up. The world changes. We like yesterday better because it's the devil we know, and the one we've faced.