The New York Post has made out that the city—or at least the Upper West Side of Manhattan—is on the verge of panic, as mothers and children flee for safety to President Donald Trump’s white “suburban dream,” while criminals run amok and homeless people and drug addicts fill local hotels.
“A mad rush for the exits as New York City goes down the tubes,” proclaimed an editorial in the Post, which also reported that moving companies are enjoying “the busiest summer ever.”
The New York Times was right behind, publishing an article about all the national chain stores and restaurants that were shut down by the pandemic: “Retail Chains Abandon Manhattan: ‘It’s Unsustainable.’” The prominent national chains that the Times reported were fleeing New York included Kate Spade, Subway, Le Pain Quotidien, Victoria’s Secret, the Gap. Giants such as Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney, and Neiman Marcus—an anchor of the city’s grandiose new development at Hudson Yards—have filed for bankruptcy, while restaurants such as Shake Shack, Chipotle, and Veggie Grill are struggling to keep their head above water. Michael Weinstein, the head of Ark Restaurants, proprietors of Manhattan’s Bryant Park Grill, told the Times that “he will never open another restaurant” in the city.
“There’s no reason to do business in New York,” Weinstein said. “I can do the same volume in Florida in the same square feet as I would have in New York, with my expenses being much less.”
In another Times piece, the reporter Dana Rubinstein made an almost despairing plea for leadership in the face of “waves of death and joblessness, hunger and economic depression—all at a scale rarely rivaled in New York City history.” Citing an array of leaders from New York’s 1975 fiscal crisis, “all of whom set the city on a course to solvency and growth,” Rubinstein warned:
“If wealthy New Yorkers cut bait and flee, or if corporate titans with global reach drastically diminish their footprints in the financial and cultural capital of the United States, New York City’s tax base could erode, potentially undermining the city’s ability to fund the schools, food pantries and public housing on which so many New Yorkers rely.”
Read: The high cost of panic-moving
Some feel that the situation is even more dire—that New York has reached a point of no return.
“Now it’s completely dead,” James Altucher, a comedy-club co-owner, wrote in an online jeremiad that the Post rushed to reprint. Hasn’t New York experienced worse things? “No, it hasn’t,” Altucher insisted. Hasn’t it always bounced back before? “Not this time.”
The reason, according to Altucher, is “bandwidth,” now available at more than 20 megabits a second, which means that “people have left New York and have moved completely into virtual worlds.” Thanks to faster bandwidth, “everyone has choices now … You can live in your hometown in the middle of wherever. And you can be just as productive, make the same salary, have higher quality of life with a cheaper cost.”