Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News
The same forces that have lifted New York have a powerful undertow
As Mayor Michael Bloomberg nears the end of his third term, which began in 2009, New York City’s future looks far brighter than anyone anticipated during the 2008 economic meltdown.
The city added 75,000 jobs this past year, and the tri-state region 360,000 new jobs since the recession. It remains the world’s largest media and entertainment hub, and is now home to high-tech startups that attract more than $ 2 billion a year in venture capital. Real estate is on fire, as local demand remains high and the global super-rich add luxury Manhattan condos to their portfolios.
New York easily surpasses London, Tokyo and Hong Kong as the world’s most powerful economic and financial center, according to a study I undertook last year.
But the same forces that, guided by Bloomberg, have lifted New York to this high-water mark have a powerful undertow — and whoever becomes the next mayor will need to not only build on this success, but take steps to protect those who have been hurt by it.
As builders and developers celebrate the city’s surging real-estate values — and high prices are vastly preferable to blight and abandonment — New York has become increasingly unaffordable for vast segments of its population.
Yes, there is a lot of room for expansion across the Hudson and East Rivers, in Jersey City, outer Brooklyn and much of Queens, but prices are skyrocketing there too.
It’s tempting to point a finger at gentrification and the block-busting real estate interests that enable it, but gentrification is more symptom than cause.
New York’s stunning resurgence and its gaping divides — what mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has called a “tale of two cities” — both result from the same extraordinarily powerful economic force: the incredible returns that accrue to talent and knowledge clustered in a diverse city.
That’s why high-paying, knowledge-intensive industries like finance, law, media, advertising, publishing, entertainment and even tech are growing at a phenomenal clip.
Yet even as New York’s knowledge economy booms, it has a steep cost of entry. The many dropouts and even a good number of the graduates of its public schools are closed out of it; many of the people who formerly had high-paying, secure, union-protected work in manufacturing are left out, too.
Though immigrants continue to flow into the city, they’re having a harder and harder time getting a foothold.
Increasingly, New York’s workforce is cleaved into high-wage professional jobs and a much larger number of low-wage service jobs.