New York’s suicide

I have had a bad feeling about New York City for a while, but even I am a bit surprised at the scale and speed of Gotham’s collapse. Because that is what it is. Not a collapse in the zombie-apocalypse, I Am Legend sense, but a psychological and cultural collapse, and an ongoing, early-stage political, economic and social collapse. Do you doubt it? Have you noticed that Midtown is an absolute ghost town? Apparently everyone is waiting for a vaccine to resume some semblance of normal urban life, because the virus is still out there, on the prowl, and it wants nothing more than to make you drown in your own lung juice! It’s mean and spiteful like that. Meanwhile, on Friday there were 5 reported COVID-19 deaths in all of New York State, including 3 in New York City. Total COVID hospitalizations in this state of 20 million people are down to 523. The epidemic is over.

That might come as news to Governor Cuomo, who refuses to lift the insane restrictions that are keeping the city’s malls, museums and concert venues closed and restaurants limited to outdoor seating (impossible in Midtown). Now it is estimated that up to one-third of the city’s 230,000 small businesses will close forever. Cuomo is also setting up “quarantine checkpoints” for inbound travelers, a useless but invasive measure that symbolically disconnects the city from the rest of the country – perhaps as the prelude to a real cordon sanitaire such I warned about back in March.

New York City isn’t going to recover from this. The sad truth is that the city completely destroyed itself in a spasm of hubris, cowardice and folly and you don’t come back from that, not for a long time and not without painful introspection and remorse. There is no evidence that that is going to happen, so the death spiral continues. New Yorkers either actively support or passively acquiesce to the madness that has wrecked their city. Or they flee.

Entrepreneur and angel investor James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself, has taken his own book’s advice by heading for the exit:

In early March, many people (not me), left NYC when they felt it would provide safety from the virus and they no longer needed to go to work and all the restaurants were closed. People figured, “I’ll get out for a month or two and then come back.”

They are all still gone.

And then in June, during rioting and looting, a second wave of NYCers (this time including me) left. I have kids. Nothing was wrong with the protests but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building.

Many people left temporarily but there were also people leaving permanently. Friends of mine moved to Nashville, Miami, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas, etc.

Now a third wave of people is leaving. But they might be too late. Prices are down 30–50% on both rentals and sales no matter what real estate people tell you. And rentals are soaring in the second- and third-tier cities.

I’m temporarily, although maybe permanently, in South Florida now. I also got my place sight unseen. […]

Broadway is closed until at least the spring. The Lincoln Center is closed. All the museums are closed.

Forget about the tens of thousands of jobs lost in these cultural centers. Forget even about the millions of dollars of tourist-generated revenues lost by the closing of these centers.

There are thousands of performers, producers, artists, and the entire ecosystem of art, theater, production, curation, that surrounds these cultural centers.

Most New Yorkers blame this catastrophe on the “pandemic.” And will continue to do so. But it wasn’t the pandemic that did this; again, look at the recent numbers and ask yourself why everything is still closed. The truth is that New Yorkers didn’t care enough to keep their city alive, and so it died.


UPDATE: A couple of counterpoints to this grim perspective are in order.

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