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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(2)

Escape from New York

Large numbers of New Yorkers fled their plague-ridden city to wait out the epidemic in less-horrible havens from southern Florida to Martha’s Vineyard. How many will stay away for good?

Five percent of New York City’s population has fled since the coronavirus pandemic gripped the city, new smartphone data reveals.

From March 1 to May 1, about 420,000 residents of the Big Apple – home to nearly 8.4 million people – particularly from the wealthiest neighborhoods, reported The New York Times.

While there was relatively little change in some zip codes, others such as SoHo, the West Village, Morningside Heights, the Upper East Side, the Financial District, Midtown, Gramercy and Brooklyn Heights emptied by at least 40 percent.

Meanwhile, Manhattan’s overall population has fallen by almost 20 percent as the lockdown enters its third month.

Of course, they spread the virus far and wide in the process:

People that live in vacation towns, such as the Hamptons in Long Island and the Catskills in upstate, complained that their grocery stores were being emptied by city people who were living in their summer homes.

Last month, officials said the price of rental homes in the Hamptons soared from $5,000 per month to more than $30,000 for a two-weeks period.

Small town populations practically doubled as Big Apple residents fled to their summer homes, but locals said city dwellers were bringing COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, with them.

By the way, how do so many companies have access to our phone location data?

For its report, The Times looked at data provided by New Mexico-based Descartes Labs, a geospatial imagery analytics company.

The company used anonymous smartphone geolocation data to track where New York City residents were in February, and whether they left the city or not after the pandemic.

Will there be a massive exodus of young professionals from the New York metro area when the dust settles? I would put the odds at 50-50. Perhaps workers with families will migrate permanent from Manhattan’s office towers to their comfy suburban home offices, while those with fewer attachments will just flee the region to sunnier climes.

A failure of optics

I have no issue with China celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC with a huge military parade. From what I can observe, the patriotic feelings generated by this event seem to be totally sincere. What I do have an issue with, is New York City joining in celebrating the founding of a Communist state by lighting up one of its iconic towers in the colors of the Chinese flag. Seriously, New York?

In the meantime, China’s flag was raised at Boston City Hall, much to the irritation of John Robb. (More details here.)

The Canadians and Australians are beginning to push back against official or quasi-official displays of the Chinese flag. In Toronto:

Dozens came out to support the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China at a flag raising at Toronto city hall, but it was a ceremony that the mayor opted to skip.

Don Peat, a spokesperson for John Tory, told Global News a number of issues between Canada and China were a great enough concern that Tory decided not to attend.

Peat did not elaborate on what Tory’s issues were specifically, but he said Tory “believes in democracy and the rule of law.”

In Melbourne:

Residents in Melbourne are outraged after a police station held a flag raising ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Communist rule in China.

A large crowd gathered at Box Hill station on Tuesday to remember how revolutionary leader Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Anger has been stirred at the celebration marking China’s annual National Day public holiday, in light of Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The station in Melbourne’s east is also in rookie Liberal MP Gladys Liu’s federal electorate of Chisholm, which has a higher-than-average Chinese population.

The Hong Kong-born backbencher’s ties to groups linked to the Chinese Communist Party have already sparked an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation investigation.

This sort of thing will be banned across the West before long.