New York Had Been Dying—Now It’s Coming Alive

Food for Thought

There are now lots of debates about whether New York is dead or not. Most of the arguments are true enough on both sides, yet they seem to be disagreeing. That’s because people love the city for different reasons.

From my perspective, New York City has been dying for decades, and now it’s coming alive again. I came here in the 80s, inspired by Sergio Leone’s film, Once Upon a Time in America. All the scenes of the ghetto and the steam coming out from the streets made me want to come here. In high school, I opened a copy of Art in America, which had a directory of art schools, found the section for New York, closed my eyes, and randomly pointed my finger. The fact that it landed on the School of Visual Arts was a miracle because I had no idea if any of the schools were any good (you’d be surprised to know that there are many art schools in NYC). It was the city that mattered to me.

Now I see many corporations and people who were killing the city, leaving the city. Naturally, I’m happy. And, those leaving are quite unhappy.

Why do I welcome crimes, drugs, and homelessness? Because everything in life has two sides, and we cannot cherrypick just the side we want. Wealth is creatively stifling. Just think of all the creative people we know; who became more creative as a result of becoming rich? The vast majority of their best work was produced while they were still struggling.

When the city is filled with hedge-funder-funded restaurants, it becomes impossible for creative people to experiment as the cost of living shoots up. Now the only options are food carts and “pop-up” restaurants.

Many creative people, like Patti Smith, had been leaving the city for years. Some have moved to, for instance, Detroit.

However, unfortunately, I predict that these people who ruined the city will be coming back in a few years. This is what happened to every creative neighborhood here, like SoHo and Williamsburg. Creativity attracts uncreative people and drives up the cost of living. Eventually, creative people have to move elsewhere to start over. It’s the FOMO of the uncreative people that would kill the city again.