Robert Fitch argues that, within a generation, New York City has been transformed from the richest city in the world to one of the poorest in North America. The pillars of its economy—Macy’s, the Daily News, Citibank, Olympia and York, the Trump organization—have cracked or collapsed. Today, the officially poor in New York number nearly 2,000,000 and more than 400,000 residents of the city are without jobs.
In this indictment of those who have wrecked New York, Robert Fitch points to the financial and real-estate elites. Their goals, he argues, have been simple and monolithic: to increase the value of the land they own by extruding low-rent workers and factories, replacing them with high-rent professionals and office buildings. The planning establishment has been able of raise the value of real estate inside the city boundaries over twenty-fold. In doing so, Fitch suggests, it effectively closed New York’s deep-water port, eliminated its freight rail system, shuttered its factories and destroyed its capacity for incubating new business.
Now the real-estate values have collapsed. The city is left with 65,000,000 square feet of office space—enough to last, without any new building, to the middle of the twenty-first century. In pursuit of those who are responsible, Fitch arraigns the great and the bad of the city’s establishment: Roger Starr, architect of “planned shrinkage” (the withdrawal of fire, police and mass transit services from black and Latino neighborhoods); the Ford Foundation, which proposed converting vast tracts of the South Bronx into a vegetable garden; City Hall fixers like John Zucotti, Herb Sturz and James Felt, who cut the deals between government and real estate by working for both sides; and the Rockefeller family, whose involuntary investment in the Rockefeller Center became a gigantic “tar baby,” nearly swallowing up their entire fortune.
Drawing on never-before-published material from the Rockefeller family archives, as well as other archival documents, this book aims to expose those responsible for the demise of New York.
—We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live by Joan Didion
We would watch the sky lighten and have a last drink with no ice and then go home in the early morning light, when the streets were clean and wet (had it rained in the night? we never knew) and the few cruising taxis still had their headlights on and the only color was the red and green of the traffic signals ... I liked the bleak branches above Washington Square at dawn, and the monochromatic flatness of Second Avenue, the fire escapes and the grilled storefronts peculiar and empty in their perspective.
The clip was meant to be funny and it is. It appears on one of the numerous blogs that mock hipsters. Two guys are going to a barbecue. On the way in, they encounter men whose beards are longer than theirs and whose shirts are a slightly different color from theirs, although otherwise all seems the same. They turn to each other and shout “wow, a party for hipsters, let’s get out of here!”, while the guests who were already there are heard whispering “who the hell are these hipsters?”.