The future of New York City

I honestly think the future of cities like New York City are extremely grim. Population of cities like NYC, Chicago, and Los Angeles were already declining the past three years, per NYT. The pandemic and increase in crime will just accelerate the exodus. I think the future of America will be remote workers in the suburban sprawl. The first response I hear to this view is that people said the same thing after 9/11. My response is that remote work was not available after 9/11 and months after 9/11 you did hear stories like this:

Cc @MaryJo


I was born in a village and grew up in a small town.

I worked for a while in a city, but a smallish city (Southampton, Hampshire), living outside the city in a small estate within 100 yards of the New Forest, but a 15 minute bus ride to the city centre. I was “lucky”, I was re-assigned within a week of moving there and spent the next 15 years on permanent assignment, travelling all over the UK. I’d spend 5-6 nights a week in hotels and walking to an office somewhere, often in a large city. I hated those cities, I couldn’t wait for the weekend, when I’d get back to my house and the forest.

I now live in a small town in Germany and work in another small town. It is the ideal life. We travel to the local city (165,000 citizens) a few times each year, but I avoid it, when I can. I hate the crush. I prefer to shop in our local town, when I can (35,000). We are a few hundred metres from the countryside and can see open fields, the river and the forest from our house.

This is about as urban or suburban as I want to get.

I think the world is in for a change. Hopefully a positive one. Working from home hasn’t been an option for us. I work for at a chemical company and they have been producing at normal rates throughout. The back office staff (sales, purchasing, bookkeeping etc.) have been working rotating shifts, with different people working at home each week, while the others are in the office.

Working in IT, we had to be onsite throughout the crisis - to ensure the infrastructure was available and to quickly solve problems. Most of the problems were hands on - replacing broken drives, manually restarting routers and firewalls etc.

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Tax rate not helping either


Good observations - thanks for sharing!

When we moved to our 1,5 million city, I realised I had never really lived in a city - only on the outskirts of other cities. What immediately comes to mind is more trash, more traffic, more noise, of course more jobs, but also more people down on their luck. Cities seem a bit like a collective form of eating disorder, but for life consumption.

The leading subject for the past years in town has been how the cost of living and rent have gone up and what local politics could do to bring it down. I am holding the particularly unpopular opinion (ok, in part, I do that to spice up discussions of very like-minded people) that rent is not too high, but not high enough.

This city would benefit from having 1 million or even 750 k inhabitants as much as the more provincial parts of the country would benefit from better infrastructure. Attracting more and more people into cities already leads to decreased quality of life and infrastructure strain with limited advantage over the alternative of fostering a stronger job market in the rural areas.

So, from my point of view: rents up, taxes up in cities, and stream a sizeable chunk of the income toward stimulating the job market and entrepreneurial drive of rural areas. Part of that hypothetical political platform is to get rid of the Oktoberfest and making an actual meadow of the Theresienwiese. That will ensure that I will never hold any kind of office in Munich. Oh well. Corona is on my side, there, at least for this year.

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New Yorker here:
Yes, our taxes are high, but we have services that most other American cities/regions don’t have. Guaranteed paid parental leave, universal pre-k, 24/7 public transportation, etc. Not having to own a car saves me thousands of dollars a year, not to mention a giant headache. COVID certainly has hit us hard, but I am of the opinion that we will eventually recover. As long as we continue to have some of the best restaurants, theaters, and museums in the world, we will attract people and have one of the best job markets in the world. Until there is a vaccine, all regions will continue to suffer, urban and suburban alike.

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Nope. Not in NYC, at least.
Annotation 2020-07-27 171929

Interesting to consider that most of the observations made in that NYT article could be applied to many small towns around the country where a primary employer closed up shop for one reason or another over the last 30 years or so.

I don’t think it’s prescient to prescribe “doom and gloom” based on what’s going on right now. Especially such a binary take where cities either prosper or fall into some sort of ghostland situation. The pendulum always swings.


In the end, people will follow the money. They’ll move to wherever they can prosper. It’s been this way for at least 200 years. Predicting where people will find success in the future is a job for the future.


I left NYC for the suburbs a decade ago and while I like it out here and my kids have a great place to grow up, I miss the buzz and hum of the city; the diversity of people, the food and drink, the movies, museums, live music, dance, theater. I live in a nice town and we have a lot of that stuff around us, but not in the quantity or quality that you get in a big city.

Yes, as we get older, we all generally become nostalgic for our “carefree” youth.

Yep. My nice little suburb will be hurt badly if lots of the companies around here abandon their office parks in favor of remote work.

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True, but for technology workers, that now means that they need to be where an internet connection is, not necessarily where their employers are.

On the other hand, telcos and video conferences can’t replace real face-to-face time, so company get-togethers every now and then are still going to be important.

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I honestly do not understand this argument about “amenities” in NYC. I live in a Chicago suburb and I am minutes away from some of the first class restaurants and nightclubs without having to enter the city of Chicago. There are also far more Quick Service restaurants and casual dining locations in the burbs in versus the city (along with the high end places).

Also the cost of living and taxes is far less in the suburbs. The schools are a lot better. it is a win, win. As far as public transit, I can care less. I like the Independence of having my own car. I have zero interest in cramming myself into a subway car every morning.

I feel like New Yorkers are way to dependent on the government for way too many aspects of their lives.

You have to have a car. I can have a car if I choose to. I don’t see how that is independence. I am not knocking cars, if you like it you like it. My point is that cost of living needs to take everything into account. I can walk to the grocery store, restaurants, theaters, barbershops, etc. To me, that is freedom.

Also the cost of living and taxes is far less in the suburbs. The schools are a lot better.

Regarding taxes, the reasons schools are better is because property taxes tend to be higher.

I feel like New Yorkers are way to dependent on the government for way too many aspects of their lives.

I don’t see how that is any different in the suburbs. You mentioned that schools are good - I assume that you are referring to public schools? Your roads and bridges that you heavily rely on because you drive are also maintained by the government.

Yeah, I read the article. Those are preliminary numbers. Let’s see what happens when the dust settles.

Those are not prelim numbers. NYC lost population the last three years. It is right there. I also do not have to deal with homeless people or overcrowding. Being dependent on public transit is not in any way “independence.” I never took one form of public transportation in my life, and I can get around very easily without relying on anyone.

NYC is only a good place to live if you rich or young. If you have a family, you want a backyard. You do not want to pay $400K to live in a small studio apartment.

You will see in a few years how much that city has declined and when they can’t afford to keep the trains running on time anymore, you are going to wish you had a car. COVID exposed the flaws of urban living.

I’ve found little benefit in arguing the relative merits of city vs. suburban vs. rural living with someone who has a strong preference one way or another.


I don’t know where you are getting your numbers from, but as a native New Yorker I can tell you that you can get A LOT more than a studio for that much if you are willing to venture outside of a trendy neighborhood.

Being dependent on public transit is not in any way “independence.” I never took one form of public transportation in my life, and I can get around very easily without relying on anyone.

I can get a car tomorrow and spend 100% of my time driving if I so choose. I can also exclusively rely on public transportation if I so choose. I have options. You don’t. You have to drive, I don’t. Again, I am not criticizing you or your choices. If you like it, awesome! What I don’t get is how having fewer options equates to independence.

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What if you need to go somewhere outside of the NYC Metro Area? I have the freedom to go into the city and out of it. That is freedom.