New York City is not dead, but it is on life support — and the only question is for how long.
Pandemics and civil unrest alone rarely kill great cities. But with a patient like New York, and an illness like COVID-19, preexisting conditions matter, which is why we should be concerned for Gotham’s health. Three long-term challenges stand out: the city’s tax base is worryingly fragile, its workforce is highly remote-able and its leadership is uniquely weak.
The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who fled the city this spring merely compounded the three prior years of shrinking population. When disaster struck, there was little margin in the city’s swollen budget; much of the emergency relief for the coronavirus was paid for by the federal government. And worryingly, crime never went away, and now shootings are up by 95% compared with last year.
But New Yorkers can fix these problems, and we’ve done so before. Instead, it is the second-order effects of the pandemic — out-migration, over-spending, growing crime and more — that could tip the scales in favor of New York City’s decline.
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