Suburbanization of Manhattan

“We’re not catering to the poor anymore,” he said. “There are four other boroughs they can live in.”

- supposedly quoted by Ed Koch, ex-Mayor of New York City.

I've frequently discussed the Manhattanization of San Francisco. I just read an interesting book review on the book The Suburbanization of New York: Is the World’s Greatest City Becoming Just Another Town? The euphemism is striking: suburbanization seems like the bland metaphor for the more fractious term gentrification. The book illustrates a long term trend I failed to recognize in my dozen or so years living in Manhattan - urban renewal policies made the city liveable ... for people who were used to living in a "safer" suburban environment.

I arrived in Manhattan in 1983 when it was still a seething gotham... middle class flight had already institutionalized Westchester bedroom communities and urban planners were replacing the gritty manufacturing and warehouse neighborhoods with new housing to entice people back. The poetic adventure of urban life dissolved into a slew of Starbucks on every Manhattan corner and cinemaplexes carved out of tiny lots. The final straw was the classic Clinton era "empowerment zones" that essentially recreated Harlem's 125th Street as a street mall with the familiar global Gap-like brands. Although well intentioned, it sucked away local business that would have kept money in the community. Simply put, Walmart era chains simply depress wages within a community.

I still love New York City, in fact I'm pleased I don't need to look over my shoulder at someone walking fast from behind. In context, yes, it has all those Starbucks, but the people who choose to live in New York still make the city an urban experience. And the architecture is still unmistakeable.

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