December 27, 2009

According to this article, New York lost the second-most residents in the United States in 2009, and was only 620 defections from California in earning the dubious distinction of being America’s most deserted state.

However, for the aughts, New York lost more residents than any other state.  Over the course of the decade, New York lost 1,686,583 residents.

We tend to have a provincial view of our lives in New York City.  We constantly hear of young desires to move here as the city has been glamorized in recent years in movies and film, as it has in every decade before this one.

But though I’m no native or lifelong New Yorker, I think this city (which for the purposes of this entry, I’ll use as an extension of the state – because, let’s be serious, it is) will undergo massive transformation in the next few years.  As the tax base continues to whittle, as the government abrogates financial bonuses, and as the fabricated wealth developed over the decade fails to return (because it was never real to begin with), if ten people move to this city, only a small number of them will be contributors to our tax base and our quality of life.  Only a small number of them will help lower the cost of a subway ride, eliminate sundry taxes on our goods (brown sodas, rolling papers, imported beer, pizzas with paper plates).

More and more artists will arrive and starve; more entrepreneurs will attempt and struggle; more college graduates will depart with frustration when nobody will hire them.  And the city will continue to be expensive – its temptations unrelenting.

I’m home for Christmas and every time I come back to Massachusetts, I face the same battery of questions that I did last Christmas.  Everyone wants to know why I live in a closet, why I live up six flights of stairs, why I choose to live in the filthiest city in the world.

I tell them that, comparatively, my game’s not that bad because I don’t have to wash my dishes in the shower.

My sister commented that three of her closest group of friends from college – a couple and a single male – both live in the city and never see each other, because one lives in Fort Greene and the couple lives on the Upper East Side and that’s probably an eighty minute door-to-door visit.  Everyone wants to know why I put up with it.

I can dip into my arsenal of stock answers to parry off these questions, but often enough I’m left unfulfilled at my own answer.

It seems, over this decade, over a million people have given in.  I’d given thought to moving in a few years, but a good part of me thinks I’ll stay in this city for a long time.  But the city’s response the new economy – brilliantly (and I rarely say this about the good writer) summed up by David Brooks last week – will be a major decision influencer.

Brooks writes:

What really matters, Edmund S. Phelps of Columbia argues, is economic culture — attitudes toward uncertainty, the willingness to exert leadership, the willingness to follow orders. A strong economy needs daring consumers

It’s interesting stuff, and the article requires a few worthy reads.

But a better way to think of it is that the economy, our society, and New York City, will continue its evolution into a malleable organism that we’re responsible to shape.


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