By now you may have seen The Huffington Post’s projections for what New York City will look like in 2033. A host of renovations for the city’s most unattractive areas are slated, such as a $15 billion plan to replace Manhattan’s West Side rail facilities with 26 acres of private real estate. On the surface, these renovations seem like a positive step to beautify the city. If ever completed, however, these plans will succeed in turning the city into a playground only accessible to the ultra-wealthy.
The cost of living for New York City is already the highest of cities in the United States. The high cost of real estate is in part due to zoning laws and landlords squeezing money out of their tenants.
The limited space coupled with the number of people competing to live in the city, however, is what ultimately continues to drive the cost of real estate upward.
The few areas of the city that have not been sanitized over the past 20 years are the subjects for most of the proposed developments. Even outer-borough hotspots such as Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, where rent prices rival those of the Upper West Side, will undergo facelifts. Whole Foods, J. Crew and Urban Outfitters have all announced plans to open up shops in Williamsburg in 2014.
Meanwhile, a $1.1 billion development deal is set to bring 1,000 new housing units to the Lower East Side. Half of those would likely be available at below-market prices. While those 500 housing units may be a godsend for whichever lucky souls win the lotteries for them, the other units will undoubtedly skyrocket in price as the Lower East Side completes its march to full-on gentrification.
These development deals will succeed only in pushing out the last few middle and lower-class residents. It’s not like it hasn’t happened once before.
Those seeking to carve out an affordable life in the city once flocked to downtown neighborhoods like the East Village and SoHo. Of course, those neighborhoods are no longer accessible to the average person earning modest wages.
These development plans get people excited with shiny artists’ renderings of what New York City will look like. Those plans, however, will prevent anyone who isn’t a multi-millionaire or billionaire from living in the city.
There is little new housing built in the metropolitan area. The planned housing largely consists of “luxury condos” in the outer boroughs. As the city becomes an even more desirable place to live and competition to live there increases, the amount of available housing for the middle and lower classes remains stagnant.
That presents a major problem: The economic health of any town, city, state or country is dependent upon a thriving middle class. Without a middle class anywhere near New York City, who is going to construct these lofty plans? Who is going to work at the Williamsburg Whole Foods when living in Brooklyn on minimum wage is impossible?
New York City has long been a cross-section of our society, bringing together people of all walks of life. If the current trend of overzealous development continues unabated, soon the city will lose all that once defined it.