This was once a nice place to live.
ASTORIA, NYC- I have an apartment in the waitress‘s district of Queens — a front row seat to a live lesson on how to destroy a city. What was once a vibrant, diverse neighborhood of unique, locally-owned shops and restaurants was turned into a gauntlet of vacant commercial cavities adorned with for rent signs.
In the wake of the draconian overreaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, a third of the small businesses in New York City have closed for good, over 1,000 restaurants and bars will never open again, and one out of three people are still unemployed. There are 646,100 less jobs in the city than there was at this time last year. 400,000 families can’t pay rent and are looking at being put out on the streets once the stay on evictions is lifted. 83% of restaurants and bars can’t pay their full rent obligations. Even after the city ostensibly reopened, Manhattan remains a ghost town — the wealthy residents split long ago and travel bans annihilated any semblance of tourism. Homeless people were moved into luxury hotels on the once posh Upper West Side on the taxpayer’s dime, where they now lay all over the streets, doing drugs, masturbating, and occasionally stabbing a random passerby. Roving mobs of vandals are still permitted to smash the windows of local businesses in the name of their “good cause.” The murder rate has skyrocketed, and the entire city looks like an economic bomb went off.
I walked into a GNC Nutrition store on Steinway that was having a going out of business sale and chatted with one of the workers. She’d been working at this location for over 20 years — she was there on the first day the store opened and she was there, packing up boxes, on its last day in existence. A few months ago Steinway was a booming commercial street; now it’s a derelict strip of empty shops, ala Buffalo in the early 2000s.
“Everybody’s hustling now. It’s crazy out there,” a real estate agent friend said to me recently. “Normally, in the summer I can’t keep an apartment around here open for one day. Right now, I have 27 apartments that I can’t rent out.”
The mass exodus from New York City began in March when the city first shut down. While at that time officials told us that the lockdown would only be for a week or two to “flatten the curve,” anyone with a morsel of sense knew that this was bullshit … and headed for the hills. I caught my downstairs neighbor as he was hurriedly leaving his apartment with a loaded suitcase. “I’m getting out while I still can,” he said. He never returned.
The population of NYC is now declining by 270 people per day. Last year, 61.5% of New Yorkers who moved left the state and just 38.5% moved in. New York has lost over a million people since the early 2010s. Those with the means are getting out — there is an all-out migration of New Yorkers permanently moving to Florida.
And why wouldn’t they? Florida doesn’t have any income tax, there are now estate tax or intangibles tax (on investments), the only businesses that have to pay state income tax are major corporations, and the sales tax is a cool 6%. Meanwhile, people who live in New York City pay some of the highest taxes in the country. Even Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s mother reputedly ditched New York because of the taxes and high cost of living.
According to the governor, nearly half of NY State’s income taxes come from the wealthiest one percent of the population, and these are precisely the people that are leaving. 41% of those who split last year earned $150,000 or more. Gone.
The exodus out of New York was making headlines even before the pandemic, and now with draconian, pseudoscience-based, completely illegal Covid-19 policies being imposed as well as work from home edicts, the reasons to stay have dwindled to a paltry nothing. The reasons why many of us moved here no longer exist, so why stay? For the bragging rights that come from being able to say that you watched the greatest city in the world fall to pieces?
The signs of this decline are already evident, as Steinway becomes NYC’s new normal. The state now has a $30 billion budget deficit, and take a guess at what the plan is to recoup these losses? Yup, more taxes, increased prices for public services, less funding for health and education, as well as other misc fees — such as possibly charging people more to ride Uber and Lyft …
De Blasio isn’t shy about his plan is to fill the budget deficient with money from the wealthy — the go-to (and pretty much only) fiscal strategy of the Marxist:
“Help me tax the wealthy,” he said. “Help me redistribute wealth. Help me build affordable housing in white communities… What changes things is redistribution of wealth. Tax the wealthy at a much higher level.”
Redistribution of wealth.
He really said that. If he could have said something more effective at scaring away the rich I don’t know what it could have been.
What these government officials don’t seem to get is that there are two ways to vote: with a ballot and with your feet. And while they can get masses of poor people to band together and vote them into power, keeping the city functioning requires those with means — those who can simply pack up and leave if things don’t go their way.
Right now, the cities of the world are in the middle of a great global competition for high-value people and high-value companies. Municipalities, states, and countries around the world are trying to outdo each other with attractive tax, property, and investment policies to attract those with the equity they need to rise the economic statures of their domains. Rather than sitting in NYC being treated as class enemies or pet cash cows that can be milked at will, the rich are finding more hospitable terrain in places that appreciate them, as NYC enters into a downward spiral.
But I have to recognize here that this may be the point. NYC has become a place that is no longer run by economic fundamentals or what we could regard as normal democratic policy: it’s become a place run by ideology. Low brow populism in the USA now runs to the left as well as the right.
New York City is ultimately a luxury; it’s not a place that anyone actually needs. As the mayor trips all over himself to be the voice of the poor, the poor are all he’s going to be left with. And the thing about poor people is that they demand a lot of public services … and don’t have the money to pay for it.
I need to recognize — and appreciate — the fact that I got to experience New York City in what may come to be known as its finest hour. Last summer, this city was a good, safe, prosperous place to live. We walked through the sunny streets and laid down upon the green lawns content and happy, went to community events, and drank inside trendy bars as though it was all so normal. We took how good this place was for granted, and now the city of last year is gone.
New York City has become a place where you need to worry about being hit by a stray bullet while walking your dog down the street. This isn’t hyperbole, it actually happened a few blocks from my apartment last month. A guy was out walking his dog around noon and caught a random bullet in the gut. Dead.
A few weeks later in a location that my family I had walked through just days before, a guy pulled off to the side of the road, stepped out of his Jeep, and blasted a crowd of people standing in the yard of a housing complex in broad daylight. Four hit, one dead.
Gun violence in NYC has surged 166%, with over a thousand people shot so far this year, and headlines such as “49 shot in 72 hours” has become so ordinary that they hardly warrant a reaction anymore. However, you do get to watch cool shootout videos on a daily basis. Such as this one:
Let them eat bread, says AOC, giving us the Marie Antoinette quote of our times:
“Maybe this has to do with the fact that people aren’t paying their rent & are scared to pay their rent & so they go out & they need to feed their child & they don’t have money so… they feel like they either need to shoplift some bread or go hungry.”
Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio blames the spike in murders on … yes, Covid-19. While I acknowledge that this disease may have some symptoms that we are still not aware of, I highly doubt murderous tendencies are among them.
While city officials pat themselves on the back for bypassing their own regulations to paint political slogans on public streets and de-funding and undermining the police, people are dying, businesses are going under, and those who can are fleeing.
Perhaps you really do get what you vote for? I’d never been much for voting. In fact, I’ve never done it before, with the Republicans and Democrats seeming like a pair of squabbling siblings from the same household. Obama carried out the same warmongering policies as Bush … But now I’m beginning to question my position.
The case of New York City is fascinating because the place wasn’t destroyed by a natural disaster or an economic collapse. It wasn’t taken out by a marauding army or fire or rising sea levels. No, NYC was destroyed by the conscious decisions of the people we voted into power. Everywhere had Covid-19 and just about everywhere had BLM protests, but only a handful of places destroyed themselves over it.
What’s interesting is that if we look at the places that were massacred they all have one thing in common …
As for me, I’m enjoying the show. It’s not everyday that you get to watch one of the greatest cities on earth implode upon itself.