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.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii
September 2, 2020, 5:51 pm
Gotta say that I agree with Jerry Seinfeld on this one. Reports of NYC’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. While I personally never cared for them, the world’s alpha cities seem to exert a powerful magnetic attraction on money and people. I would approve but frankly be gobsmacked, if over the next ten years Cleveland boomed while NYC stagnated. I seriously don’t see that happening. Ten years from now this will all be forgotten. Seinfeld’s right.
September 2, 2020, 10:26 pm
I was reading something last week and it was talked about the sack of Rome and they mentioned the next time it was sacked, I can’t recall the time separation but one person could have lived thru both the sackings.
Rome is still going.
NYC is there because it’s a good place for a city. Cities are growing world wide & filling with the people who used to live rural. Urban is the normal now.
The city will come back, it will be different because the world has changed in the last few months but the reasons for NYC to exist in the first place are still there.
September 3, 2020, 9:10 am
One other problem, is that they leave places like New York City, then they go to the new place and vote in the people and the policies that destroyed the last place. I’m seeing people up here in New Hampshire looking for houses And one of the few concerns they have is that there are so many Republicans up here. They will vote in the same people and destroy our area too. If they don’t, their kids will.
We don’t want them, but we can’t stop them.
September 3, 2020, 9:42 am
I agree with some of the others here. NYC is likely just go through another transformation just as it has done many times. It used to be far different in the 70-80’s. It is a real shame to see whats happening to all of these businesses and people now but perhaps its giving others a great opportunity to start. With so many open store fronts and apartments for rent you’d think that for once maybe prices would go down.
September 3, 2020, 3:51 pm
Why doesn’t everyone move to Florida? Two words: Florida Man.
September 3, 2020, 10:53 pm
Great debate. I lived in the New York under Mayor Dinkins and the New York under Mayor Giuliani. Under Dinkins, it was a dangerous hell-hole, and under Giuliani it quickly became far less dangerous.
I lived in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. When I worked at NYU, back in the early 1990s, I was a regular at a bar on the Lower East Side called Max Fish. My friends lived right on Ludlow St., just a few storefronts down from the bar. We met at the end of the day there, usually at around eleven o’clock, to chat.
At the bar, we met all kinds of people, all of them trying to make it in a wide variety of professions. New York was a place to come and meet people in your field. My friends and I talked to all of them beer while listening to good music on the jukebox.
Artists and business people and academics and skateboarders and aspiring Grunge musicians all mingled together in the bar each night. As an aside, I first saw the video of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in Max Fish.
And that mixture of talents–and the multiplier effect–is what cities at their best allow. People who study where innovation happens point to places like New York. So the question might be: Can the US maintain innovation without cities like New York?
And did you hear what Cuomo said to Trump?
“He better have an army if he thinks he’s gonna walk down the street in New York. New Yorkers don’t want to have anything to do with him. …He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City, people don’t want to have anything to do with him.”
Can you imagine if a governor of a state said to Obama that he better have an army with him if he ever plans to walk through a major city in the state?
And do you think that statement makes people more eager to move to New York?
Hey, move to New York, just make sure you bring a bodyguard.
Well, from Wade’s recent entries, that’s not too crazy of a statement.
September 4, 2020, 9:45 am
- September 4, 2020, 9:45 am
September 4, 2020, 6:51 am
Bill doesn’t give a flying f#ck about the kids, the poor, the pandemic, or even the city. He cares about one thing: Bill Blasio. He is no different than any other politician.
This pandemic response is a phenomenon that I’ve only noticed since coming back to the US in 2013, but I’m sure it’s been going on for a long time. It’s where people have a feeling and want everyone else to feel the same feeling. Everyone needs to feel the exact same feeling and have the same response. I can’t say that is wrong. We should mourn with those who mourn and stand in comfort with those that need comfort. The difference is that you MUST feel the same way that I do and I am going to FORCE YOU to feel and respond the same way that I do.
Dude, I disagree with you wholeheartedly about the dangers of this pandemic and you know it. But I could give a rat’s a*s if you wear a mask or not. I don’t really care if you decide to go out to the bars or restaurants or wherever. I don’t care how you feel about it and how you respond to that. We all respond differently to different stimuli. And you know what? I might be wrong with my own assessments. I ain’t such a moron to think I know everything.
But we got d*mn politicians who want to force us to do what they want us to do because it’s the “right way” to feel and act. Like what the h*ll is that? Who decides what is “right” and “wrong’?
I subscribe to the idea that people should be educated and then allowed to make their own choices. They might make “wrong” choices, but they are the ones choosing. It’s their right to choose to screw themselves over.
Look at seat belts. Tell people what they are and what they protect against and then let them choose whether they use them or not. I’ll think they are screwing themselves if they don’t wear one, but that’s their choice. (Side note: The seat belt laws were actually pushed by insurance companies who didn’t want to pay out so much in damages from people killed or injured by other drivers.)
It should be simple, right? Nah, politicians like Bill want to tell people what to think and then force them to make the “right” choice.
And he “loves” the poor. Why? Many of them have been screwed out of a decent education and listen a media that is controlled by people like Bill. It’s easy to tell them what to think and do. Throw in a little cash and it’s a done deal. He just wants to screw them over. He’s probably laughing all the way to the bank. That moron lost all credibility when he implored all New Yorkers to embrace Covid and seek out places to get sick from it in February. (i’m liberally paraphrasing but since the news media does it, why not me?)
What about the non-poor? Oh those pesky people are easily controlled by fear. Fear the poor people.
And both sides do this. Just look at Fox News.
And people are worried that personal freedoms are under assault because Walmart asks them to wear a mask before they go into the store. They have been giving up their freedoms for decades. They don’t know about freedom really. They can’t go fishing without permission from the government. They can’t drive without permission from the government. They can’t own a weapon without permission from the government. They can’t take a dump in a toilet without government permission. And people like that control and people will end up liking that new control in NYC.
I could go on and on, but I’m going back to sleep now. This all probably isn’t very coherent, but that’s ok. I’m tired…and just not sleepy.
September 4, 2020, 8:52 am
Excellent punchy comments. Some real zing there.
They have been giving up their freedoms for decades. They don’t know about freedom really. They can’t go fishing without permission from the government. They can’t drive without permission from the government. They can’t own a weapon without permission from the government. They can’t take a dump in a toilet without government permission.
I really laughed at this mini-rant, and then said to myself, “Well, he’s not wrong.”
September 4, 2020, 10:20 am
thanks, I wrote it so that people who get it would laugh. 🙂
One of the towns nearby passed a mask ordinance. The County Sheriff made a long post saying how they wouldn’t enforce it because they don’t enforce any municipal ordinances and moreover, requiring people to wear a mask takes away their rights so he won’t enforce any law that takes away people’s rights. Scroll a bit and you see him talking about Click it or Ticket.
- September 4, 2020, 10:20 am
- September 4, 2020, 8:52 am
September 4, 2020, 8:43 am
Okay, this is beyond stupid. A professor is suspended for saying the Chinese word neige (that), which is used by all Chinese as a filler word in spoken Mandarin. I hear it all day, every day.
The professor used that word to illustrate how filler words work in spoken discourse. The moron students, however, were offended because neige sounds too close to the dreaded N-word, and thus they were offended and triggered. So they notified school officials, who promptly suspended the professor.
USC Suspended a Communications Professor for Saying a Chinese Word That Sounds Like a Racial Slur.
Jeezus, man. I’m sitting here in China and really have to wonder what the hell is going on back in the US.
Is EVERYONE in America a snowflake now?
I would have kicked those students in the ass and sent them out the door. Bunch of dimwits.
The school officials are even worse. Defenestration for them.
September 4, 2020, 4:21 pm
Is everyone a snowflake? Not really, the ones who aren’t snowflakes are Karens. I think Karens are actually worse than snowflakes…..but they are both bad.
We’ve got Karens, Kyles, Chads and snowflake. Take your pick…oh yeah and Boomers.
- September 4, 2020, 4:21 pm
September 4, 2020, 4:15 pm
Could it possibly be that there was just TOO much greed ?
Corporate and predatory capitalism at is finest? And now it’s getting exposed for what it is .
It’s, people and Governments wanting more-more-more and not being satisfied with enough.
It’s never enough , especially for Governments.
This is simply a much needed “reset” we are seeing.
This world will never again be the way “it was” there will be a new normal, some fine day….
Never forget the “less is more”
This is history in the making and I’m enjoying watching it all unfold…
September 6, 2020, 11:06 am
Anthony Brian Logan on the recent “peaceful protest” up in Rochester, Upstate New New York.
BLM “Protesters” Tear Up A Restaurant in Rochester Over Daniel Prude!.
At some point, the majority of Americans (of all ethnicities) will decide to punch back. A reckoning is coming.
September 9, 2020, 10:40 am
I’d be more worried about the scenario in this video:
September 9, 2020, 11:19 pm
Amazing. In a way, the Democrats are already conceding defeat on election night, and then game-planning for a legal battle to follow. Yeah, that is concerning, as they say in England and Australia.
- September 9, 2020, 11:19 pm
- September 9, 2020, 10:40 am
September 30, 2020, 2:28 pm
So, now at about two weeks after they people went’s nuts in the street, there’s this.
“New York City’s daily positive coronavirus rate is over 3% for first time in months”
December 20, 2020, 2:08 pm
Yes, Frank Zappa (RIP) nailed it again: “Do you love it? Do you hate it? There it is, the way you made it.”
December 23, 2020, 6:43 am
de Blasio redistributed the wealth alright, right into his own pockets and his wife’s. He used his children as political currency. Cuomo wrote a book touting his phony heroics. I wonder if he plans to donate that book revenue to small business owners of New York
December 23, 2020, 6:52 am
de Blasio’s plan for raising city revenue is to have the speed cameras at the schools operate 24/7 so the city can collect money if you happen to be speeding at 2 am near a school. This guy was never qualified to be mayor. People in this city always vote against something rather than for the actual needs of the city.
December 24, 2020, 9:23 pm
New York City survived the Dinkins era, so it may have a chance yet, but people have to wake up. New York has a very long history of crime, grittiness and political corruption. It was always able to get by because the old manufacturing businesses were stuck here. From about 1820 to 1950, New York City was a major manufacturing center because New York City had the best infrastructure in the world: clean water from the Catskill mountains in endless amounts thanks to the aqueduct, The Erie Canal that connected NYC with the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, one of the best natural harbors in the world. Excellent public transit.
So businesses put up with a lot because no other city had the infrastructure that made bringing together raw materials and labor so easy.
But now we have to be able to attract business to New York and continually give businesses and the wealthy, a reason to stay. The wealthy will put up with high taxes but they will not put up with dangerous living conditions or a poor quality of life. They will not put up with poor quality or dangerous schools. We have to focus on making the city a nice place to live and raise your kids. That is really the only possible foundation that it has left.
A high school student in New York City has opportunities that no small town kid could ever dream of having. If they are talented in the Arts, they can go to La Guardia HS, right in Lincoln Center, and they can get the best training in dance, painting, acting, sculpture or drawing in the world. If they are brilliant in the sciences, they can go to Bronx Science and learn from real PhDs. If they have a disability and are struggling just to learn to read, they can get specialized help with that. If they love to work with their hands, they can do everything from learning how to be an HVAC repairman (or woman), to a military aircraft mechanic.
It is logistically impossible for even the wealthiest towns to offer this much. So the potential is there, but the dead wood, the excuse makers, and the far left racial arsonists need to go.
December 26, 2020, 10:50 am
I’m a professional barber in NYC for 25 years working in Manhattan I’m 58 years old male the barber 💈 buisness has been destroyed I’m no longer working in Manhattan I’m currently working in Brooklyn there is no buisness where I’m working I know many barbers who are also sitting all day instead of working I’m behind on my rent the lady I rent a room from wants me out of the apartment by January I’m broke I’m not making any money since Barber shops reopened June 22 2020 my life has been destroyed and I’m covid-19 negative my life has been destroyed
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