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New York Will Be Okay

Question: Why might the financial crisis ultimately help New \r\nYork? 

Richard Florida: Well, you know, we’re in New \r\nYork, and I think New York’s going to be just fine. I mean, it’s really \r\nfunny when people talk about New York’s going to go down and Shanghai is\r\n going to eclipse it and the banks are going to go down and the \r\neconomy’s going to collapse. I mean, anyone who’s studied the history of\r\n financial centers knows that it takes a lot to push one over. Look at \r\nLondon. The U.K. economy was literally in collapse after the war, and \r\nyet London stayed resilient and then made a massive comeback. Even after\r\n New York surpassed London years ago, London is still the top two and \r\nsome people even say still competes very vigorously with New York. \r\nFinancial centers have a long life, not because they’re financial \r\ncenters, there’s something else that underscores them. They’re big, \r\nvibrant, fast, diverse, speed, velocity, they have a rate of urban \r\nmetabolism, a high rate of innovativeness. I think the problem New York \r\ngot into is it became distorted when these incentives for finance and \r\nbanking just became crazy, and others have written on that. Others have \r\nwritten much more eloquently than I. 

But I think what’s \r\nimportant is that New York is resetting and recalibrating and its \r\ngetting back to what Jane Jacobs and others always identified that made \r\nNew York great. This fast metabolism, this kind of New York speedy way \r\nof life, this focus on entrepreneurism, picking yourself by your own \r\nbootstraps, finding opportunity, and being innovative. And I think, you \r\nknow, even when I look around New York now I can see it. You can already\r\n see the hegemony of the banks is broken. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re \r\nstill extracting exorbitant profits, but hopefully that, too, will end, \r\nand as the reset goes on, that hopefully will end. But the longer you \r\nhave that hegemony of banking and finance... and I remember I asked the \r\nhead of one of the big investment banks during the boom, I said to him, \r\n“How do you think these crazy real estate prices in New York are \r\naffecting your ability to recruit people? Are you going to have to move \r\nto Chicago or Pittsburgh or open a branch somewhere else?” And he \r\nlaughed at me, he laughed, he chortled, he said, “Oh, come on, \r\nProfessor, we’re the cause! We’re the causing of housing boom, we’re not\r\n a consequence of that, our people are the ones driving up these \r\nprices.” 

Jane Jacobs had this great, I actually asked Jane \r\nJacobs this question, about what happens with gentrification and \r\nyuppification and a city that becomes tilted out a whack, and she said, \r\n“Oh, Richard, when a place gets boring, the rich, even the rich people \r\nleave.” And she just was a genius, she was just literally the most \r\namazing common sense. When a place gets flattened out, when a place \r\nloses that creative energy, it dies. And I think one of the great things\r\n about New York is it has had this ability to constantly, even when it \r\nlooked like, you know, the whole place was going to turn into a mall, \r\nand, you know, Times Square was going to be this boring, old thing, and \r\nSoho was this and that, somehow, it’s able to find in itself a new way \r\nof reinventing. And I love, I love the analysis that New York Magazine \r\nand this young man named Nate Silver did, where he looked at the best \r\nneighborhoods in New York. And if you look at that analysis, which is so\r\n nicely done, the rise of Brooklyn, the resurgence of Queens, the \r\ntransformation of different Manhattan neighborhoods, and there’s a lot \r\nof old buildings and there’s a lot of neighborhoods and a lot of places \r\nfor people to go and find affordable space, like the space we’re in \r\nright now, doing this interview. There’s a lot of space in New York that\r\n can still be rebuilt and rebuilt, so I think it still has a lot of life\r\n in it and it’s hard for me. 

Now, I think over the next \r\ngeneration or two, sure, we’re going to see the rise, Hong Kong’s going \r\nto do better, and Singapore, of course, and Shanghai. But I think we’re \r\nat least a generation or two off until any of those places can really \r\ncompete against New York or London.

Recorded on April 27, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Jane Jacobs once said: "When a place gets boring, even the rich people leave." New York doesn’t have to worry.

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