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Richard Florida

Richard Florida is author of the global best-seller "The Rise of the Creative Class." His latest books are the "The Great Reset," and "The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited,"[…]

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

Question: Why might the financial crisis ultimately help New rnYork? 

Richard Florida: Well, you know, we’re in New rnYork, and I think New York’s going to be just fine. I mean, it’s really rnfunny when people talk about New York’s going to go down and Shanghai isrn going to eclipse it and the banks are going to go down and the rneconomy’s going to collapse. I mean, anyone who’s studied the history ofrn financial centers knows that it takes a lot to push one over. Look at rnLondon. The U.K. economy was literally in collapse after the war, and rnyet London stayed resilient and then made a massive comeback. Even afterrn New York surpassed London years ago, London is still the top two and rnsome people even say still competes very vigorously with New York. rnFinancial centers have a long life, not because they’re financial rncenters, there’s something else that underscores them. They’re big, rnvibrant, fast, diverse, speed, velocity, they have a rate of urban rnmetabolism, a high rate of innovativeness. I think the problem New York rngot into is it became distorted when these incentives for finance and rnbanking just became crazy, and others have written on that. Others have rnwritten much more eloquently than I. 

But I think what’s rnimportant is that New York is resetting and recalibrating and its rngetting back to what Jane Jacobs and others always identified that made rnNew York great. This fast metabolism, this kind of New York speedy way rnof life, this focus on entrepreneurism, picking yourself by your own rnbootstraps, finding opportunity, and being innovative. And I think, you rnknow, even when I look around New York now I can see it. You can alreadyrn see the hegemony of the banks is broken. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re rnstill extracting exorbitant profits, but hopefully that, too, will end, rnand as the reset goes on, that hopefully will end. But the longer you rnhave that hegemony of banking and finance... and I remember I asked the rnhead of one of the big investment banks during the boom, I said to him, rn“How do you think these crazy real estate prices in New York are rnaffecting your ability to recruit people? Are you going to have to move rnto Chicago or Pittsburgh or open a branch somewhere else?” And he rnlaughed at me, he laughed, he chortled, he said, “Oh, come on, rnProfessor, we’re the cause! We’re the causing of housing boom, we’re notrn a consequence of that, our people are the ones driving up these rnprices.” 

Jane Jacobs had this great, I actually asked Jane rnJacobs this question, about what happens with gentrification and rnyuppification and a city that becomes tilted out a whack, and she said, rn“Oh, Richard, when a place gets boring, the rich, even the rich people rnleave.” And she just was a genius, she was just literally the most rnamazing common sense. When a place gets flattened out, when a place rnloses that creative energy, it dies. And I think one of the great thingsrn about New York is it has had this ability to constantly, even when it rnlooked like, you know, the whole place was going to turn into a mall, rnand, you know, Times Square was going to be this boring, old thing, and rnSoho was this and that, somehow, it’s able to find in itself a new way rnof reinventing. And I love, I love the analysis that New York Magazine rnand this young man named Nate Silver did, where he looked at the best rnneighborhoods in New York. And if you look at that analysis, which is sorn nicely done, the rise of Brooklyn, the resurgence of Queens, the rntransformation of different Manhattan neighborhoods, and there’s a lot rnof old buildings and there’s a lot of neighborhoods and a lot of places rnfor people to go and find affordable space, like the space we’re in rnright now, doing this interview. There’s a lot of space in New York thatrn can still be rebuilt and rebuilt, so I think it still has a lot of lifern in it and it’s hard for me. 

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

Recorded on April 27, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman