Evolution of New York City, in context

I was listening to an “In Our Time” (my new favorite podcast) episode on the history of the city and was struck by the discussion on the impact of development on pre-existing cities.  Most of the discussion was on European cities although lip service was paid to other historical cities and current emerging ones.

(As an aside I was curious about the omission of Tenochtitlan from the discussion or acknowledgement of Pueblo and Chaco culture early cities in the Pre-Columbian US.)

Something that really resonated with me was the changes that occurred in London and Paris with the introduction of the railway in the 1830s.  As is always the case the land grabs and development impacted poor people the most (and was repeated by Robert Moses and others in NY in the next century).  The difference between Paris and London is that rich people in Paris wanted to stay in the centre, while rich people in London wanted to be further out (although that definition of “further out” is now still Central London).

So in that regard, New York is more like Paris than London – with the poor people who work for those rich people forced to travel further and further from where they can afford to live.  As somebody who is being actively priced out of Manhattan despite a decent professional income I wonder about the long term effects of this.  I don’t think anyone will want to visit the New York City of the future if its just a Dubai-like glitzy shopping mall and tax haven.  And the areas of London that contain the temporary residences of the same international criminals and financiers (or maybe that’s superfluous) who are now hiding their money in NY real estate are realizing that these people don’t pay taxes and that empty neighbourhoods patrolled by private security are not exactly healthy and conducive to further investment.

Related: there’s a story in today’s Guardian about how predatory (real) estate agent Foxton’s in the UK has driven up prices so high in areas of London that its own employees can’t afford to live there any more.  Such irony.


About Raoul

With a fairly unusual first name, this is where I have to stress VERY STRONGLY that these posts are my personal opinions and in no way reflect anything at all to do with my employer. For employer-approved content, take a look at my work blog.
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