Here’s How to Save Cities But I Doubt People Will Listen (Part 1)

I don’t care how many people talk about “grit” or “energy.” I don’t care about the history or the romance of a city. “Grit” won’t generate the money needed to pay garbage collectors, or teachers, or healthcare workers.

People said to me, “Why don’t you focus on solutions instead of just writing that NYC is dead forever?” 

OK, I will. But I don’t think anyone is going to implement these ideas. People are content to grab political power at all costs while the population fools itself until it’s too late.

Here’s the basic philosophy. Cities need to: 

I) ENCOURAGE INNOVATION

This is the No. 1 reason people come to cities. Immigrants come to find jobs and opportunities. Opportunities here because people are innovative when they can share ideas with others.

The benefit of a city is that ideas collide. Put millions of people in a dense area and you have trillions of opportunities for “idea sex,” where people exchange ideas and innovation happens. 

II) INCENTIVIZE PEOPLE TO COME

For instance, in NYC, I see many people have this misguided view that life will be great. It will be like the ’70s again. Rents will be low and artists will flourish.

Are you kidding me?

(NYC in the ’70s)

A) NYC was a piece of garbage in the ’70s, with violence and filth the normal ways to describe it  then. 

B) Yes, there were artists in the ’70s. But artists have been coming to NYC since forever. Not just the ’70s. 

C) Yes, apartments were cheaper then. But that doesn’t happen magically overnight like people think. To really make NYC affordable will take decades of horror before you see affordable rents. Unless the ideas below work. 

III) STOP BEING IN THE HOSPITAL OR EDUCATION OR HIGHWAY BUSINESS 

Cities should stay in the “city” business. More on this later.

CITIES 2.0: WHAT I WOULD DO

Anyone who thinks a dead city will lead to this utopia of low rents and greater culture doesn’t realize how cities work.

A city with spiking deficits and declining revenues leads to:

A) Fewer teachers, police, healthcare workers, infrastructure repairs, garbage collectors, transit workers, health facilities, schools, which leads to greater crime, worse education, worse healthcare, more garbage, worse infrastructure, etc. 

B) Which leads to fewer tourists

C) And fewer businesses wanting to relocate

D) And higher taxes, disincentivizing people and businesses from moving into the city

E) Which leads to fewer people employed

F) Which leads to more crime (with less police) and worse health (with less healthcare) and more people hungry (with less money for social services to help the hungry), etc. 

G) Which leads to a giant spiral down with even fewer people, fewer services, worse revenues, etc. 

This spirals all the way down and gets you a Detroit, or a Scranton, or a Baltimore, or worse. Every city in the world has gone through this. 

The key is to not think “outside the box” but smash the box.

Tomorrow, in Part 2 of this series, I’ll go into details on some of my ideas for how to do this. Stay tuned…

Share This Post

Other posts you might be interested in: