Many of the world’s cities contain hollow cores. This is often a result of an over-successful urban renewal policy. These “comatose commercial centres” drain a city of its wealth, population, cultural significance, social equity, and political stability. Urban renewal is a constant condition within all modern cities to a greater or lesser extent, but clearly limits are required to avoid de-densification.
> The City That Fell Asleep?
New York’s core has been fixed by history and geography. During the 1970s the city existed as a core within a core, with the centres of activity 5th Avenue, 57th Street and Wall Street. The city was on the brink of desertion as a result of urban decay caused by ineffective urban renewal policies in the face of predictable economic patterns. New York was a “scavenger’s paradise” in which urban elements of previous incarnations of the city were recycled for creative new programmes. Large-scale de-densification, depopulation and dereliction – was the city de-evolving back to a state closer to nature? The inseparable union of urban growth and economic growth does not permit New York to shrink back to a more effective sustainable entity – the volatile economy conspires to drag the city in its entirety through the minefield of financial fluctuations without hope of respite.
> New York, Where Nightmares Are Made Of?
Where once as active commerce and a bustling street scene, in which the majority of the population were housed, has now been replaced by disused markets, abandoned streets and mass homelessness. New social entities arose from the ashes of the ruins of the derelict city – organised meetings, parties and even criminal activities blossomed. This increase in crime and decrease in personal safety resulted in all-time low tourism, and a rise in social discrimination through association with the city. Simply, the economic infrastructure was ill-prepared for the decline of the city’s urban fabric, and was initially impotent to stem the decay [due to its relationship with the national economy].
> The City That Awoke?
New wealth was injected into New York in the 1980s following a national political shift [Reagan era began]. Suddenly, new public spaces were inserted into the city. Galleries, boutiques and restaurants were followed by a massive increase in residential speculation. The reinvigorated city attracted new ‘Hollywood’ and ‘dot.com’ money, which could afford the hiked rents. This resulted in a dramatic housing shortage, a complete reversal due entirely to indiscriminate property speculation.
> New York! New York!
New York, Manhattan in particular, is a “phenomenon”. It possesses a certain mystique, not as a port and financial centre, but due to its concentration and stark delimited urban fabric. This delimitation is its major weakness however. Due to its geography, the city cannot reposition its core as other cities would. As a result it exists in a constant state of flux, a “permanent quality of impermanence”. The population are convinced of their own permanence, even when surrounded by such blatant cycles of change. This, coupled with an almost imperialistic posturing, the city is socially dynamic and authoritarian in nature. Social ‘tunnelling’ as an urgent issue is not part of mainstream social debate. Maybe it is not even be noticed within the city’s frenetic pursuit of wealth?
> I Heart NY :o)
Eventually, future economic and financial collapses will impact upon and reshape the social and urban fabric. Class conflict and mass exodus will occur again as a result of the inherent characteristics of the current ‘boom and bust’ global capitalist economy. The city will be in ruins again - can rebirth continue indefinitely? Can urban regeneration ever be shielded from economic volatility? Even following the massive social and economic repercussions of terrorism New York has returned to functioning as it always has, ruled by fear and the pursuit of wealth [not happiness], a dangerous combination for the rest of the world, considering its global influence as the world’s top city.