NYC Is Dead Forever… Here’s Why

Read Part 2: The Autobiography Of My Past Two Days: A Saga Of Sorrow And Hope
Read Part 3: Sorry Seinfeld: Your Love Of NYC Won’t Change The Facts About Its Crisis
Read Part 4: Why I Said NYC Is Dead Forever…


I love NYC. When I first moved to NYC, it was a dream come true. Every corner was like a theater production happening right in front of me. So much personality, so many stories. 

Every subculture I loved was in NYC. I could play chess all day and night. I could go to comedy clubs. I could start any type of business. I could meet people. I had family, friends, opportunities. No matter what happened to me, NYC was a net I could fall back on and bounce back up. 

Now it’s completely dead.

“But NYC always always bounces back.” No. Not this time.

“But NYC is the center of the financial universe. Opportunities will flourish here again.” Not this time. 

“NYC has experienced worse.” No it hasn’t. 

A Facebook group formed a few weeks ago that was for people who were planning a move and wanted others to talk to and ask advice from. Within two or three days it had about 10,000 members. 

Every day I see more and more posts, “I’ve been in NYC forever but I guess this time I have to say goodbye.” Every single day I see those posts. I’ve been taking screenshots of them for my scrapbook. 

Three of the most important reasons to move to NYC: 

  • Business opportunities
  • Culture 
  • Food

And, of course, friends. But if everything I say below is even 1/10 of what I think, then there won’t be as many opportunities to make friends.


A) Business

Midtown Manhattan, the center of business in NYC, is empty. Even though people can go back to work, famous office buildings like the Time-Life skyscraper are still 90% empty. Businesses have realized that they don’t need their employees at the office. 

In fact, they’ve realized they are even more productive with everyone at home. The Time-Life Building can handle 8,000 workers. Now it maybe has 500 workers back. 

(Midtown reopened, but still empty)

“What do you mean?” a friend of mine said to me when I told him Midtown should be called Ghost Town. “I’m in my office right now!” 

“What are you doing there?” 

“Packing up,” he said and laughed, “I’m shutting it down.” He works in the entertainment business. 

Another friend of mine works at a major investment bank as a managing director. Before the pandemic, he was at the office every day, sometimes working from 6 a.m.–10 p.m. 

Now he lives in Phoenix, Arizona. “As of June,” he told me, “I had never even been to Phoenix.” And then he moved there. He does all his meetings on Zoom. 

I was talking to a book editor who has been out of the city since early March. “We’ve been all working fine. I’m not sure why we would need to go back to the office.” 

One friend of mine, Derek Halpern, was convinced he’d stay. He put up a Facebook post the other day saying he might be changing his mind. Derek wrote: 

“In the last week:

  • I watched a homeless person lose his mind and start attacking random pedestrians. Including spitting on, throwing stuff at, and swatting.
  • I’ve seen several single parents with a child asking for money for food. And then, when someone gave them food, tossed the food right back at them.
  • I watched a man yell racist slurs at every single race of people while charging, then stopping before going too far.

And worse.

I’ve been living in New York City for about 10 years. It has definitely gotten worse and there’s no end in sight.

My favorite park is Madison Square Park. About a month ago a 19-year-old girl was shot and killed across the street.

I don’t think I have an answer but I do think it’s clear: it’s time to move out of NYC.

I’m not the only one who feels this way, either. In my building alone, the rent has plummeted almost 30% — more people are moving away than ever before.

So…

It’s not goodbye yet. But a lifelong New Yorker is thinking about it.”

I picked his post out but I could’ve picked from dozens of others.

People say, “NYC has been through worse,” or “NYC has always come back.” 

No and no. 

First, when has NYC been through worse?

Even in the 1970s, and through the ’80s, when NYC was going bankrupt, even when it was the crime capital of the U.S. or close to it, it was still the capital of the business world (meaning, it was the primary place young people would go to build wealth and find opportunity). It was culturally on top of its game — home to artists, theater, media, advertising, publishing. And it was probably the food capital of the U.S.

NYC has never been locked down for five months. Not in any pandemic, war, financial crisis, never. In the middle of the polio epidemic, when little kids (including my mother) were becoming paralyzed or dying (my mother ended up with a bad leg), NYC didn’t go through this. 

This is not to say what should have been done or should not have been done. That part is over. Now we have to deal with what IS. 

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Comments

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David Newson 1 month ago Member's comment

As this pandemic drags on, I'm starting to think Mr. Altucher is correct.

Wendell Brown 1 month ago Member's comment

They're refunding Broadway tickets thru next May now...heartbroken for all the people and businesses whose livelihood revolves around theatre district and tourism.

Ayelet Wolf 3 months ago Member's comment

Jerry Seinfeld wrote an article in direct response to this one:

www.nytimes.com/.../...d-new-york-coronavirus.html

Ethan M. Hunt 3 months ago Member's comment

Scary!

Alexandra Gray 3 months ago Member's comment

Good article, I hadn't realize things have gotten so bad in NYC. But I simply can't believe NYC will never bounce back.

Gary Anderson 3 months ago Contributor's comment

Density is a problem. Once, density was thought of as a social good. The pandemic killed off that theory. However, James, half a million people fled NYC, many taking the Coronavirus and spreading it around. You left town to they say. That was not good for the rest of America.

Backyard Hiker 3 months ago Member's comment

Once the skies open up again, the tourists will come flooding back to NYC.

Gary Anderson 3 months ago Contributor's comment

I think James was talking about filling the commercial real estate, a challenge going forward.

Backyard Hiker 3 months ago Member's comment

Of course but I meant things like restaurants, hotels, and stores will reopen if that's where the tourists go. Even before it fills up, tourists would go if it meant they could snap pics of an empty Times Square, etc. The point is, once tourists come, everyone else will follow.

Investment Advisor 3 months ago Member's comment

I believe your right. And once tourists come, there will be lots of job opening to service them, so people will move there to work. The big question is whether the business will return. Do they really need to pay such exorbitant rents when people can work from home. But I agree with Kurt Benson, that many business will believe it's more productive to work in an office and that given the choice, most employees prefer it as well.

Frank Underwood 3 months ago Member's comment

The author is right about one thing. NYC always bounces back. It make take longer this time, but many will eventually return and a new generation will follow. Once they do the restaurants and other clientele will follow.

Harry Goldstein 3 months ago Member's comment

It may take a while to be the same, but I suspect you are right. For one thing the government can't let NYC fail. For another too many zillionaires are heavily invested in Manhattan in terms of real estate and more. If needed, there will be economic incentives and tremendous investment to attract people back to NYC.

Ayelet Wolf 3 months ago Member's comment

It's not just the economy though. They need to get the rampaging crime and violence under control before people will come back. Too many people have families in Manhattan and it's no longer safe!

Duke Peters 3 months ago Member's comment

I really hope this doom and gloom is over exaggerated!

Old Time Investor 3 months ago Member's comment

A zoom meeting is a cheap substitute for an in person meeting. Before I close any major deal I need to look the person in the eye and shake his hand. There are too many subtle ques lost when not meeting face to face.

Kurt Benson 3 months ago Member's comment

James, I almost always agree with what you have to say, but not this time. As an employer, there is no way that people are more productive from home. For one, children area huge distraction. So it the TV, Facebook, Netflix, your phone, the sink of dirty dishes, and pretty much everything else. Not everyone is cut out working from home, and I've seen productivity plummet. I for one can't wait to reopen an office.

Gary Anderson 3 months ago Contributor's comment

Kurt, without babysitting, there may be little reason for workers to return to offices. They have to watch their kids.

Anne Barry 3 months ago Member's comment

Agreed. I for one have Zoom fatigue and have found it kind of depressing working home, alone all the time. I miss the social interaction, the office gossip, the pushing each other (or competing with each other) to do more. Unless I have a Zoom, I don't even bother getting dressed or putting on makeup any more. What seemed like a nice break at first, is now dragging on. I want offices to reopen.