Friends to the Rescue



Ah, freedom.  There’s nothing like it.  The air smells fresher the food tastes better.  Even the damn birds sounded happier.  I walked out of a meeting this morning with the prospect of doing whatever the hell I want to do for next four days.  Finally.

Recently I talked about how the blue cities are on a trajectory to become like Detroit.  Coincidentally I read an article in a rag called Financial Times that claimed that the cities were currently suffering from a similar problem to what happened to Detroit.

“For decades, the beautiful Detroit downtown buildings of the late 19th and early 20th century stood nearly empty, thanks to a combination of racism, the loss of US auto-industry predominance, rising crime and violence, and white flight to the outer rings of the city.”

I love how the primary reason cited is racism.  Rising crime and violence is third.  So, the solution to the problem in the article is to turn the empty commercial space in New York and Chicago into residential and small business commercial space.

It’s like the woman who wrote this article is from Mars.   Hundreds of thousands of people have left New York and large numbers have left the other blighted cities since the George Floyd riots.  But she wants to fill up the empty glass and steel skyscrapers that fill downtown and midtown Manhattan, some of the most expensive commercial real estate in the world, with coffee shops and struggling actors?  Apparently, the author of this article watched too many episodes of “Friends” and thinks there are millions of Joey Tribbianis lining up to move back into the city.

And probably only actors and drug dealers are currently crazy enough to want to move into Manhattan.  Everyone else is either stuck there or getting out.  So, what gives?

Well, this is a finance magazine.  It’s currently predicted that the next financial sector that will succumb to the stagflation economy will be the commercial real estate market.  It’s natural that these finance types are hypothesizing how to prevent all of that value from evaporating when the bottom drops out of the urban commercial real estate market.

Of course, it wouldn’t occur to them to discover that the last time these cities were blighted by crime and violence the solution was voting for a law-and-order mayor and letting him restore order and prosperity to New York City.  That was Rudy Giuliani back in the 1990s.  I guess that’s too far back in ancient history for these geniuses.  Or maybe it’s just not allowed to think about anything like that.

The mindset of the writer of this piece is interesting.  She wants us to think that turning commercial real estate into rental apartments is a winning idea because a part of downtown Detroit has followed that idea and has “recovered somewhat.”  But downtown Detroit is no success story and it is a sad remnant of this former city of almost two million people.  Not since the Sack of Rome by the Visigoths has a more thorough job been done destroying a city.

But I think we could be seeing what the outcome will be for these cities.  Ruling out the rule of law and order we are left with creating a rump New York or Chicago in the center of the downtown where a small remnant of the city can exist, subsidized by billionaires and guarded by private security guards.  But Tribbiani better watch which way he walks when he leaves the Central Perk or it could be his last cup of bad coffee.

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1 year ago

I did not read the article, but I have a question: Where are all these actors and artists going to work? I mean, a few percent will be needed to make and serve the coffee, but who is going to shoot movies in these cities? These cities have volumes and volumes of regulations to comply with before you can consider starting a movie company or even shooting a scene. And, honestly, how many dystopian future movies are people going to pay to see? (That market has already been saturated, IMHO). So when Joey Tribbiani isn’t schlepping mochas, what does he… Read more »