People who are keen on city living often point to Manhattan's resurgence as proof that people really, really like Big Transit, Big Residential and other aspects of "urbanity." Which is undoubtedly true for millions upon millions of people.
But you have to take the good with the bad. And there is some bad. From today's New York Observer:
Census Bureau numbers out last week show a New York City that’s not surprising to anyone who’s undergone the arduous process of a New York apartment search: We live small, transiently and expensively; and it hasn’t changed much, even in this era of Wall Street bonus records and $50 million apartments at the Plaza and post-Giuliani gentrification.
Little wonder the solidly middle class are fleeing the city. Rather than sink over one-third of its monthly income into housing costs—whether through mortgages or rents—a household making between $40,000 and $60,000 a year generally exits the city, leaving the very wealthy and the working class behind to further stratify the Big Apple.
As always, it is terribly dangerous to use Manhattan as an example of anything. But that never stops anybody on either side of the debate.
UPDATE: Wow. The Observer is packed full this week. Here's an article about New York as an auto-friendly city:
Ms. Robinson is hardly alone in her secret suburban car lust these days. In fact, for all the talk of the evils of automobiles, she is in decidedly turbo-charged company. From Greenpoint to Red Hook, Inwood to Astoria—across all of the city’s young, lifestyle neighborhoods, really—New Yorkers of a certain breed and background have taken to toting their four-wheeled friends down to the city, dragging them through the streets like well-worn baby blankets. ...
“Oh, I hope New York’s not becoming L.A.-ified, because I moved to New York to get away from L.A.,” gasped Laura Allen, 24, a giggly SoCal native, right before she hopped into her boyfriend’s white Jeep Cherokee and turned its muscular tires onto the smoothness of Williamsburg’s North First Street.
New York, of course, has always been more of a car town than romantics like to admit. From the earliest days—or at least from as far back as anyone reading this paper can probably remember—Gothamites have used cars, improbably and impractically, as everything from performance pieces and getaway vehicles to status symbols, primal therapy props, bumper cars, mafia-mobiles, and avatars in the giant video game that is New York.
But there is something strange—or particularly strange—about the car culture that has taken root in certain swaths of the city in recent years, sprouting up alongside the former kids of suburbia as they have continued their march across Boerum Hill, the South Slope, Williamsburg, Astoria. As many of these drivers will admit, they wouldn’t keep a car if they lived in the parking-space tundra of Manhattan. But with their move to the boroughs—to the land of “far-flung” specialty stores, parking-space-lined streets, and the accelerated domesticity of brownstone life—they have realized that they can resurrect the customs of their pre-urban past.
And then there's this article exploring what Jane Jacobs would think about current developments in the city:
“How many middle-class families with children do you see being raised in the West Village today?” asked Christopher Klemek, a 33-year-old assistant professor of history, sitting at a table outside the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street late last week.
Mr. Klemek has been pondering the question over the past several months as he put together an exhibition on Jane Jacobs, the onetime Village resident who became an urban prophet simply by gazing out her window a few doors away from the tavern. Actually, the question does not take much to ponder. Just use Jacobs’ primary method of research: look around.
“When Jacobs was here, this was a neighborhood which included old working-class tenants from old immigrant stock, new immigrant groups, particularly Puerto Ricans who were just coming into New York in large numbers, middle-class families like her own, some affluent residents, as well as bohemian counter-cultural figures,” Mr. Klemek continued. “This is not a neighborhood that can support that broad swath of social diversity any longer. There are a few people grandfathered in there with rent control, but not new arrivals.”