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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

In predictions on post-pandemic urban life, optimism and pessimism, but (obviously) no blueprints yet. It'll be tougher in New York.

Daily News columnist Harry Siegel, in Our city, unmasked: Imagining New York, for worse and better, after the coronavirus pandemic, posted yesterday, writes that the city will not revive as it did after 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis.


And he rightly observes that touchstones of city life, including the morning commute and packed places to congregate, are not coming back soon.

(It could be a while. Read New York Times columnist Frank Bruni's interview with author and disease expert Laurie Garrett, an oft-right Cassandra who says her best-case scenario is 36 months away.)

A change in real estate, and apps

Siegel suggests buildings will recycle, and that housing prices will be decoupled from the global markets:
The size of our economy, and real estate prices, should relate to the value of the goods and services people here actually produce. That will hurt a lot of New Yorkers who’ve invested in the city, including me, as property values and rents flatten or even go down, but some of that pain is needed. A city that’s too expensive for gas stations or grocery stores — looking at you, Manhattan — is too expensive for most people.
He also welcomes a city that derides "venture capital-funded wannabe monopoly “tech” companies looking to “disrupt” fundamental aspects of our life by losing money for long enough to drive their competitors out of business altogether," as well as Amazon's dominance of local retail.

It's a nice thought, but would require antitrust enforcement as much as personal choice. Plus using delivery services, for now, may be seen as safer.

A survey from Foreign Policy

How Life in Our Cities Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic, Foreign Policy magazine asked, in a 5/1/20 post, asking "11 leading global experts in urban policy, planning, history, and health for their predictions."

It's a big-picture perspective, with only two people of color, from Singapore and Malaysia, so the compilation lacks a close analysis of challenges facing American cities regarding public health, racial and social inequity, and immigration.

So it's not exactly a blueprint for New York City and Brooklyn, especially--to me--since the overall conclusion is optimistic than we merit, for now:
Hunkered down at home, rarely venturing into hauntingly empty streets, most of us are still at a loss at how urban life will look afterwards. Will restaurants survive and jobs come back? Will people still travel in crowded subways? Do we even need office towers when everyone is on Zoom? Come to think of it, the idea of living on a farm seems suddenly attractive.

Cities thrive on the opportunities for work and play, and on the endless variety of available goods and services. If fear of disease becomes the new normal, cities could be in for a bland and antiseptic future, perhaps even a dystopian one. But if the world’s cities find ways to adjust, as they always have in the past, their greatest era may yet lie before them.
I suspect that there are two phases here, since the discovery of a vaccine or treatment could restore many though not all aspects of previous life. Some relevant excerpts are below.

Revival coming?

"Cities Will Survive the Coronavirus," stated Richard Florida, professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, a fellow at New York University, a co-founder of CityLab, and the author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The New Urban Crisis.

A population drop can attract people, and revive creativity in "unaffordable, hypergentrified cities," he wrote, though he warned that "Fear of density, and of subways and trains in particular, plus a desire for safer, more private surroundings may pull some toward the suburbs and rural areas."

That's kind of a big deal, since we still don't know how the New York City subway will be revived.

New investment needed

In "Looking Beyond the Urban Jobs Armageddon," Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University and the author of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, warns that the loss of service jobs will damage cities so:
The only chance to prevent this labor market Armageddon is to invest billions of dollars intelligently in anti-pandemic health care infrastructure so that this terrible outbreak can remain a one-time aberration.
That would require a huge paradigm shift, because we're still facing the consequences of a terrible health care infrastructure, as well as vulnerable congregate locations like nursing homes, homeless shelters, and jails.

Health care focus

That health care infrastructure gets a nod in "An Opportunity to Build Back Better," by Robert Muggah, founder of the IgarapĂ© Institute and SecDev Group, and co-author of the upcoming Terra Incognita: 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years.
In the short term, many [mayors] will introduce mass testing and digital contact tracing, retrofit buildings and public spaces for social distancing, and bolster health systems to deal with future threats. The pandemic is also accelerating deeper, longer-term trends affecting cities, such as the digitalization of retail, the move to a cashless economy, the shift to remote work and virtual delivery of services, and the pedestrianization of streets. Public transit will struggle to retain ridership without social distancing adjustments. Driverless cars and micro-mobility schemes may become increasingly vital.
But how will we pay for that, especially as New York loses tax revenue? That would require both increased taxes on the wealthy--more likely to leave the city and state--as well as federal aid, and at least today, the federal government is notably unfriendly.

Muggah cities exemplary cities like Amsterdam; Bristol, England; and Melbourne. The implication is that cities in the United States, notably New York, lag.

Loving the city

In "Hungry for the Simple Joys of City Life," Thomas J. Campanella, associate professor of city planning and the director of the Urban and Regional Studies Program at Cornell University and the author of Brooklyn: The Once and Future City, predicts, a bit sunnily:
Many of our favorite bars, restaurants, and cafes will be gone, but others will take their place. Elders and the immunocompromised may avoid urban spaces for a time, yielding a temporarily younger, fitter, more risk-tolerant downtown population. And the inevitable lingering fear of infection will be countered by a quarantine rebound effect: People will strain to get out from lockdown, hungry for the simple joys of being in fearless proximity with one another on a busy city street.
That's plausible, but not, I suspect, until we get a vaccine.

Reverse urbanization?

Though Rebecca Katz, a professor at Georgetown University Medical Center, where she directs the Center for Global Health Science and Security, wrote "Cities Will Excel at Disease Prevention and Response," she also warned against the claustophobia of shared apartments and suggested that "the new normal... may well be reverse urbanization."

Oh. That won't pay for that new focus on health she predicts from municipal leaders

A safety net?

"We Can Create a Better Urban Future Where No One Is Left Behind," wrote Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia, who is the executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

That requires baseline services in health care and housing--again something that requires a paradigm shift in funding.

New mobility?

In "Create the Safe and Resilient City We’ve Needed All Along," Janette Sadik-Khan, a principal at Bloomberg Associates and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, writes:
Our ability to endure this pandemic relies on new safety protocols to keep passengers and public transport workers safe, and on investing in extensive service expansions to make the next crisis easier to manage.
A worthy idea, but a tall order.

New institutions?

In "New Institutions Will Bring Back Cities," Bruce Katz, the founding director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University, predicts:
The unprecedented collapse of small businesses, particularly those along commercial corridors in disadvantaged communities and those owned by people of color, will require new public or nonprofit intermediaries to provide services to financially impaired firms and sophisticated training to new entrepreneurs. We already have business incubators and accelerators—what we need now are regenerators.
That's plausible.

What about migrant workers?

Chan Heng Chee, a professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design and the chair of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, notes the prevalence of disease in dormitories serving migrant workers in Singapore and predicts that "the design of the dormitories will certainly be revisited and protocols strengthened," and an economic model that relies on such workers will be re-thought.

Will that happen in New York? Without formal programs for migrant workers, New York's service economy relies on immigrant labor.

The big picture

"We Must Restore Confidence in the Safety of Dense Living," writes former New York City Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who salutes "a new model of growth that emphasizes inclusivity, sustainability, and economic opportunity.

It's a nice thought, and a turnaround from Doctoroff's post-9/11 emphasis on growth above all things. However, like many of the big-picture observations, it will need a lot more of a blueprint.