Monday, October 5, 2020

Now is An Interesting Time to Visit New York City Says Tyler Cowen

 Tyler Cowen reports on his visit to what I consider a bombed-out (by politicians) city:

I’ve seen many New Yorks in my lifetime, starting with the gritty “French Connection” city of the 1970s, the Pop Art times of the ’80s, the renaissance of the ’90s and on through the most recent revitalization, the gentrified Manhattan and Brooklyn of post-9/11 New York City.

And yet, while I have speculated about what New York City will be like after a pandemic, I have never seen it during a pandemic. So I recently made a visit, which also fulfills my broader agenda of keeping alive the idea and practice of travel...

What did I find? Wall Street is largely shuttered, Broadway is closed, and Midtown feels deserted. I could drive around many parts of town without having to suffer in traffic, an experience I had never before known and perhaps will never see again...

I visited the Museum of Modern Art, operating under stringent visitor restrictions and with its tourist clientele mostly gone. I had just about every gallery to myself, and thus an unparalleled look at the museum’s masterpieces. If a room had even a few other visitors in it, I moved on and came back later.

The center of the city has moved downtown, to Greenwich Village and surrounding areas. Many streets are closed to cars, and restaurants have put their tables on the sidewalk or the street. Instead of choosing a place on the basis of the food, the menu now just has to be “good enough,” with the key variables being the quality of the seating and the degree of the spacing. I have never seen that part of town feel so alive. The most vibrant single street for both food and socializing was slightly further north in Koreatown, starting at 32nd and Broadway and spreading two blocks to the east...

Each part of the country has dealt with the pandemic differently, and I was struck how near-universal and disciplined was the practice of mask-wearing, even outside. I haven’t been seeing that anywhere in the mid-Atlantic region where I live...

Many of the major cultural venues seem very far from a full-scale reopening or, in the case of concerts and theater, any reopening at all. So many small businesses are failing — bankruptcies are up 40% — while others are surviving by ignoring or limiting their rent obligations, which is not sustainable in the long run...

Most of all, I am afraid of when the colder weather arrives and makes outside dining much more difficult. Restaurants will do their best with heat lamps and perhaps limited indoor seating. But much of the fun will be gone. The whole mood of downtown will change rather suddenly, probably within the span of a two-week period in October. Many of the city’s more wealthy residents will flee.

RW note: If the wealthy continue to flee, the tax base of New York City will erode even more. The city government will be forced to shrink even more. But what will be cut? Needed services or the salaries of connected bureaucratic fat cats? To ask the question is to answer it. And the answer is not promising for the city that once never slept.


  1. I lived near Hamilton Park in Weehawken, NJ in the mid '80s.
    In ten to 15 minutes I could find myself in the middle of Times Square
    and feel the hustle and bustle, the electricity in the air, the excitement of any given day.
    I now live in California. I feel sad that I will almost surely not experience that ever again.
    It's incredible how fast things crumbled!
    Will the rest of America follow suit?
    It is mind-boggling!

  2. Is this truly just from bureaucratic incompetence, or is this by design?

    1. This is what happens when you have truly competent bureaucrats incented by the power motive (as opposed to the profit motive). These are the people who benefit from fear mongering and mass hysteria along with politicians, crony businesses, the government police and the mass media. Combined with an incredibly gullible public that has been pushed into hysteria there is no easy solution. Some will return to their senses but only one at a time and slowly. However, unless those that benefit are defunded, this will never completely end. While humans will always be subject to unwarranted fears, the fear mongering could be reduced and more rational behavior encouraged if more people embrace a more voluntary society most of the time.

    2. Not exactly by design. This is what happens when you have competent bureaucrats not disciplined by the profit motive.