New York is Not Dead/Dying, part 4

Other factors working in New York City’s favor is its large concentration of high-IQ people and its iconic and prestigious institutions. Other cities may have fewer restrictions in regard to shutdowns and social distancing, as well as lower crime, but they do not have the equivalents of Central Park, the NYSE, the NASDAQ, or Times Square. New York City’s nine specialized public high schools, consistently rank in the top-100 of lists of best high schools in America, according U.S. News and World Report’, Newsweek, and USA Today. Graduates of Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Technical High School, or the Bronx High School of Science, which are among the most selective and prestigious of the nine schools, are pretty much guaranteed placement in top colleges and good employment prospects, such as in finance, academia, business, or politics. NYU and Columbia University, politics notwithstanding, are among the highest-ranking and selective colleges in America. (New York also has Cornell, but it is in Ithaca.) The NYU School of Law and Columbia Law School also rank among the top-10 law schools in America.

James argues that the wealthy are leaving NYC, but NYC’s smart, wealthy elite, who are predominantly left-wing and Jewish, are not going to suddenly abandon the city, as they prefer the company of like-minded people and there are few viable alternatives. They are not going to move to gentile Connecticut (3% of population Jewish, versus 9% for New York), for example, even though it is wealthy and overwhelmingly democratic. Some may move to Massachusetts or Maryland, which at around 3.5% Jewish, but I do not see many of New York’s Jews moving.

We had a show in May. An outdoor show. Everyone socially distanced. But we were shut down by the police. I guess we were superspreading humor during a very serious time.

James gives this long-winded story about owning a comedy club and having a performance shutdown. That sucks for him, but it does not answer the question. Anecdotal evidence (so-called appeals to emotion) are powerful in terms of persuading the reader to think or feel a certain way, but is less effective in terms of answering specific questions, that being if New York is dying or not. Even before the virus, stand-up comedy has always been a tough bushiness, both for the club owners and the performers. Margins are slim, which is why clubs invariably have a 2-drink minimum, to recoup the costs on the high-margin drinks.

Forget about the tens of thousands of jobs lost in these cultural centers. Forget even about the millions of dollars of tourist-generated revenues lost by the closing of these centers.

There are thousands of performers, producers, artists, and the entire ecosystem of art, theater, production, curation, that surrounds these cultural centers. People who have worked all of their lives for the right to be able to perform even once on Broadway, whose lives and careers have been put on hold.

All that stuff will (or already is) returning. Wealthy Chinese, Japanese, and German tourists will return, as they always have, even after 911. The Chinese and Japanese love America and its culture and institutions, in spite of supposed anti-China rhetoric by Trump and in spite of the virus. I remember many years ago going to Yosemite and there would be buses full of Chinese tourists. I don’t see any of that changing.

But is that true? We simply don’t know. And what does that mean? And will it have to be only 25% capacity? Broadway shows can’t survive with that! And will performers, writers, producers, investors, lenders, stagehands, landlords, etc. wait a year?

Broadway dying does not imply New York City will also die. Industries and businesses came and go. Adult movie theaters and adult video stores were a big deal many decades ago, but have been replaced by online adult content. My own take is, I do not think Broadway is finished. The works of Shakespearean are still timeless. Despite being cringe-y, Hamilton was (and still is) a huge deal. People are still willing to spend thousands of dollars on tickets to see these elaborate productions.

My favorite restaurant is closed for good. OK, let’s go to my second favorite. Closed for good. Third favorite, closed for good.

Yeah that sucks, but restaurants tend to have a high failure rate. But new restaurants will replace those that closed.

I thought the PPP was supposed to help. No? What about emergency relief? No. Stimulus checks? Unemployment? No and no. OK, my fourth favorite, or what about that place I always ordered delivery from? No and no.

I agree that the PPP loans are woefully insufficient in many instances and the terms of onerous.

Restaurants want other restaurants nearby. That’s why there’s one street in Manhattan (46th St. between 8th and 9th) called Restaurant Row. It’s all restaurants. That’s why there’s another street called Little India and another one called Koreatown.

James gives no specifics as to how many restaurants have closed in NYC. Some estimates are as high as 25-33%. A Google image search still shows many restaurants that are still open, but the tables are outside and spaced apart, in accordance with regulation. Many of these restaurants are probably struggling due to not being able to run at full capacity, but they also stand to benefit to some degree by having fewer competitors.

Restaurants happen in clusters and then people say, “Let’s go out to eat,” and even if they don’t know where they want to eat they go to the area where all the restaurants are.

I think there is little basis for this. If someone wants to have sushi, does it matter if the sushi restaurant is adjacent to another restatement? People are not just throwing darts on a wall when deciding where to eat. They tend to have a general idea of what and where the want to eat. Also, the rise of popularity of online delivery means consumers can choose from a bunch of possible restaurant choices, displayed the digital equivalent of a phone book.

And again, what happens to all the employees who work at these restaurants? They are gone. They left New York City. Where did they go? I know a lot of people who went to Maine, Vermont, Tennessee, upstate, Indiana, etc. Back to live with their parents or live with friends or live cheaper. They are gone, and gone for good.

Or they (or new people) will return when things reopen completely eventually. It is not like there is a shortage of workers. Covid has created a shortage of jobs , as evidenced by the high unemployment rate, so employers should have no difficulty getting employees.

To be continued…