Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Manhattan Should Keep Building

Manhattan Needs More Growth

New York City is currently stuck in a bit of a public battle over growth. Many longtime residents of New York become displeased when their favorite buildings and neighborhoods are torn down in order to make way for new development. As the city has recently tried to rezone parts of Manhattan to allow for new growth, many residents have raced to designate buildings, blocks and entire neighborhoods as historic districts to prevent future growth. While it is true that Manhattan today has a particular image that is quite popular to its residents, I believe that the city must continue to grow in order to maintain it's global status.

Manhattan is a World Leader

New York City has long served as a major world hub. The centers of fashion, finance, media and culture are all metaphorically located on the island of Manhattan. This did not happen by chance. New York City has long embraced growth by outbuilding other world cities. It has attracted so much talent and people hoping to make it flock into the city to pursue their dreams. If the city decided to stop building and innovating by emphasizing historic areas, another city would step up and take away the people who define New York. To hold onto and continue to attract new talented people and companies the city has to show itself as being on the cutting edge.

Built on the Future, not the Past

Similarly, New York's main status is being a forward thinking city of the future. Manhattan has historically always lead the push to build bigger and grander. The value of living or working here is in opportunity and that opportunity is the intangible value of social mobility through growth. New York City is expensive, but it can be because those who live there expect to be able to make something of themselves and ultimately afford the costs. There is some comfort knowing that the best and biggest companies want to come into the city and will be willing to pay a premium for workers once they arrive. If people stopped believing in the city and felt that it could no longer promise growth, the city may face decline. There are plenty of global cities that stay rooted in the past, but New York City defines itself by its stance strongly aligned with that of the future.

Manhattan Can Take More People

One of the main arguments against building further up in New York City is that Manhattan cannot possibly handle an influx of more people. It is true that the city is quite crowded, but it has been more crowded in the past. In 1910 according to the Census Manhattan had 2.3 million residents, today it has only 1.6 million. Not only were the more than half a million extra people at that time, but they lived much flatter. Back then the city did not have residential high-rise towers that can give people more personal space; most of the people in 1910 lived close to the ground. Since then Manhattan has increased height and dramatically improved the quality of public transit options. Saying that the city is too big puts an artificial limit on future growth potential.

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