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The City on Hiatus

Nick Paumgarten imagines a New York City landscape that would result from a present-day economic crisis.
December 21, 2008, 7am PST | Judy Chang
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"In the mind's eye, we tend to populate our recessionary streets with squad cars painted green, cat's-eyed ambulances, and other anachronisms-'Fort Apache, the Bronx: The Remake.' But, really, the city will probably just look the way it does now. After an extraordinary era of construction and renovation, demolition and replacement, there will almost certainly come a long period in which little to nothing gets built. Putting aside the long-discussed public projects that are endangered or doomed (the Second Avenue Subway, the West Side Railyards, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Moynihan Station, etc.), dozens of private undertakings have stalled or died. The calls go out to the architects: pencils down. We have inherited, from the good years, a glut of housing, almost all of it of the unaffordable kind-condos galore-and an increase in office space amid a sudden, steep decrease in the need for it. Throw in the high cost, or total unavailability, of capital, owing to the credit freeze, and you have a New York that may be frozen in time. The skyline, which has been very dynamic recently, like a stereo's equalizer display, should sit still for a while. The clothes in our closets today will be the ones we're wearing when we're old."

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Published on Monday, December 8, 2008 in The New Yorker
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