'The New Urban Crisis' and the High Line

A PBS NewsHour two-fer: an interview of urbanologist Richard Florida conducted in a walking tour of New York's famed High Line in the gentrifying West Chelsea neighborhood, a fitting backdrop for his new book, "The New Urban Crisis."

3 minute read

June 5, 2017, 6:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

High Line with Denari

pisaphotography / Shutterstock

Economics correspondent Paul Solman interviews Richard Florida in this nine-minute report for the PBS NewsHour. Scenes along, below, and above the High Line are captivating and illustrative of the gentrification theme of Florida's new book, The New Urban Crisis. Both speakers share their knowledge of the rich history of West Chelsea and former rail line.

[Or click on the video "Has urban revival caused a crisis of success?"]

"Once they built the [High Line] park [in 2009], it became a draw, not of people, but for real estate developers," explains Florida. "And they never anticipated that. No one anticipated the High Line would be a place that luxury towers would grow up around."

If the old urban crisis was about the middle-class flight from the city to the suburbs, the new urban crisis is about really the disappearance of middle-class neighborhoods from our society.

Solman provides the context for Florida's new book, which is a successor to his first book, "The Rise of the Creative Class," published in 2002. "But what Florida now sees is the double edge of the advice he gave, and that so many followed."  Florida explains:

A bigger, denser city in general increases the rate of innovation, increases the rate of start-up, increases the rate of productivity. At the same time, the bigger, the denser, the more knowledge-intensive increases the rate of inequality, increases the rate of economic segregation, makes housing less affordable. So it’s a two-sided monster.

Solman explains there are in fact two urban divides: one within cities between "the rich and the rest," and the interurban divide: "winner-take-all urbanism, the winners, San Francisco, New York, the losers, cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, Memphis."

Public transit 

Can an efficient subway "close the gap," enabling workers less wealthy workers to live further away?

The video takes a detour to both ends of the #7 IRT subway, the Flushing terminal in Queens, and the first new subway station to open in New York since 1989, the Hudson Yards terminal at 34st Street.

Image credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York (via Flickr). 

The ultimate solution, though, rests with inclusionary zoning, asserts Florida.

If you want to build a tower like that [pointing to a high-rise], if you want to get the rights to create height and density, we’re going to make a trade. And the trade we’re going to make, in order for you to go up like that, you’re going to make affordable housing.

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