The story of how the richest city in the world became one of the poorest in North America, with a new introduction by Peter Kwong
How did New York City come to be a network of steel towers, banks, and nail salons, with chain drugstores on every block—a place where, increasingly, no one can afford to live except the lords of Wall Street and foreign billionaires, and where more and more of the Big Apple’s best-loved businesses have closed their doors? It didn’t start with Michael Bloomberg—or with Robert Moses. As Robert Fitch meticulously demonstrates in this eye-opening book, the planning to assassinate New York began a century ago, as the city’s very richest few—the Morgans, the Mellons, and especially the Rockefellers—looked for ways to maximize the value of their real estate by pushing Gotham’s vibrant and astonishingly varied manufacturing sector out of town, and with it, the city’s working class.
The Assassination of New York attacks a Goliath-like enemy: the real-estate developers who maintain a stranglehold on the city’s most valuable commodity. Their efforts to increase land value by replacing low-rent workers and factories with high-rent professionals and office buildings was one of the single most decisive factors in the city’s downturn. In the 1980s the number of real-estate vacancies eclipsed that of the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. In September of 1992 there was a staggering twenty-five million square feet of empty office space.
Are the city’s problems fixable? How will the future of New York play out through the twenty-first century? Fitch comes up with solutions, from saving jobs to promoting economic diversity to rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure. But it will take vision and hard work to restore New York to what it once was while creating a new and better home for coming generations.
The assassins of New York City, Fitch argues, were a group of powerful elites tied to the FIRE (financial, insurance and real estate) industries who began to influence city planning as far back as the Depression and still hold some power. According to the author, the goal of these people (whose ranks include the Rockefeller family) was to de-industrialize NYC so that their real estate holdings could be put to more profitable uses than manufacturing, namely the construction of large office buildings and luxury housing. Fitch ( Who Rules the Corporation ) provides a raft of statistics to document how the de-industrialization policy, which included the strangulation of the city's port, resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of blue-collar jobs, just as the elites had intended. However, the second phase of their plan--the creation of hundreds of thousands of white-collar jobs--never materialized, resulting in a city with a high unemployment rate and inadequate public services. Fitch details so many ill-conceived, FIRE-inspired master plans for New York City that the material becomes confusing and repetitious. In his zeal to document how the FIRE elites systematically murdered NYC, Fitch's book is more a treatise than a whodunit. Students of urban politics and planning will consider his information crucial, but more casual readers will find their minds wandering. Nonetheless, Fitch gives the average NYC resident plenty to get angry about, but holds out hope for the future by suggesting that a return to economic diversity could lead to a resurrected Gotham.