What city do you predict will be hit the hardest by the economic crisis?
I don’t have the economic background to say with any confidence. In relative terms I think New York City may suffer the most because its economy is the most tied up in Wall Street. I wonder too, about satellite cities of New York, such as Jersey City, which have seen an influx of office and residential tenants. Will those people all go leave because the financial industry is drying up? Or because it is no cheap enough to move back to Manhattan? Sun Belt cities from Florida to Las Vegas are hit harder by foreclosures because they had more sub-prime mortgages. In general, cities where real estate was a major source of economic activity — so that includes both NY and places like Vegas — are going to go through hard times.
Will there be a comeback in Detroit (beyond the auto industry, but in the city itself)? If yes, how? If no, what will happen to the city then?
I have no idea. There is no such thing any more as a vibrant major industrial city in America, that I’m aware of. The cities from the industrial era that are doing well, or beginning to rebound, are doing so with an increase in creative class professionals. Will that happen in Detroit? I can’t imagine why it would. But five years ago, would I have said that it would ever happen in Buffalo? Probably not. For it to happen, though, you will need another economic boom. Only when the economy is strong does it become too expensive for artists to live in already vibrant cities, which is what causes them to consider moving to a decimated one.
If 2008 was the year of “green” and “sustainability,” 2009 will be the year of …..?
2009 will be the year of, “Oh my God, how do we deal with this crisis?” Cities are facing major revenue shortfalls along with rising unemployment. They are instituting hiring freezes in law enforcement just when the economy may cause crime to spike. How will they meet their citizens’ needs when the needs are greater and the finances are already being stretched thinner?
What is the story in your city that no one is covering that you think will make the news this year?
Will Obama cause gentrification in D.C.? The Obama administration will bring thousands of young liberals to D.C. They will be replacing Bush appointees who mostly chose to live in the suburbs or the quasi-suburban neighborhoods of the city. Young Obamaphiles are more likely to want to live in the grittier, up-and-coming urban neighborhoods where young liberals tend to live. Will they exacerbate gentrification and displacement? Or, with the market weakening, will they just keep the neighborhoods steady instead of allowing prices to decline? Will the city become visibly more lively, with new businesses to cater to them? It isn’t just people working for Obama who will have an impact. Left-leaning activists, journalists, etc. are drawn to D.C. right now for the excitement of the new administration. What this will mean for the character of certain neighborhoods such as U Street, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Logan Circle and Shaw remains to be seen. But once the change becomes apparent, the press will be all over it.
Ben Adler is a journalist in New York. He is a former reporter for Grist, The Nation, Newsweek and Politico, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The New Republic.