New York City is dead! So claimed hedge-fund entrepreneur, prolific author and — keep this in mind — professional comic James Altucher. He penned a “Point of No Return” tantrum in The Post that found no hope for the pandemic-ravaged, jobs-bleeding Big Apple. He’s so horrified that he and his wife are moving to the Miami area.
In New York, everyone’s gonna work from home forever! Broadway’s extinct! Flesh-eating mobs rule the streets!
Now, there’s plenty to fear. Office districts are near-empty, some residents have fled, tourists are few and the municipal piggy bank is depleted. Cleaner subways, outdoor dining and reopened stores have made our streets livelier than they were four months ago, but we’re not remotely near to full recovery.
But like other dystopian end-of-the-city scenarios, Altucher’s is so far over the top it begs for a sound debunking.
He writes, correctly, that few office workers have returned to their desks in Midtown. Ghost town! The bandwidth explosion supposedly means nobody needs New York anymore. Thanks to Zoom, we can skip flying to LA for meetings, Altucher wrote.
But the temporary emptiness of our business districts is hardly shocking after months of warnings to “stay home.” Moreover, once-throbbing Midtown and the Wall Street area now give companies and employees little reason to rush back immediately. Live-entertainment venues, cinemas and restaurants (for indoor dining) are closed.
But it isn’t magical thinking to say that many who are fed up with Zoom conferences and kids underfoot will begin trickling back soon enough. Companies have long-term confidence that belies “exodus” prognostications.
Recent weeks have seen signings of huge office leases by Facebook, AIG, TikTok and Raymond James. In the same period, new leases were signed for a massive new Avra restaurant on Sixth Avenue and for several huge food halls. Major new buildings are going up all over Harlem. Every one of these commitments was made during, not prior to, the COVID crisis.
All of their backers believe in a vibrant postpandemic future and are spending fortunes to be part of it.
Altucher cited a friend’s Facebook posting that he’s bothered by homeless men who spit, swear and harass pedestrians. But so are most of us. It is not “New York tough” to be driven away by sidewalk drunks and hustlers.
“Rioting and looting” drove more of his pals out of town. Really? Those events took place over exactly two nights — May 31 and June 1. His friends should have been around from the 1970s to the early 1990s, when much worse crimes were daily occurrences.
Murders this year are up to 259 so far from 199 in all of last year. It’s an alarming trajectory. But for perspective, say we top out at 400. In the peak year for homicide, 1990, an inconceivable 2,245 New Yorkers were killed. The annual toll was in the 600s for the last few years of Rudy Giuliani’s mayoralty and 515 in 2011 under Mike Bloomberg.
Altucher claimed that apartment prices have fallen “30 to 50 percent . . . no matter what real-estate people tell you.” But while the number of sales has fallen steeply, prices budged downward only slightly. Sale prices are public record and show no such catastrophic plunge.
You have to question Altucher’s sincerity in bashing the city he claims to love. His life and career have been full of turbulent change — career-hopping, fortunes made and lost, two divorces. Now he can’t take the “uncertainty” of New York?
His article reads mainly like a way to make a splash among his rich friends who he says decamped to places like Nashville, Denver and Salt Lake City. Does anybody leave New York for Salt Lake City?
Strangest of all, Altucher is relocating “temporarily” to the Miami area — which is easy for a guy with an estimated $50 million net worth, but illogical at any price.
South Florida’s daily virus new-infection rate is above 12 percent, compared with 1 percent in New York City. Miami’s indoor restaurants and most entertainment venues are closed, just as they are here.
He says of New York, “I’ve lived there forever.” But he sold his Tribeca loft 10 years ago. A 2016 profile of him on CNBC stated, “He doesn’t have a home.” Recent stories cite an apartment he had for a long time in upstate Cold Spring and a recent life spent “in random places through Airbnb.”
Altucher made a fortune on Wall Street, but he’s also in the laughs business. He’s an owner of Stand Up NY, an Upper West Side comedy club. He whines that with the place closed, he can no longer “go up on stage and perform.”
That’s just as well. A new Big Apple will rise on the ashes without his act.
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