Location: The theme that unites the Mayor’s 2030 PlaNYC is that the city will grow by about one million people in the next 25 years. Do you agree?
Mr. Beveridge: It’s an interesting thing because the way they framed it was that it’s inevitable that the city’s going to grow that much. … If you take a look at it, that isn’t that much growth, percentage-wise, since they have it over 30 years.
So what happens in 20 years? How big is the city?
It will be bigger. Unless something bad happens! Then it will be smaller.
The reason I ask is because so much of the development in the city and so much of the rezoning to foster that development is predicated on the population growth.
The growth—it may cause growth. In other words, if you go to a place like Portland, Ore., they made a decision not to grow so fast. And, if you think about New York, it’s very dense now; it’s been about the same level of density since about 1940, actually. So, in terms of building New York up … that’s kind of what you’re going to have to do to have it grow.
I would argue that it’s not like, ‘There’s a lot of growth so we’re going to build housing.’ They’re building a lot of housing so they have growth.
So the housing will draw people?
Well, housing and, presumably, economic activity. It’s sort of an interesting thing the way the plan’s set up because the underlying argument was, ‘We’re going to have all this growth so we need more infrastructure.’ But … most of the people who are going to be in New York in 2030 are already here. New York’s about 8.2 million; you’re only looking at 800,000 more. Regardless of whether it grows at all, you’re going to need to do a lot for the infrastructure.
So, for example, roads are not in that good repair; subways; schools—all that stuff. So it strikes me that the growth thing is maybe a little misleading.
The population growth?
Yeah. It’s like, to predicate why we need PlaNYC 2030 on the fact that we’re going to grow—usually, what you do is you say, ‘How much should we grow? How do we want the city to be?’ Instead, they say, ‘We’re going to grow.’ And I guess they look at it in a positive light.
Statistics show that young people, especially young professionals with children, are leaving the city—
Well, not as much!
But the city is getting older. What’s that mean for the city in 20, 25 years?
Well, the U.S. is going to be a lot older than it is now. The city has for years been a fairly decent place for old folks to live.
New York has?
Yeah. There’s lots of services, so forth and so on. So, if it gets older and older, then you’ll have a larger dependent population; and where the tax revenue will come for that, to support some of the services dished out locally, I don’t know.
You wrote in the Gotham Gazette in 2007 that ‘New York City, despite many claims to the contrary, actively participated in the housing bubble.’ What’d you mean by that?
The median home price here, according to the [census’ American Community Survey], went up 91 percent in real terms from 2000 to 2006. Income did not. Median income is flat; median house value doubled. Sounds like a bubble to me. I mean, I get calls from various real estate types; and they always want me to say, ‘The prices will never go down.’
What do you tell them?
I tell them that they might.
Year after year, young people come into the city, despite the fact that there’s stagnant wages and the cost of everything is rising. So the conventional wisdom is that New York is inoculated against the sort of decay that’s hit Philadelphia, Detroit, cities like that.
Well, that’s different than the housing boom. There’s been a real demographic transition in New York.
The African-American population is now declining, and has been declining in terms of non-immigrant blacks for years; and now the overall black population is declining. It’s sort of been propped up by immigrant blacks from the Caribbean or Africa.