The Public Interest

New York City’s mixed economy: ten years later

Dick Netzer

Summer 1969

IN the late 1950’s, there was little anxiety about New York City’s economy. Rather, there was blissful ignorance on the part of the bulk of the business, labor, and civic communities, and heated denial by public officials of any serious cause for alarm. The statistics which documented a small but real decline in the city’s overall population, for the first time in history, were denounced as inaccurate. The observation that retail trade was rapidly decentralizing to the city’s suburbs was greeted as no more than self-serving opposition by large retailers to increases in the citys sales tax: after all, the dollar volume of retail sales in the city was increasing. Successive annual reports by the mayor reassured us about the observed shift of manufacturing establishments from the city to the suburbs and beyond, by pointing to the city’s resistance to rising unemployment rates during the three recessions of the Eisenhower years. Similarly, the well-publicized establishment of new office centers in the suburbs by national corporations was countered by the striking evidence of the Manhattan office building boom; during the 1950s (unlike the 1960’s), New York City was almost alone among American cities in this.

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