The Public Interest

New York’s housing: A study in immobilisme

George Sternlieb

Summer 1969

NEW YORK is unique among American cities in that it has the greatest potential freedom of choice to define its future. The market realities of all but a handful of our cities are such that they have no alternative to being what they are rathe repositories of those who are occupationally bound to them, with a small supplement of free-floating central-city workers, transient intellectuals, and the like. But New York, as the business capital of the world, has the basic capacity substantially to shape itself. No single industry predominates. No single firm is terribly important.  The skills of its labor force are, to an extraordinary extent, marketable elsewhere. And new jobs, mainly white collar, are constantly attracting new workers to the city. In the last six months alone, the construction of commercial buildings that will employ upwards of 100,000 people was announced. No other American city is in such a constant state of flux and of self-transformation. There is then capacity to change—but is there the will?

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