The Creative Destruction of New York City: Engineering the City for the Elite

Alessandro Busà 

Oxford University Press, 2017

Agent: Roz Foster

Bill de Blasio's campaign rhetoric focused on a tale of two cities: rich and poor New York. He promised to value the needs of poor and working-class New Yorkers, making city government work better for everyone-not just those who thrived during Bloomberg's tenure as mayor. But well into de Blasio's administration, many critics think that little has changed, especially in terms of land owners' and developers' profits. Despite the mayor's goal of creating more affordable housing, Brooklyn and Manhattan sit atop the list of the most unaffordable housing markets in the country. It seems that the old adage is becoming truer: New York is a place for only the very rich and the very poor. 

In The Creative Destruction of New York City, urban scholar Alessandro Busà travels to neighborhoods across the city, from Harlem to Coney Island, to tell the story of fifteen years of drastic rezoning and rebranding, updating the tale of two New Yorks. There is a gilded city of sky-high glass towers where Wall Street managers and foreign billionaires live-or merely store their cash. And there is another New York: a place where even the professional middle class is one rent hike away from displacement. Despite de Blasio's rhetoric, the trajectory since Bloomberg has been remarkably consistent. New York's urban development is changing to meet the consumption demands of the very rich, and real estate moguls' power has never been greater. 

Major players in real estate, banking, and finance have worked to ensure that, regardless of changes in leadership, their interests are safeguarded at City Hall. The Creative Destruction of New York City is an important chronicle of both the success of the city's elite and of efforts to counter the city's march toward a glossy and exclusionary urban landscape. It is essential reading for everyone who cares about affordable housing access and, indeed, the soul of New York City.