NYC: Is bigger really better?

Housing is Exhibit A. As landlords and developers have continued to get carte blanche to convert middle-class housing into luxury housing (and to build ultra-luxury housing often owned by those who don’t actually call New York their home), the housing crisis for middle- and working-class New Yorkers has intensified throughout Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure. And that doesn’t even include the more than 50,000 New Yorkers who are homeless.

What does population increase do? It makes that crisis worse, forcing even more people to chase fewer affordable apartments. That is not a supply-and-demand formula that is friendly to any families other than those who move in Bloomberg circles and who can wall themselves off (at least until they find themselves in an emergency room, where, even at the city’s best hospitals, staff is overwhelmed by — population again — an ever-growing number of people seeking their services).

Take a look at parks. For anyone who is serious about the quality of urban life, the importance of adequate park space can’t be overstated. New York has well-known jewels in its park system, but the system as a whole not only lacks resources, it simply doesn’t provide enough park for each New Yorker. A growing New York population means that parkland per capita goes down (just at a moment when existing parkland is being eyed jealously for its potential housing development potential).

And what about schools? Some current problems (including the problem of overcrowding) would be mitigated if New York State complied with a court decision that stated the state needed to remedy the funding formula by which it historically shortchanged New York City schools. But, with or without that help, large numbers of new students in a still-growing city would almost certainly overtax the best-faith efforts to recognize and overcome the enormous existing problems of the city’s school system, even were such efforts brought to bear.

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