Monday, October 06, 2008

Curtains for New York?

As the lights come up on Wall Street's party, those of us who observed the fun from the sidelines - in shock, disgust and unabashed envy - realize that with the end of the Almighty finance guy, so too comes the end of New York.

The economy, as you may have heard, has fallen apart. The business of making the world go round, one which you and I thought was being handled by brilliant minds, turned out to be Off Track Betting in Prada suits. In the time it took us to realize this, the Prada suits became New York's smart, type-A answer to Los Angeles' silly starlets. You can have Britney and Lindsay, we laughed. We placed our bets on Gordon Gecko.

And why shouldn't we have?

New York didn't come about by playing it safe. A hunger for risk turned this city the kind of place where a twentysomething could realistically expect to make a couple of million dollars before turning 30. As we saw Wall Street rake in the billions and trillions, we hoped the good luck would rub off on the rest of us. And it did, sort of. Rents skyrocketed and that gritty New York of yesteryear gave way to the sanitized version of the city that saw a Washington Mutual bank under uninspired buildings housing $2 million studio apartments. We grit our teeth in resignation and downed some more martinis - "let it go," we thought. "This is New York." We were all having a good time, even in the post 9-11 era.

But now we're not having a good time and many of us feel as if we're on a slow march to even worse times. The news of Wall Street's collapse is just that: news. We won't really feel the effects of this catastrophe until another six or nine months, or so more learned minds tell us.

What's to become of the $2 million studios as the razzle dazzle of the second Gilded Age fades out is anyone's guess; yours truly believes that New York has taken one giant step toward obsolescence. Enter the new centers of trade and risk: Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Mumbai.

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