The “big” in the Big Apple is likely to get bigger, in fact, significantly bigger according to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal. Its implications for business in general and the hospitality industry in particular is enormous. If the many projects envisaged by hizzoner Mike Bloomberg come to pass it could quite nearly validate the pollyannas and send the cassandras packing.
New York has been written off repeatedly over the decades from Mayor Lindsay’s time in the 60s when the city was held hostage to a number of vested interests to its nadir under Mayor Dinkins in the early 90’s when crime was rampant and the city’s unemployment rate crested 13%. The pessimism (wanton in some instances) is not confined to the US. The November 26th issue of the Financial Times (may require subscription) had an article by FT Columnist, John Gapper headlined “New York’s days of glory will never return”. Mr. Gapper was, of course, referring to the recent successes of London and other financial centers such as Hong Kong in the IPO market and not necessarily pointing to an eventual decline in the fortunes of the Big Apple. But as any New Yorker knows, the financial services industry is far and away the biggest source of revenue for the City’s coffers and fuels a host of ancillary businesses including the hotel industry.
Among the many notable metrics in the Journal article that refers to a study by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, an association of government agencies, is the increase in population to 9.5 million by 2030 and the fact the service sector will lead much of the anticipated growth. Mayor Bloomberg plans to handle the expected economic growth by unveiling “a set of development goals that envision massive infrastructure investment, land-use reform, and a heavy emphasis on doing it all in an environmentally sustainable way.” The plans include “a subway extension to the far West Side, home to the city’s convention center and recently rezoned office and residential district.” And as the article notes “the subway extension will allow tourists, commuters and conventioneers easier access to neighborhoods near the Hudson River.” A natural offshoot will be a real estate development bonanza that will include hotels and residential towers that could make the current spate of construction look piffling.
Other development projects that could achieve fruition include “new rail tunnels connecting Long Island and New Jersey to Manhattan and a new subway line for Manhattan’s East Side. A rebuilt Pennsylvania Station project could include the construction of two rail terminals, a new Madison Square Garden arena and five million square feet of office and retail space.”
Manhattan’s landscape – physical, cultural and economic is likely to undergo yet another transformation. And all of that is arguably for the better.