Cities do not succeed or fail by accident. Various factors result in some prospering and others withering away. While things such as geography, weather and national or global forces are beyond their control, decisions by the public and private sectors play a large role. Thus, it is helpful to periodically re-examine how New York is doing relative to its peers and to reflect on what is working and what needs work.
A scorecard on New York City’s competitiveness released last week by the Citizens Budget Commission attempts to do that. New York was deemed the best of the nation’s 14 largest metropolitan areas, followed by Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Silicon Valley. We also have the most people—21 million—which is both a cause and an effect of our high score. Not coincidentally, the San Antonio area, which ranked last overall, is the smallest, with just 2 million inhabitants.
What sets New York apart? Let us count the ways. We have the most highly educated people, including the most young ones; the most Fortune 500 companies; the most jobs in key industries; the most educational institutions and international students; the most self-employed; and thelowest crime rate. In all, we topped the rankings in nine of the 30 categories and were second in five others, among them bars and restaurants per capita, average annual pay and venture-capital deals and dollars.
The Big Apple is nicely positioned to benefit from the broader trend of people—especially young adults—choosing the dynamism of cities (now that crime is low in so many of them) over the quietude and tedium of suburbia. Companies are following talent; job postings in urban areas draw four or five times as many applicants as in the ’burbs.
The problem with being popular is that housing costs rise when demand outpaces development. New York ranked 11th in rent affordability, which pushes people far from job centers to find cheaper housing. That helps to explain our only last-place finish: in the commute-time category. But both of these grades are deceiving:
Buying MetroCards costs less than owning a car, so when our transportation expenses and higher wages are considered, living in New York is only slightly more costly than average. And while mass transit can be slow, a commuter can be productive when not driving. So we must accelerate development around subway lines and provide Wi-Fi on all trains and buses.
Our only other weak spots were broadband access (seventh place) and park acreage per capita(12th). These deficits are evident in the high demand for access to Verizon’s FiOS service and the crowds at any quality green space. Staying ahead of rival cities requires prioritizing these areas—and maintaining our leads in all the others. — THE EDITORS