In the 1990s New York was the capital city of America's economic boom: now it is the epicentre of urban insecurity. The city is familiar with crisis, however, and no one could say it had surrendered to the new and old dangers it faces. Although disaster experts warn that a dirty bomb could result in the evacuation of millions of panicked residents and require the demolition of contaminated buildings and streets, the demand for real estate continues to escalate and housing prices are higher than they were in 2001. After 11 September, architecture critics warned that the age of the skyscraper had ended, yet dozens of new highrises are under construction and whichever design is ultimately chosen for the new Trade Center complex, it will surely feature one of the world's tallest buildings. City Hall has slashed social assistance programmes, closed fire stations, raised train and bus fares and introduced hefty property and income tax increases to eliminate a projected $5 or $6 billion budget deficit, but local leaders are still proposing to use public money to build new athletic stadiums as part of a bid for the 2012 Olympics. Is New York in denial or is it simply entering another stage of what the historian Max Page sees as a continuous process of creative destruction, refusing to let any obstacle block its path?
LRB 9 October 2003 | PDF Download