New York City Economy still in the Doldrums

ny-city-in-smokeI always hate to be the bearer of bad news. But having just spent several days in NY I can tell you that things are not getting better in the Big Apple. I rely on taxi drivers, hotel managers and staffers, and other key local business types to tell me what things are really like— and none are the least bit shy about telling it like it is.

Most cabbies tell me that things are still much worse than after September 11th, and that is saying a lot. The “black cars,” or the sedans that used to shuttle bankers and other professionals from point “A” to point “B” in Manhattan are not only hurting, they are hemorrhaging. Those drivers are still waiting five or more hours for their first fare of the day! That comes as no surprise given the disappearance of the banking industry, but it is still a jarring reality.  It is believed that 16,000 jobs have been lost in the banking industry thus far.

I also got word that some of the high end restaurants will be forced to close their doors. Lower end places—like the Vietnamese restaurant I frequent—are doing ok with only about a 15% drop-off in business. In fact that’s a theme in NY and around the nation: the lower-end alternatives are doing better than the [former] “Tiffany” crowd.  And that’s a fundamental shift. Usually, the rich get richer.  But not when entire institutions fall and the stock market loses half its value  (it is doing a little better than that now).

So, the moral of the story? We ain’t out of the woods yet. And we are going to have to wait at least months more for that long-awaited turnaround in the economy to show itself.

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