Why do people want to live in New York City?
I’ve been doing some back and forth with a potential client on finding him an apartment within his budget range. To make a long story short, whatever he’s going to find in Manhattan, he’s going to be living in tight quarters and paying a huge portion of his income for the privilege. Rents are, to quote a famous New Yorker, damn high.
Winters here are cold. January and February, to put it simply, suck. The real smart, well-off people all fly down to Florida or elsewhere for the winter, while the rest are left in the cold.
The taxes in the city and state suck. The government is intrusive and corrupt. In real estate, New York has so many “protected classes” that it boggles the mind, and recently, an ordnance was passed in New York City where businesses could be charged a $250,000 fine for failing to recognize a selective reality and not addressing transgender people by their preferred names and pronouns. I’m sure that will go a long way toward getting those people hired.
Wall Street is here and the city is the American financial capital, but it’s a miserable grind. Same thing with the massive corporations that do business here. The work is here, but it’s not so special that you won’t be able to find it elsewhere in most cases.
Sure, the women here are the hottest in the country, but there is no shortage of hot women in other cities.
So what makes New York so special? With all these negatives, why do people still choose to live here?
The first answer is social capital.
Put simply, the value of the social networks and cultural institutions of New York City is difficult to match anywhere else in the world. Major cities such as LA even fall short. The only rival I can think of is London, and New York is still looking to have a better future than that city.
The work may be a grind, but the value of networking at a corporate branch in New York City will usually be greater than the networks you can find in other cities. You won’t get rich or free by working in a corporate job, but the people you meet at those jobs in New York City, not to mention the other social networking opportunities the city provides, will usually be more valuable and lead to more important connections than in other cities. This is where the big boys come to play, a phenomenon which itself creates a kind of inertia or market power. Despite all the negatives I listed, the social capital in New York City is still in place and has been for centuries, and it won’t be going away anytime soon – the city is just too entrenched in its position, and by virtue of that entrenchment, it sucks talent out of other cities, preventing them from forming social capital networks in as high a quality as New York enjoys.
The people you’ll meet in New York are generally the elite at what they do, and they are concentrated in this one geographic area. If you’re looking to start a business, the best contacts in the world will be here in the highest density. This is especially so if you’re doing something in finance. People come here to make those connections.
Put simply, New York enjoys the highest talent density, making it the best place to form social networks.
The second leg of the equation involves the city’s unrivaled cultural capital.
Again, with the possible exception of London, nothing can really rival New York in terms of cultural institutions. Since the social networks are so powerful here, people bring their creative talents and unleash them in ultra high-density. If you’re a high culture-goer and you like the theater or the ballet, New York won’t be beat. You’ll have to go to the biggest cities in Europe if you hope to find museums to rival the Met or the Museum of Natural History. If you aren’t so high-minded, there are other events, festivals, and networks you can take advantage of depending on your choice of entertainment.
I’ve traveled up and down the eastern seaboard and spent some extended time in the South when I was younger. I’ve seen most of the major cities from Key West to New York. Nothing beats New York City in terms of its entertainment options and public events or in the quality of the people that you’ll find in them.
So people go to those events which can’t be rivaled anywhere else. Then they meet new people and elevate those connections to produce value.
This is why, despite all of the numerous negatives – the cold, the expense, the government, people still come to live here in New York City.
I know I’ll never leave. Nothing else really does it for me.