After my previous post about the way the New York that existed for generations is now being erased by easy money, Paul Krugman has some thoughts about the dynamics of how wealth changes neighborhoods in unpredictable, not just undesirable, ways:
... when it comes to things that make urban life better or worse, there is absolutely no reason to have faith in the invisible hand of the market. ... When, say, a bank branch takes over the space formerly occupied by a beloved neighborhood shop, everyone may be maximizing returns, yet the disappearance of that shop may lead to a decline in foot traffic, contribute to the exodus of a few families and their replacement by young bankers who are never home, and so on in a way that reduces the whole neighborhood’s attractiveness.
... we’re now arguably looking at something new, as the really wealthy — domestic malefactors of great wealth, but also oligarchs, princelings, and sheiks — buy up prime real estate and leave it vacant, creating luxury-shopping wastelands at best (I know, snobbish Upper West Side bias), expensive ghost districts at worst.
The whole point of a city, if you ask me is to have a place where cosmopolitanism is a way of life. It's hard to have that when the only flavor of polis around is the super-rich.
When I was growing up in the '70s and '80s (and to some extent into the '90s), one of the things I found myself explaining over and over again to people who didn't live in or near NYC was how it was just a place. People lived there; it wasn't some alien moonscape. Then people who would never have lived there in a million years to begin with started turning it into a gated community — and not even because they wanted to live there, but simply to own a piece thereof.