New York has been the country’s largest and major city since 1790. The center of the New York Metropolitan Area is one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. It is located on the Eastern Atlantic coast of the country, and it is composed of five boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, StatenIsland, Manhattan and Bronx.
The concept of global city has been imagined and defined by Saskia Sassen in 1991. Global cities play an important role in services sector and in the globalization process. They are places “where truly global services cluster” (Razeen Sally).
It’s also a global power city, exerting a significant impact upon commerce (TNCs headquarters), finance (New York Stock Exchange), media, art (MoMA, MET), fashion (see The Devil wears Prada), research, technology, education (colleges and universities such as Columbia University) and entertainment (Broadway musicals). United Nations are also headquartered in New York – which is very important for its influence in international diplomacy.
Several monuments have contributed to the glory of New York, but except tourist activities and cultural aspects of the place, we must mention that Wall Street is the financial capital of the world. It is the financial district of New York City – and “the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies”. Thanks to financial activities, global cities like NYC have a commandment strategic power, and also organize the new International Division of Work.
What are the main characteristics of a global city like New York? To what sorts of problems is it confronted to? What will the new challenges be in the following decades?
COMMAND FUNCTIONS CONCENTRATED IN NEW YORK (A CITY CONNECTED TO THE INTERNATIONAL GRID OF CITIES…)
A. AN INTERNATIONAL METROPOLIS
The global city is integrated to the Megalopolis, going from Boston to Washington (BosWash – including Boston, NYC, Philadelphia and Washington), on the Eastern coast of the USA. Its localization on the coastline (maritime interface) is significant to explain the growing importance of the city for exchanges. More than 22 million inhabitants live there: it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and the first urban area of the USA.
Since the end of the 19th century, NYC has become a powerful place symbolizing the American superpower. Many enterprises are concentrated in NYC, specialized in new media and networks, particularly between Lower Manhattan and Midtown. It is also an information city (= une technopole) because of high tech industriesclustered in the Silicon Alley (a pun referring to the Silicon Valley, California). Well-paying jobs have been developing for many years thanks to these prestigious activities, and because of well-developed communication links and infrastructures of transports. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that public authorities took part to this process by offering subsidies to new entrepreneurs. Connectivity of NYC to other sorts of areas and territories is quite essential to understand its migratory attractiveness and competitiveness. Most of the New York inhabitants are foreign born and decided to move there because of specific professional opportunities (or maybe just because of the “American Dream”).
B. THE FIRST ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CENTER IN THE WORLD
Wall Street is located in the Financial District, and is probably one of the most emblematic places of the city. This so famous street is dedicated to financial activities. The NYSE Euronext is a financial and “share prices” platform symbolizing the economic power of the global city. It is the second most important one in the network cities, after London. Thanks to its GDP, the city could be the seventh power in the world – and the GDP per capita is higher (about 25%) than the average GDP in the rest of the USA. As a matter of fact, the new status of this international metropolis shows that the “framework” of the Nation State is no longer available to compete with others in the globalization process.
The well-known skyline (that can be seen from the Brooklyn Bridge) illustrates the “vertical architecture” theory: managing the urban landscape (and skyscrapers with large vertical faces) is a way to be in line with the functions of this commandment center. Concerning Times Square, it’s one of the most famous and mediatized places in the world. It is sometimes called “the Center of the Universe” because of its numerous diversified activities and well-established firms.
The Rockfeller center is another place for business. An ironical element may be noted when you visit the hall: the walls have been painted by the Communist artist Diego de Rivera, representing class struggle scenes (according to the Marxist-Leninist ideology), and the figure of Lenin leading the proletarian Revolution!
According to the former mayor Michael Bloomberg, “talent attracts capital far more effectively and consistently than capital attracts talent”. This idea can be borne out through studies on New York soft power – namely cultural and touristic industries.
C. THE CAPITAL FOR CULTURE AND TOURISM
The capacity to generate international touristic flows is another characteristic of this international metropolis. The Marathon of New York is fundamental to exert its influence, just like numerous touristic places: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, MoMA, MET, Guggenheim, etc. This is not the most touristic place in the world, but it’s the most lucrative one – since the authorities and entrepreneurs have a knack of making profits on visits and attractions.
Except the urban heritage, it has an abundance of cultural activities contributing to its attractiveness and competitiveness. American exportations are increasing thanks to entertainment industries, just after aeronautic industry. A fact that cannot be ignored is the cultural status of this capital, thanks to Christie’s art market, Artist Companies, literary, painting production, and Broadway musicals. Some specialists consider that this particular sector is precisely threatenedby the increasing importance given to musicals adapted from Walt Disney cartoons (Lion King, Shrek, Cinderella, etc.). Broadway could “lose its soul” because of this optimizing profits logic – instead of keeping on producing traditional musicals that contributed the most to its reputation (= Cats, West Side Story, Hair, etc.). For instance, The Phantom of the Opera is one of the biggest Broadway successes of all times and has been played without any interruption for more than 25 years! The story is adapted from a French novel written by Gaston Leroux in 1910, and was firstly played in London in the 1980s’, just like so many traditional Broadway musicals.
A CITY PLACED AT THE CORE OF GLOBAL NETWORKS
A. A CITY AT THE HEART OF INTERNATIONAL DECISION-MAKING
Many TNCs are headquartered there, such as American Express, Merrill Lynch, CBS, NBC, NY Times, Time Warner, Colgate-Palmolive, etc.
NYC is also placedat the core of flows of information thanks to its influential media companies. Among the most famous and powerful channels established in the metropolis and broadcasting information all over the world, we could mention CNN. This is another illustration of the American soft power, but the fact is that NYC is an international information node, where information exchanges play a central role. The New York Times could be evoked as well – and the journalists working there may appear like “opinion-makers” – as they have a growing influence on public opinions.
However, even if these New Technologies of Information and Communication (NTIC) may have a certain impact on “the Grand Chessboard” (that is to say Geopolitics, Diplomacy or international relationships), the UN headquartered in NYC is also significant to understand this “international decision-making”. In fact, many international organizations are based in this area, such as: WTO (for trade), IAEA (atomic energy), UNESCO (education), FAO (food), IMF (currency) – and of course the International Court of Justice.
B. A GLOBAL HUB
The city is the first port of the American Atlantic coastal side. It is also an important central place in which air traffic and maritime commercial flows are clustered. Many airports make mass air transport easier, and are essentially used for international flights (gateways like JFK, La Guardia and Newark). The future project of the World Trade Center Transit Hub is another example of urban renewals adopted to connect downtown with other areas and territories. It should be opened in a few months (in 2015). Indeed, this would be a way to transport faster and faster millions of visitors and daily commuters (= navetteurs) to have access to the main sites. This “state-of-the-art” WTC Transportation Hub would afford people coming from different communities to be mixed.
C. A COSMOPOLITAN CITY
Because of its historical monuments, museums, universities and musicals, we may say that NYC is a strategic and significant place for culture and education.
Moreover, the city symbolizes two aspects of the American mentality – that is to say multiculturalism and melting pot. 30% of the migrants come from the Caribbean area, and 25% of them come from Asia. Hundreds of languages are spoken downtown and in the neighborhood, tens of nationalities are settled in different districts such as Chinatown or Little Italy. The latter has been reduced considerably and does occupy only two streets because of Chinese expansion. It is actually no more than an attraction for tourists.
Latinos are in the Queens, African American people are in the Bronx or Jews in Brooklyn. Most of these districts have been restored and illustrate the gentrification process. More and more middle-class people and bohemians come to live there – while lower classes have to move away. For instance, Harlem was very famous for being a hot spot for African American culture during the first part of the 20th century – and was well-known for being dangerous because of drugs, junkies, criminal gangs and riots. It was recently managed to be a high or medium class residential – and nowadays the district can be visited by tourists without getting in trouble with anybody.
Thousands of students coming from all over the world are welcomed in New York prestigious Universities (Princeton, Yale, Columbia) insofar as they represent an incomparable opportunity for young people and future entrepreneurs to become the new “brains” on the market economy, or in the innovation and high tech sectors. It is also well-known that all sorts of abilities can be found there. Yet, such information should be put into perspective, because these studies cost a lot of money (about 50 000 dollars a year!!) and financial aids are not easy to get. Asian students are the ones who can afford it the most.
METROPOLITAN DYNAMICS RELATIVE TO THE INTEGRATION IN GLOBALIZATION PROCESS
The CBD is composed of skyscrapers and business buildings. Manhattan Island is the place in which most of the strategic and urban functions are clustered. As we said before, the skyline is used to symbolize such economic and financial power. But the urban landscape has been transformed at the turning point of the 21st century because of 9/11 attacks, when the Twin Towers have been destroyed. The site of the former World Trade Center has been turned into a place of memory with Ground Zero: two huge fountains represent the holes of the collapsed buildings. The names of all the victims of these terrorist attacks have been engraved around the fountains. Furthermore, there is a project conceived by the architect Daniel Libeskind to rebuild the skyline: Liberty Tower already exists and is 1776 feet (referring to the American Declaration of Independence). In a way, this architectural project could portray the nickname given to NYC:Tomorrowland (= cannot disappear nor die).
B. SOCIAL AND ETHNIC SEGREGATION
According to some estimation, one inhabitant out of five is poor and apartments for rent are among the most expensive ones in the world. This paradoxical situation shows that the phenomenon of socio-spatial segregation is quite enrooted because of metropolization process (even if slums do not exist anymore in NYC). In some districts, low class residential is replaced by medium class residential: it creates a kind of “balanced neighborhood”. In fact, this is what we call “empowerment zones”: investments can be channeled through fiscal incentive policy.
Some government low-cost housingsstill exist, but they are a subject of disagreement between the poorest inhabitants and the city council. To be precise, turning NYC into a sustainable city can provoke new conflicts and tensions because of different purposes to reach.
C. ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
The concept of sustainable city implies preserving and developing its abilities and attractiveness without jeopardizing its future for next generations. Eco districts may be created (like in London), as well as revegetation (= végétalisation) can be made on public places or elsewhere – but there will be (obviously) a significant impact on prices and standard of living.
Moreover, ecomobility is developed as well in order to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. That is why Citibikes were created (inspired by Velib’ models in Paris). The name is taken from Citigroup, the main private investor for the project (public investments would not be so important and determining to develop such initiatives).
And, last but not least: the city is often exposed to natural hazards like major snow storms – the winter is very hard… and that’s why it was impossible to organize a travel there in February!
Thanks to hazards prediction and prevention, main disasters can be avoided most of the time, but at the beginning of 2015, the mayor de Blasio has been very criticized because of the “excessive and expensive importance” of the measures adopted by the city council. The fact is that, without any prevention, the consequences on economy would be catastrophic…
CONCLUSION: Fighting the final phases of gentrification in New York?
Since the new mayor Bill de Blasio was elected, the gentrification process has been accelerated in the different districts of the city. It is well-known that this phenomenon contributes to expulse the poorest inhabitants from their housing in order to rebuild or renew the places for richer ones. Scandals have been revealed since most of these (poor) neighborhoods are populated by Black and Latino minorities.
GLURBANIZATION: competing with other cities implies being integrated to the globalization process