How James Altucher's "New York is Dead Forever" essay goaded Seinfeld into unleashing ad hominem attacks

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/15/how-james-altuchers-new-yo.html

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Both live in a New York City that 90%+ of people will never experience. Seinfeld’s reply is weak, but Altucher’s essay is still a typical example of his self-serving, self-promoting confidence-artist BS.

[previously about this charlatan whose latest “lifestyle” grift is being a “cryptocurrency guru”]

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Going out on a limb here, but New York is probably not dead forever.

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The New York from the '80s that I knew is long dead. And that goes for every time and place I’ve ever been.

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All I can say is thank goodness that some folks in the media and show business are FINALLY willing to talk about New York, it’s authenticity, and their own conception of its platonic ideal.

It is such an unexplored topic, and billionaires arguing with columnists are definitely likely to provide the best takes.

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To be fair, Seinfeld was never an insult comic. Maybe get Joey Diaz?

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Well, perhaps my emotions are getting the better of me, but Seinfeld’s response captures what I was thinking when I read Altucher’s essay.

I’ll also say that anyone who has moved to Florida and says NYC is dead from there is generally a person I am happy to see go. Of course there are exceptions. But they are not the people who refer to themselves as an “angel investor”.

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Yeah the entire thing is some privledged ass bullshit Altucher’s entire take is predicated on the pandemic, falling rents, and some “urban crime” scaremongering. Apparently inspired by rich people leaving.

New York is dead. It’s been dead for a while. But the thing he seems panicked about has been happening among the young, everyone from the upper middle class down to the working class, and non-white and immigrant communities for more than a decade. The dearth of food, culture, variety driven by the sheer expense of living there. Nearly everyone I know in NYC has moved on to another city, most often after looking at their life and realizing they’d never get ahead, never own a home, couldn’t afford to raise kids there, were going broke just existing there. Or similar hard stop, I’ve got to get my shit together moments.

Altucher’s essay amounts to a lament that NYC might not be a play ground for the rich anymore. It’s sounds to me like something that might ultimately salvage the place.

Seinfeld seems to be on about that cloistered everything but New York is shit thing that only lives among moneyed boomers who bought in early and have never lived anywhere else. He’s entirely missing the point, as per usual with that guy.

Seems to amount to a fight between moneyed dicks about whether NYC is moneyed enough for dicks anymore.

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Seinfeld has become a parody of himself. Or maybe I’m just old now.

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He’s also pissed off because in June the authorities shut down an “illegal comedy show” he’s invested in due to the pandemic:

Despite current rules limiting bars and clubs from opening to the public, the live comedy club Stand Up NY on the Upper West Side held an invite-only show for professional comics on Wednesday night. The club was not exactly sneaky about it. Outside, there was a sandwich board with the words “illegal comedy” and an arrow pointing inside. Neighbors and at least one passerby dropped in. There’s a photo of a comedian during his set, his mask pulled down to rest on his chin; he described himself as so happy to be at the mic again that he “just started screaming.” The entire show ran about five hours, and Altucher’s fellow owner, at least, planned to continue holding these ‘invite-only’ shows four days a week. He anticipated being “able to invite about 25 audience members” to the shows by mid-July: Zoldan, who has co-owned the club for more than a decade, was aware of the risks of putting on his first indoor evening of the pandemic: the police could shut down the show or he could have been subject to a fine. “I’m just doing it the way I want to do it — and responsibly,” he said.

Put another way, Altucher’s lament boils down to “sigh, once the city is telling wealthy older white men they can’t do what they want, it’s so over.” I know this charlatan is a friend of BB, but it would be no loss if we never heard about him here again.

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I think for a lot of us NYC died in the 90’s when it was cleaned up. CBGB was turned into some kind of museum attraction, ferchrissakes.

Every city is ‘dying’ thanks to gentrification, rising rents, and uptight city councils.

When artists and musicians can’t find a place to live and perform, and when the poor have to commute an hour from a suburb to their menial jobs, then your city is basically an expensive high end amusement park/mall.

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Altucher’s essay is hardly worth responding to with anything but insults given how internally inconsistent it is, but I’ll give it a go.

  1. Business
    He’s simply wrong about the scale of the losses in commercial real estate. Depending on the sector (retail versus office) you’re looking at between a 25 and 50% loss, not 90%. But even assuming he is right, it neglects a core idea, no where else is shining. The agglomeration effects of NYC will still be there as the lockdowns ease and the economy recovers. NYSE and NASDAQ aren’t about to relocate to Minneapolis to join the Grain Exchange. Yeah, commercial rents might fall to mid 90s levels for a few years, that might actually be beneficial. He points out that in the 70s NYC was the capital of the business world and that allowed for the rebound, that is actually more true now than it was then. We’ve seen massive consolidation in the finance industry in just the past 20 years. But really if he thinks the Miami real estate market is more stable on a lifetime of cities timescale than NYC, he is out of his mind.

The riots as he calls them were substantially smaller than plenty New York has been through in relatively recent history. If we go by human toll Crown Heights was a far more damaging event and almost 4 times as many businesses were damaged in the Blackout riots. Again it isn’t like other places are unaffected. His chosen relocation city of Miami was under a 7 day curfew and Barr sent in federal agents.

His culture section again ignores that everywhere is having the same problem. Cleveland frequently brags that it has the second largest theater complex in the country after Lincoln Center. If Cleveland loses the Playhouse Square theaters, it is left with essentially no theater scene (there would still be a handful of anchors but not much). If NYC lost all of Lincoln Center and half of Broadway, it would still be a major player in the country’s theater world.

Food, this is the most internally inconsistent section and a good example of how bad his reasoning is. He makes the point that restaurants want other restaurants nearby, then says that the people went off to Maine, Tennessee and so on. To put it in perspective the year over year growth in NYC metro GDP in the restaurant and accommodations sector between 2017 and 2018 (most recent data) was larger than the total restaurant industry in Portland , Burlington , or Knoxville. Any recent two year growth was larger than the total for Memphis or Indianapolis. Assume his ridiculous numbers of a 60% loss and assume static numbers for everyone else. Working from 2018 numbers that would mean NYC would still be worth a combined Atlanta and San Francisco, with almost a Salt Lake City to spare. It would drop NYC back to roughly 2007 levels.

Before he thinks broadband opens up everywhere as a competitor he should look at broadband access outside of most city centers in the US. Over a third of all rural properties have no access to speeds over 100Mbps. Less than 20% have at least two providers to keep prices down.

The budget may be the part where he lapses most clearly into delusion. New York’s budget and deficit are going to take a mammoth hit, but New York has healthy sectors. What did the shutdowns do to somewhere heavily tourist dependent like New Orleans or Las Vegas? Yeah they are in for a rough few years, but they’ve got a life raft that a lot of other places don’t

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“So instead of the poems I had hoped for, there came only a shuddering blankness and ineffable loneliness; and I saw at last a fearful truth which no one had ever dared to breathe before—the unwhisperable secret of secrets—the fact that this city of stone and stridor is not a sentient perpetuation of Old New York as London is of Old London and Paris of Old Paris, but that it is in fact quite dead, its sprawling body imperfectly embalmed and infested with queer animate things which have nothing to do with it as it was in life.”

– H. P. Lovecraft, He

Old Howard did it back in 1925.

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CBGB went under in 2006. It became a very expensive flag ship boutique for a designer fashion brand who decked out the location as an ersatz “tribute” to the club. It was an active performance venue and substantially the same right up until the day they closed. Killed by the landlords instituting an exorbitant rent when their very long term $1 lease expired.

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It’s okay, they set up a CBGBs in Las Vegas… practically the exact same thing… /s

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Did that ever open?

I know they like stripped the interior and warehoused everything including the urinals an toilets which they swore they didn’t clean first. And that was the last I heard about that.

Aside from some of that shit getting auctioned off the past few years.

I dunno… I honestly don’t care. It’s the disneyland version of a punk space. It’s bullshit.

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Thanks for reminding me of that post. I needed to add some extra rage into my day.

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To paraphrase Zappa, it’s not dead, it just smells funny. Its soul on the other hand has long since left thanks to Giuliani and Bloomberg turning it into a hyper-gentrified playground for the ultra-wealthy.

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Joey’s from New Jersey. Better to go with good ol’ Dice.

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