What will New York City look like in the future? It's an evergreen question, but in 2020 it's being asked with a new sense of urgency as the city faces unprecedented uncertainty. The pandemic has stopped life as we know it, and when we get out of it, the city will not be the same.
In a New York Minute we went from a functioning metropolis to shuddering tailspin. We've seen historic job losses; ruined businesses; New Yorkers who can't pay rent; realtors who can't unload apartments; the school system failing to function; parents juggling homeschooling, 24/7 childcare, and jobs all under one roof. Venues are closed, cultural institutions are closed, Broadway went dark. We're scared to get on the subway. The MTA is broke. The state is broke. The city is broke. New Yorkers are broke. Office buildings are abandoned. Restaurant dining rooms have been haphazardly set up in parking spots. There are more cars. There are more bikes. And New Yorkers have been left to navigate the day-to-day, with more obstacles than ever before.
The list of repair work on this city is endless, and the real New Yorkers — those not getting the hell out of Dodge — will be left to do the work. We will not just be reinventing the wheel, we will be reinventing the wheel, the vehicle, and the tools.
Change is around the corner, because it has to be. But how do we put it all back together, and rebuild it better and more fairly than before? In Japan, there's a tradition of fixing broken pottery by rejoining the pieces with golden lacquer; the practice is called Kintsugi, and the philosophy around it is centered on an acceptance of change. Instead of hiding the damage, "the repair is literally illuminated." The past few months have exposed countless pre-existing cracks in the city, and new ones have formed around those. In early May, we began to ask New Yorkers to fill these cracks with gold, and show us their dream of a finished project.
"Given that this is an opportunity for real change — what is your utopian idea of how NYC could look in the future?"
This was our question when we embarked on out project, called New York City Tomorrow, with full focus on the pandemic, but midway through, the protests against racist police violence brought thousands of New Yorkers out into streets demanding change. The desolate cityscape of March and April was suddenly recharged with a new purpose, as daily demonstrations here joined the larger movement nationwide.
One would-be participant in this project, who was unable to speak with us officially because of professional restrictions, reframed our question.
"Another way to think of it is to imagine that you did not know who you would be in a new New York — what race or color, what age, what religion, what gender or orientation, whether you would be with or without a disability, healthy or unhealthy, what national origin, your political views, what zip code you would live in. If you had no idea what or who you might be, what talents you might have or lack, then what sort of New York would you devise?"
In an ongoing series, which begins today, we'll be publishing a series of essays and interviews which will deliver a set of ideas for a new New York, built on our gold-cracked foundation. As we publish each, we'll include a link below. Our first set of participants will include Wynton Marsalis, Laurie Anderson, Janette Sadik-Khan, Peter Shapiro, Melba Wilson and more.
- Read or listen to an interview with Wynton Marsalis on the future of New York City
- An interview with Melba Wilson of Melba's in Harlem on the future of restaurants in New York City
- Clive Gillinson of Carnegie Hall on the future of the arts in New York City
- An interview with Laurie Anderson on the future of New York City
- Your turn: What Do You Want New York City To Look Like Tomorrow? Draw It For Us
- Former DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on Why The Pandemic Represents A Historic Opportunity For NYC Streets
- An interview with Mary Cain on the Future of Pedestrian Running Spaces in NYC
- An interview with Rubin Museum's Tim McHenry on the future of NYC arts
- Building An Experience Into NYC: John Wang On The Future Of Queens Night Market
- Landmark The Diners & Music Venues: Suzanne Vega On The Future Of NYC
- Three Chinatown luminaries — Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, Winnie’s Bar manager Teddy Mui, and 46 Mott Bakery manager Patrick Mock — about their ideas for the future of Manhattan's Chinatown