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Who Really Owns the NYC Skyline?

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The widening divide between the rich and poor in America was highlighted recently in a New York Times piece headlined “How New York’s Skyline Is Changing to Give the Wealthy a Better View.” Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The widening divide between the rich and poor in America was highlighted recently in a New York Times piece headlined “How New York’s Skyline Is Changing to Give the Wealthy a Better View.” Editor Sergio Peçanha points out that many of the newer buildings going up in Manhattan are “luxury residential high-rises, part of a trend in major cities around the world fueled by increased land and construction costs and by more demand from high-end buyers. Taller buildings yield more return on the investment for developers. Higher floors also come with more privacy, better views and much higher sales prices.”

“People with some common sense should look at this and realize that there’s no downside of it,” Gary Barnett, founder of Extell Development, a company behind a number of high-end towers in the city, told Peçanha. “Others see the changing skyline as a reflection of a changing New York.”

“These towers are the physical manifestation of the 1 percent,” Richard Florida, an urbanist and distinguished fellow at the N.Y.U. Schack Institute of Real Estate, told the Times. Susannah Warner, a personal trainer who has been living in New York for 30 years, told the Times, “If I was a visitor who had never been here before, then I’m sure I would find some sort of beauty and fascination in it. But because I’m living here, I don’t like it.”

The question of the rich getting their way at the expense of everyone else is not new, nor is it going away any time soon. In fact, the Federal Reserve just released some data that makes the state of this alignment easier to gauge. “In its new Distributive Financial Accounts data series, the central bank offers a granular picture of how American capitalism has been distributing the gains of economic growth over the past three decades,” reports nymag.com. “Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project took the Fed’s data and calculated how much the respective net worth of America’s top one percent and its bottom 50 percent has changed since 1989. He found that America’s superrich have grown about $21 trillion richer since Taylor Swift was born, while those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution have grown $900 billion poorer.”

As Bruenig notes on his group’s web site, “What the final product reveals is a 2018 where the top 1 percent owns nearly $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half owns less than nothing, meaning they have more debts than they have assets. This follows from 30 years in which the top 1 percent massively grew their net worth while the bottom half saw a slight decline in its net worth.”

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