I’m just back from New York and in between the bouts of jet lag I’ve been musing about the nature of big cities.
City living is fantastic, frustrating, energising and enervating. It’s a heady mix.
London is increasingly and breathlessly badged as the world’s greatest city, especially in terms of wealth, boasting the greatest number of high net worth individuals. It’s a truly international city and arguably has more in common with New York, Singapore and Tokyo than the rest of the UK.
But there are many problems too, not least of which is housing. How do we maintain our global status and magnet-like appeal to the international elite while still being an affordable home for the rest of the people who want to live here? The Economist recently wrote about the flip side of regeneration and gentrification and the impact on the working class in central London – effectively moving them out.
New York is fast, furious and edgy. While it isn’t the country’s political seat of power it spawns energy, ambition and eccentricity through sheer force of personality – more so than London I think. Like London it is also undergoing a major construction boom which makes wandering its sidewalks not unlike navigating the Crossrail-dominated streets here. It too has its issues with housing, zoning and how to shape the city to meet the needs of the power brokers (global business, international investors) as well as its residents. The highly regarded Tenement Museum in Lower East Side tells the story of the thousands of working class immigrants who came to New York in the 1860s. It brings things bang up to date with a critique of modern day housing challenges in Manhattan.
I love London but having just spent time with Robert de Niro at the 9/11 Memorial Museum (as a native New Yorker who witnessed the atrocities in 2001 he’s the voice of the audio guide) and with all due deference to Samuel Johnson, I’ll give him the last word: “I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, 'There's no place like New York. It's the most exciting city in the world. That's the way it is. That's it.'"
Jo Lloyd is the managing director at Camargue