A new mayor, new city council and a new governor all appear to be coalescing around a new New York. As we move past post-pandemic thinking, leading private- and public-sector officials help map out what New York City could – or even should – look like five year down the road.
2022: Marijuana possession and “adult use” are legal, but dispensaries have yet to open and the industry itself remains nascent.
2027: The legalized New York State cannabis market is predicted to reach $4.2 billion by 2027 and add 76,000 new jobs according to Gov. Hochul’s office. But how will this play out on the ground? Cultivation warehouses are likely to appear in industrial districts like in Jamaica and Red Hook, while a “liquor store model” will emerge once dispensaries are officially legalized in late 2022. Most dispensaries will be owned by members of the neighborhoods in which they are located — rather than major “Big Cannabis” players. “Mom-and-pop-shops really connected to the community,” said Chris Alexander, Executive Director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management and NYC’s unofficial “cannabis czar.” “You’re not going to see 20 or 30 dispensaries owned by the same conglomerate. There’s a maximum of three that can be owned by an entity.” The result? “Distinct businesses with their own flair and feel — like a local bar..”
2022: Once a safe haven for Chinese culture, some 75 percent of Asian seniors in the city are afraid to leave their homes because of hate crimes.
2027: “With $20 million in capital improvements to develop the neighborhood, Chinatown will have better street lighting, expanded green space, outdoor bathrooms, all these amenities the neighborhood never got,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, president of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). And at the center this change will be a new MOCA itself, designed by architect Maya Lin and Ralph Applebaum Associates. Upon completion in 2025, the new building will expand the museum’s footprint from 12,000 to 68,000 square feet. The beloved Chinatown Community Center at 70 Mulberry, which burned down in January 2020, will also be reborn, thanks to $170 million in city funding. Maasbach hopes a future Chinatown means a safer Chinatown — and New York City —for its Asian population. “I’m a tough-and-tumble Queens girl,” she adds, “and I haven’t ridden the subway since February 2020. I’ve been terrified for two years.”
2022: The city’s sea level has increased two inches since 2000 and nine inches since 1950.
2027: “We’ll be seeing the impact of climate change on our everyday lives on a much more regular basis,” said Maureen Raymo, director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “In five years, it’ll be a little warmer, more frequent heat waves, extreme rain like Ida more often, and hurricanes that do reach us will be more severe.” But crucial mitigation efforts are afoot: The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project — a coastal protection initiative launched in response to Hurricane Sandy’s flooding — is scheduled for completion by 2026. Meanwhile, 2025 will see the first watts of power generated by the proposed Empire Wind off-shore energy farm, which are expected to reach the city’s grid in 2026. They arrive following a $200 million investment in the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to make it a hub of offshore wind turbine power construction.
2022: As of April 2022, some 53,000 pre-pandemic restaurant jobs have not returned to NYC
2027: Covid will have permanently altered the city’s dining landscape. “Because more people are working remotely instead of in Manhattan offices, we’ll continue to see restaurants grown in residential areas like the Upper West Side and Astoria that are doing bigger breakfast and lunch business,” said Andrew Rigie, president of NYC Hospitality Alliance, who cites the booming brunch business at NinosAQ in Astoria as evidence of this trend. Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer agreed, predicting a “donut-shaped recovery” with the outer boroughs, where more people live than work, experiencing a restaurant recovery much more quickly than Midtown, where more people work than live: “The green shoots of innovation are going to happen outside of Manhattan,” Meyer added.
2022: The city that never sleeps got comfortable with a midnight pandemic curfew, particularly in Manhattan.
2027: With Narcan now behind every bar, “consent ambassadors,” and cannabis consumption “as natural as having a beer,” Ariel Palitz, Senior Executive Director the NYC Office of Nightlife, said nightlife will be safer and more intimate in the coming years. Palitz cites the recently opened Sands of Persia in Astoria – a booze-less hookah and dessert bar – as an example of NYC nightlife’s lower-key future. Without the worry of alcohol, “it’s easier to be flirtatious and explore yourself,” she said. And get ready for a night out in Queens, Staten Island or Brooklyn’s further reaches. “The outer boroughs will continue to take over because this where young people and artists live” said Daniel Nardicio, gay nightlife’s reigning royal. Nardicio cites pan-sexual, anything-goes clubs and events like Good Judy, House of Yes and 3 Dollar Bill as a taste of what’s to come. “They’re creative and inclusive; all that good stuff,” he said. “These are the nightspots of the future.”
2022: New towers are planned for Disney, JPMorganChase, Grand Central, and the PENN District
2027: Manhattan borough president Mark Levine said he wants to see less Lincoln Center “fortress” or Hudson Yards “corporate campus” construction, and more developments like Essex Crossing, which “fit into the fabric of the neighborhood.” He envisions Midtown becoming more residential in the style of the post-9/11 Financial District. As happened near Wall Street, new apartments won’t pop up “in 1980s [office] buildings with massive floor-plates, but in older pre-war buildings that were more narrow and too cramped for modern offices. There are plenty of buildings like that in Midtown as well,” he explained. “But there’ll need to be zoning allowances and financial incentives so we could get affordable [into these conversions]. As much of it as possible needs to be affordable, which virtually none of it was downtown.”
2022: UPS is trialing deliveries by barge to take trucks out of Manhattan and off the BQE, just one example of new-fangled logistics shifts citywide.
2027: Sarah Kaufman, Associate Director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation (and a former MTA planner) says the future of NYC transport is integration and platform-neutrality. “Imagine using your OMNI to pay for subways and buses but also taxis, CitiBike, and ferries,” she said. “There shouldn’t be a difference between these systems, which are all city- and state-provided. Ideally you could pay for an Uber or Lyft with that account as well.” Kaufman is also bullish on the potential for driverless vehicles, citing a proposal to replace low-ridership bus routes running 24/7 with door-to-door transport “especially in neighborhoods where people feel unsafe” through a network of autonomous vehicles, which would operate at lower costs and higher efficiency. The real sign of transport innovation, however, is a better way to travel from Manhattan to NYC airports. Gov. Hochul recently announced free rides on the Q70 bus to LaGuardia while other, longer-term options are studied. But Kaufman says this is far from enough: “Ideally, we extend the N train to LaGuardia. Or a ferry to LaGuardia. It’s on the water. Why aren’t we already doing that?”
2022: Hudson Yards, the star of pre-pandemic development, is a $25 billion ghost town that has attracted four suicides off its centerpiece structure, the Vessel.
2027: Instead of focusing luxury retail and residences in far-flung, under-utilized luxury enclaves, innovatively-planned developments could house city agencies and help give new life to under-served communities. “We have a glut of city agencies in Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. They can be moved and become the anchor tenant for revitalization in a neighborhood,” said Andrew Kimball, the recently-appointed president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC). This is already taking place thanks to the EDC’s new City Agencies Revitalizing the Economy (C.A.R.E.) strategy, which was announced in April. “We have a glut of City agencies in Manhattan and in a few outer borough cores, like Downtown Brooklyn or Long Island City,” Kimball said. “Those agencies need more space, and they can be moved. So they then become the anchor tenant in a new commercial project.” The first such project has already broken ground, a new mixed-use building in East New York that will house more than 1,100 employees from DSS’ Human Resources Administration along with some 80,000 square feet of private-market commercial space. These types of development solutions “could also come to Jamaica, Staten Island, or the South Bronx,” Kimball said. The East Broadway project has been designed by New York- and San Juan-based Marvel architects, which has one of the largest concentrations of minority architects and designers in New York City.