New York is becoming a tech town.
God help us all.
Amazon may have backed out of their plan to build their “second headquarters” in Queens after local objections, but according to a survey by analyst firm KPMG in March, 60 percent of tech-industry leaders still believe New York will surpass Silicon Valley as the country’s center of technology innovation. Already, Google is growing its New York City presence with a new $1 billion Hudson Square campus, scheduled to open in 2020 — with additional space planned for 2022.
That would initially mean good news for many tech workers, who are likely drawn to our city’s diversity, great plays, art and culture.
But if too many of them move here, they will no doubt enjoy it for approximately six months before they destroy it entirely.
Yes, it’s overly romantic to mourn the old New York of the 1970s. On the whole, most people would rather get hassled by an Elmo in Times Square than by a man with a knife. Accordingly, we’ve all learned to deal with beloved old neighborhood restaurants being turned into Pinkberrys. But the idea of them being turned into stores that sell not food but Soylent, the protein powder that techies use for nutrients, is just too distasteful to bear.
For all out-of-towners talk about people in the city being hostile, New York is still a place that encourages human interaction. Everything that tech bros promise is something we already have — as long as you’re willing to venture out among people. You want a Gatorade and cat food at 2 in the morning? You don’t need a delivery app, you need a bodega.
Uber is just taxis, if taxi drivers didn’t have a union and might kidnap you. Uber Express Pool is for people who are willing to take public transit but seemingly have never seen a bus.
Besides. The advice New Yorkers give tourists on the subway, the way the guy at the bodega knows your exact order, the complaints about holiday traffic you share with grumpy taxi drivers, the low-key camaraderie the city brings out in all of us — those are all things that can’t be replaced by any app out of Silicon Valley.
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When I see Uber raise $1 billion dollars for self-driving cars as they did in April, I wonder if tech guys’ ideal future is one where we spend our entire lives without ever interacting with another person.
Silicon Valley, after all, boasts a culture that seems to prize efficiency and cleanliness over, well, people.
To see how that works out, you only have to look at San Francisco. It’s gone from being a haven to artists and counterculture renegades, full of bookstores and crazy bars, to a place dominated by a single industry. Instead of street cars, “Google buses” ferry tech bros to and from the search engine’s campus, enabling them to avoid contact with anyone else in the city.
Not that anyone else can afford to live there. In April, the East Bay Times reported that the housing bubble created by the tech industry has forced many non-tech-working residents of the city to move into RVs. The UN has declared the homeless crisis in the Bay Area a human-rights violation. If you think the housing scene in New York is already bad, just wait until more techies move in.
The city currently hosts about 9,000 startups. Imagine if that grows? The tech scene fosters an out-of-touch bubble that literally displaces the very people who keep a city functioning, let alone interesting. And when all the corner stores are gone, Amazon will open a new one and claim it’s “disrupting” your shopping experience.
It will sell I♥ NY shirts but not be staffed by actual humans.