Earlier this month, the former front man for Talking Heads, David Byrne, wrote an essay about how New York was losing its artistic heart and creative edge because of the rising cost of living. “Middle-class people can barely afford to live here anymore, so forget about emerging artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, journalists and small business people,” wrote Byrne. “Bit by bit, the resources that keep the city vibrant are being eliminated.”
The plight of artsy types in cities gets a lot of attention these days, perhaps because it is personally relevant to lots of people in the media. And yes, working artists are vital to any city, especially a place such as New York that bills itself as a cultural capital. But forget, for the moment, about the artists. The deeper and more systematic erosion of urban life is happening among a less glamorous set of people – the ones who fill the tens of thousands of jobs that undergird every single U.S. city.