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Why the Golden Age of American Cities Is Here and What’s Really Behind It

Why the Golden Age of American Cities Is Here and What’s Really Behind It

Even before he was elected to become New York City's next mayor, Bill DeBlasio was targeted as being soft on crime and the kind of leader who would let the nation's biggest city slip back into the dark days of the 1970's; street crime was rampant, people and businesses were moving out in droves, and property values were falling.

Today, 40 years later, the Big Apple is on top again, and in the opinion of one urban pundit, likely to stay there, no matter who is charge.

"There's a real sort of myth narrative that has developed over the past 20 years, about these transformative mayors who have taken urban environments that were falling apart in the 70's, and transformed them into gleaming, prosperous, tourist-happy places in the 2000's" says Zach Karabell, founder of River Twice Research, in the attached video.

Related: How Gov. Rick Snyder Plans to Save Detroit

Whether it's New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago or Houston, Karabell says a lot of cities have changed immeasurably since the bad old days. Not because of an election, but rather because of a trend in which young people want to live and work in a happening place.

"Clearly urbanization is a powerful draw for people who have some education, creativity," he says, noting that as a result, the whole urban image has undergone a makeover and become "real engines of innovation and growth," rather than blight or decay. Of course, there are exception, and places like Detroit, Cleveland, or Buffalo continue to be down on their luck as well as down in size.

"All these cities have seen this change, with the exception of Detroit," he says. "So the belief that it's this mayor, or any mayor, who is responsible for these demographic changes, the drop in crime, I think is a little bit (due to) our tendency (to) find individuals who we can either lionize or demonize as the cause-agent of change."

Just because Manhattan property prices average two to four million dollars, does not mean all is well on the urban front. Public education, Karabell says, continues to stand out as the great failing for the country's big cities.

As a result, he says, fears of New York's demise are premature, thanks largely to an influx of young, talented people and jobs.

"If it's happening everywhere," he says, "It's because something else is going on culturally."

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