Thursday, April 30, 2020

What's Next?

We're not through this health crisis, but many people are already thinking about what's next for our little city, which has had such a long history of boom and bust. At the Common Council Finance Committee meeting last week, Council president Tom DePietro said he'd read an article recently that predicted, when things started opening up again, "local tourism will have a huge boost." At the meeting of the Hudson Cultural Task Force on Tuesday, Tambra Dillon, executive director of Hudson Hall, shared a similar prognosis: "Hudson is very well positioned for the next phase. . . . People will not be getting on planes."

James Howard Kunstler, who spoke in Hudson almost a year ago on the theme "The American Small Town Is Where It's At--Let's Get It Right," returned to the first part of that theme in an article that appeared last week in The American Conservative: "Where Will You Live in the Post Covid-19 Future?" The article has the lede, "Cities are cramped, sprawling suburbs are a dead end. That leaves two places well equipped for uncertain times." The final paragraphs of the article identify what those two places are:
It's too soon to tell exactly what long-term effect the Covid-19 horror show will have on the psychology of city-dwellers, but it's not hard to imagine the trauma of being cooped up for weeks or months in small living spaces with little access to the meagre amenities of nature that cities offer, not to mention being deprived of the main reason for city life in the first place: the vibrant daily hubbub of human interaction. . . . Surely a percentage of city people will be looking for someplace else to live. . . .
Since suburbia is a dead loss, that leaves small towns and small cities. . . . These places have two big advantages over big cities and the burbs: 1) many have a meaningful relationship to farming (i.e. food), and 2) they are already scaled to the smaller resource and capital realities that we're facing. Many of them are on inland waterways--the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Great Lakes, plus the Hudson River and its Erie and Champlain canals--which will have great value in the years ahead. These are the likely places where people might move, invest, and thrive in the post Covid-19 future.
To echo Kunstler's own theme for his talk here in Hudson last year, "The American small town (or in our case small city) is where it's at. Let's get it right."


  1. Oh, let's just all click our heels and go back to Kansas.

  2. Everything is in transition. There's no going back to the way it was. It's most unfortunate the Common Council remains stuck in the 60's.

  3. With Hudson's absolutely stellar record of competent elected officials, you have absolutely nothing to fear!

  4. In the end I don't think this pandemic per se will change the preference curve much between living in cities (particularly desirable ones like NYC and Boston), and small towns. What indirectly might have more of an impact due to the virus is people getting more used to doing things virtually, so at the margins some business might shed their very-expensive-to-maintain-in-big desirable-cities offices, allowing their employees to work from home. Some of those employees may over time decide that they want to shed their very expensive big city chic neighborhood apartments for something much cheaper elsewhere.

    I know one employer in our area who has shut down its NYC offices in favor of having its employees work from home using the internet. It will be interesting to see how many of those employees decamp from NYC or its closer in suburbs and find happiness outside the metro zone. In that regard, Hudson has a huge handicap for those with school age children - lousy schools (yes, there - I said it - sue me). But maybe Rhinebeck or Red Hook will meet the bill for some big city refugees who still want excellent schools, although it appears that the rents there are a bit higher than Hudson, and certainly higher in so many ways than that sad excuse for a town beret of zoning and a most fertile petri dish of assaulting to the senses ugliness, known locally as Greenport, but - without Hudson's permission - having the cheek to rip off and use Hudson's name as a postal address. That should stop. The 12534 zip code is too big anyway, just look at a zip code map.

    And there you have it! Any questions? :)