The Prophet Billy Joel?

A hit song released several years ago by Billy Joel may have been eerily prophetic. Did he know something we didn’t?

In his song “Miami 2017”, Joel sang…

“I saw the lights go out on Broadway. It seems so many years ago, before we all lived here in Florida.  Before the Mafia took over Mexico. There are not many who remember. They say a handful still survive…to tell the world about, the way the lights went out and to keep the memory alive.”

As people leave New York in droves, one cannot help but wonder if there was something we should have listened to more closely.

High taxes and increasing regulations were already pushing people to leave the state of New York over the last ten years. Census data from last year showed the state’s population declining, enough that it will lose a Congressional seat in the next election.

Then covid hit and the exodus became almost a rush. Multiple news stories and research drawing on cell phone data, and information from car rental, moving and real estate companies, told us of a large migration of New Yorkers to Florida and other areas outside the state during the early lock down days of the pandemic.

The Empire State’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Bill de Blasio have done just about all they could do to push New Yorkers and New York businesses to leave the state if they could, and to make others not want to

  • Cuomo has locked down the economy, shuttering businesses and putting people out of work, but then complains about the loss of tax revenue. He says he will have to raise taxes in the middle of the pandemic and the worst economic crisis in generations.
  • Cuomo has closed schools statewide, in spite of the fact that data shows schools have a much lower infection rate than any other social venue. Now, Cuomo is saying that it is critical to start reopening schools “…or we will have nothing left to reopen.”
  • Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, totally locked down restaurants and churches but made exceptions for companies making movies to gather and continue working and also allowed mass gatherings as long as they were ‘a protest’
  • de Blasio closed all entertainment venues on Broadway and elsewhere but gave permits to ‘street performers’ to perform and allow crowds in parks and on city streets.
  • de Blasio has ordered the police to enforce mask mandates but has pulled them back in enforcing laws on homeless tent cities and crime around those areas
  • And statistically, New York has done all this while at the same time suffering more deaths than any other state in the country by far, both in absolute terms and per capita.

Crime in NYC is skyrocketing, lockdowns now lasting almost a year have put hundreds of thousands of people out of work and shuttered tens of thousands of businesses. Many New Yorkers are expressing their opinion by moving. Real estate markets in the New York metro area are reflecting the migration. Cuomo and de Blasio have run New York city and state into the ground. The only question is if they can recover.

Even in the 1970’s and 80’s, as New York City was literally going bankrupt, and even when it was the crime capital of the country, it was still the nation’s center of business and culture. It was where young people came to build their financial careers or to get their start in the entertainment world. Now this same demographic is fleeing. As they are finding that their jobs are transportable with technology, it is hard to imagine a desire to return to a city whose crime rate is higher, and where the attraction of fine restaurants, entertainment and cultural attractions have been devastated.

Mr. Joel’s foresight was off and the crisis hit three years later than he wrote in the song title, so maybe it is too much to call him ‘a prophet’.  Yet, we may very well look back on the last year as the time that the lights dimmed on Broadway and all that was once New York, and they never returned to their former luster.

Would the last one to leave turn out the lights.

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