A few weeks back famous New Yorker Jerry Seinfeld delivered a blistering response to a LinkedIn post by James Altucher, titled “NYC is Dead Forever, Here’s Why.” Seinfeld, in the New York Times, basically said, “Yadda, Yadda Yadda.”

So what gives?

Moving companies say there is a waiting list get people out of Manhattan, Broadway is shuttered, restaurants are outdoor only. Is Altucher right that this time “the city” will not rebound, or is Seinfeld right that, of course it will? 

For a new perspective, we spoke to an expert on cities, and the future, Greg Lindsay. Lindsay is a futurist and Director of Applied Research at New Cities, in Montreal, a think tank committed to shaping a better urban future. He is also a a friend to CoreNet Global, he has spoken at a Global Summit and participated in the Hackathon, A Virtual Ideation Experience, this spring. But he his by no means biased one way or the other when it comes to corporate real estate and the return to work. 

“It’s been an interesting discourse,” he said of the debate, which he feels is in some aspects built on false pretenses. Many of the people who are moving out of New York, would have moved anyway but are doing so sooner because of the pandemic. They are really leaving to avoid high taxes and find better schools in the suburbs. These trends are not new. And they are taking place in other high rent districts such as San Francisco. 

And in a way, it’s possible that Altucher and Seinfeld may both be right.  New York may not come back to the way it was, but that’s largely a romanticized concept anyway. 

“COVID has exposed all the problems in cities that were alredy there and has accelerated them: child care, policy failures, schools.  And living on 2 acres in the suburbs isn’t sustainable either, there’s not enough room for everyone. What we need to do is commit to improving city life, fixing public transportation and possibly making it free, converting tiny New York studio apartments into larger residences and creating better and larger green open spaces,” Lindsay said.

And no conversation on these themes would be complete without acknowledging how millennials see things now, and how they will see things in the future. Lindsay has authored a report, “The Millennial Metric,” which asserts that “the real debate isn’t whether millennials will prove to be an urban or suburban generation, but why their actual preference — an affordable, walkable, amenity-rich neighborhood with a relatively short commute, what the Urban Land Institute and PwC have dubbed “hipsturbia”29 — still hasn’t been built. Without them, cities risk squandering a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

And in the long run, COVID will not last forever, Lindsay said. “And companies that think they can get rid of real estate all together are in for a world of hurt. There are implications to all this work from home that we haven’t fully thought through because we are all just trying to stay sane.