Faux Economy

When I read an article in today’s NYT , I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  It was about the successful efforts of a New York suburb, Pelham Manor, to ‘upgrade’  a local industrial area and replace it with new retail plazas, anchored by B.J.’s Wholesale Club and a Fairway grocery store:

The seeds were planted in 1999, when the village drew up a master plan and instituted zoning that prohibited industrial uses. Occupants of nonconforming properties were given five years to either meet guidelines or close their business, a move that residents of the village supported heartily but that was resisted by owners of warehouses and heavy-equipment businesses

But not to worry:

…village leaders wanted the new construction to recall the area’s industrial roots, said Nanette H. Bourne, a senior vice president and director for AKRF, an environmental, planning and engineering firm in White Plains that served as consultants to the village.

On the Acadia site, where brick warehouses were razed, new design standards called for rooflines and large, multipaned windows that resembled those of old factories and warehouses.

That’s the ticket.  Eliminate those messy industries, and replace them with tidy stores that look like factories.

P.S. I’m not blaming the good citizens of Pelham Manor. I’m sure the original industrial area was not doing well.  But I do wonder what happened to those businesses and the people working in them.

P.P.S Manufacturing employment in New York State is down 40% since 1999. Retail jobs are basically flat.


  1. Does anyone know how much of the decline in manufacturing employment is due to outsourcing, how much due to automation, and how much due to the recession? In a sense, by automating manufacturing, aren’t we eliminating the importance of industry, just as we have eliminated the importance of agriculture, by making it so productive no one?

  2. In a way the aversion to and discrediting of manufacturing is understandable, considering the social paradigms of “real existing capitalism” – nobody wants to be at the bottom of the value chain (a large net producer but small time consumer) as that has not been a very rewarding position to be in, overall, especially (?) the past few decades. At the same time in our increasingly anonymous and rootless society there is a demand for “regional roots” romanticism.

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