A new report from Comptroller Scott Stringer confirms what many Upper West Siders may already suspect: many people in creative professions have left the neighborhood. The decline is particularly striking because the Upper West Side has long been known as a hub of creativity.
“In 2008, the Upper West Side was the neighborhood with the highest concentration of people working in creative occupations, housing nearly 18,000 creative workers, or roughly 9 percent of the total creative population. But by 2017 there were only approximately 14,000 creative workers living in the neighborhood, or 6 percent of all city creative workers.”
Between 2008 and 2017, the Upper West Side and West Side (which appears to include Hell’s Kitchen) lost a total of 6,757 people who were in creative professions, more than any other area, according to Stringer’s report. Creative professions include film and TV (which account for the largest share, making up more than a quarter of employment), fashion, music and other areas like advertising.
But other parts of the city added people in those professions, with Bushwick, Brooklyn adding the most. Housing, of course, is cheaper in areas like Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Washington Heights, making it easier for people pursuing artistic careers to make rent — and of course leading to new waves of gentrification there.
Stringer proposes several changes to make it easier for artists to thrive in the city — by promoting creative industries, building new affordable housing and workspaces, and teaching arts in schools.
There are still thousands of artists here, of course. Check out our “Why the West Side” series to hear from creative people about why they live here.