To say that 2017 was a weird year would be an understatement; the past 12 months were, at times, strange, difficult, and downright infuriating.
But if there’s one thing you can count on in New York, it’s that the city is constantly evolving—and there were plenty of highlights in 2017. After the Trump administration pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined 350 U.S. mayors in adopting the agreement for their own cities. There were innovations in housing (and strides made toward combating the affordable housing crisis); new parks, including an expansive one in Staten Island, debuted; and long-gestating megaprojects finally debuted.
So what’s on the horizon for 2018? As we stride into the new year, we’re taking a look the biggest things happening in the next 12 months—onward.
1. New York’s minimum wage is going up. Thanks to legislation pushed through by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016, the minimum wage in NYC will go up to $15 by the end of the year. That puts New York in league with cities like Seattle and Los Angeles, which have passed similar legislation in recent years.
The plan isn’t without its issues; the $15 figure is only for companies with more than 11 employees, and it won’t go into effect in the rest of New York state for some time, if at all. But for New York City—where a 2015 study found that most housing was completely out of reach for someone making the then-minimum wage of $8.75—it’s a welcome, and necessary, change.
2. Paid family leave will become more accessible to New Yorkers. Another initiative championed by Cuomo will make it easier for New Yorkers to take leave when major life events, like the birth of a child or illness, happen. The legislation that Cuomo signed ensures that not only will New Yorkers keep their benefits—and their jobs—when taking leave, but that they’ll actually get paid for it, too.
3. Prospect Park is officially car-free. Rejoice, park-loving Brooklynites! A pilot program last summer that gave Prospect Park back to pedestrians proved popular enough to make permanent, and as of this month, the beloved green space is off-limits to cars.
The move has been a long time coming: Transportation Alternatives has been gunning for car-free parks for decades, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg entertained the idea during his tenure. But it took compelling data—the DOT estimates that pedestrians outnumber vehicles 3 to 1—to finally get the city to take action. Now, let’s get this implemented in other large parks citywide.
4. There’ll be lots of new parkland. Speaking of parks, 2018 promises to be a banner year for the city’s natural landscape—and good thing, too, since city parks are more crowded than ever. In Brooklyn alone, several high-profile parks will debut: Domino Park, designed by James Corner Field Operations, will bring six acres of parkland and a waterfront esplanade to the Williamsburg megaproject. At Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 3—notable for its huge lawn and bevy of kid-friendly activities—is also on track to open this year, as is a smaller esplanade at the base of Greenpoint’s rising 40-story skyscraper.
5. NYC Ferry sails to the Bronx. New York’s newest (and most beautiful!) way to commute is barely a year old, but it’s already become a runaway success. And soon, it’ll be accessible to even more New Yorkers: In 2018, new routes will service points on the Lower East Side and in the Bronx’s Soundview neighborhood.
6. Congestion pricing could finally become a reality. Many have tried—and failed—to get congestion pricing to stick in New York City, but 2018 might just be its year now that Governor Cuomo has finally embraced the idea. The specifics of Cuomo’s plan are still TBD, but he could take inspiration from one put forth by Move NY, which would implement tolls on the East River bridges, levy surcharges for vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street, and make ride-hailing services pay an additional fee for traveling in those areas.
Congestion pricing still has its critics, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called it “inconceivable” earlier this year. But proponents claim that these surcharges could generate as much as $1 billion per year, which could then go right back into the city’s crumbling transit system—and there’s no arguing how necessary that is.
7. The TWA Flight Center will be restored to its former glory. By the time the TWA Hotel opens in a year, Eero Saarinen’s midcentury masterpiece will have been closed to the public (save for a few galas and open houses here and there) for more than 15 years—and we can’t wait to get back inside.
The hotel’s 505 new rooms will be contained in two low-slung buildings situated behind Saarinen’s headhouse, but the swooping concrete structure itself will be open to all—and with restaurants, bars, and even a museum for Jet Age fanatics, there’ll be plenty of reasons to visit beyond gawking at one of New York’s most spectacular modernist buildings.
8. Lower rents—well, maybe. If 2017 was the year of concessions in NYC’s rental market, then 2018 could very well be the year of reasonable rents. Grant Long, an analyst at StreetEasy, recently told us that “we expect heavy competition among landlords to give additional negotiating power to prospective tenants.” The rental glut seen in neighborhoods like Downtown Brooklyn could actually give tenants some leverage. “Renters looking for an apartment in 2018 should ask prospective landlords for a month or two free,” Long advises.
9. The first pieces of Hudson Yards will open to the public. After years of being told that yes, Hudson Yards will be game-changer for New York City, the public will finally get a chance to decide for itself. By the end of 2018, some of the megaproject’s most highly anticipated components—including a Spanish food hall from Jose Andres, dozens of other buzzy restaurants, and its high-end shopping center—will open. It’ll be the first real test for the billion-dollar development as a proper neighborhood, rather than a concept of one.
10. There’ll be more reasons to go to Staten Island. Staten Island got one great new addition at the tail end of 2017: Brookfield Park, built on the site of what was once one of the borough’s most toxic sites. It’s now an expansive park with manmade woodlands, preserved wetlands, and more.
Though the New York Wheel is on hold, its North Shore neighbor, Empire Outlets, is due to open in the fall. The city’s first outlet mall—no more bus trips to Woodbury Commons!—will have more than 100 stores, plenty of restaurants (including the borough’s first high-end food hall and Shake Shack), and a hotel. And not too far away, a converted warehouse is now home to several restaurants and Flagship Brewery’s tap room, with an elevated public plaza soon to come.
11. Brooklyn’s next great movie theater will open. Say goodbye to the cramped, bedbug-infested Park Slope Pavilion of yore; sometime in the next few months, the next outpost of Nitehawk Cinemas will open in the old Brooklyn theater. And while the bad things about the old space—the uncomfortable seats, the aforementioned bedbugs, you get the idea—will be gone, many of its historic details will remain.
12. A bevy of fascinating museum exhibits. A short list: “Mansions in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela” at the Museum of the City of New York (opens May 17); “New York through the Lens of George Kalinsky” at the New-York Historical Society (opens February 2); “Waterfront” at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Dumbo outpost (opens January 20); and it’s not related to New York, but dammit, we’re counting down the days to “David Bowie Is,” opening in March at the Brooklyn Museum.
13. More protected bike lanes on busy thoroughfares. The city added an unprecedented 25 miles of protected bike lands in 2017, and there’s more to come in the next 12 months. Ahead of the L train shutdown, the DOT will add a new two-way lane on Delancey Street, protected by Jersey barriers, that connects to the already heavily-trafficked Williamsburg Bridge. In Brooklyn, a similar protected path will be implemented on Fourth Avenue between Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, in advance of an extension all the way up to 8th Street. And that’s just the beginning.
14. Getting a handle on the housing crisis. It remains to be seen how, exactly, Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan will address the affordable housing crisis in 2018. But given the various initiatives his administration undertook last year—many of which were aimed at protecting tenants—and the number of affordable units due to debut in 2018 (in neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, Prospect Heights, and the South Bronx), improvements are definitely on the horizon.
15. Mark your calendar for these design festivals. Things will kick off with the 92nd Street Y’s City of Tomorrow summit, a collaboration with Hundred Stories PR that’s taking place January 26 and 27. NYCxDesign is due to return in May, with a ton of events happening between May 11 and 23. Fast-forward to fall, and you’ll have the return of Archtober, which runs throughout October, and Open House New York, one of the most fun weekends of the year.
16. Some of our favorite NYC-set TV shows will return. The stoner comedy High Maintenance returns in January; Marvel’s Jessica Jones and The Americans both come back in March; and other faves, including The Deuce, about Times Square’s gritty, pornified past, and the silly and sweet Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, will return, with official dates TBD, in 2018.
17. A game-changing market will come to the Lower East Side. Of all the retail options coming to Essex Crossing, we’re most excited for the Market Line, scheduled to debut in the summer of 2018. The expansive bazaar—with some elements of a food hall, some of a traditional market, and some of a high-end shopping center—will feature lots of local vendors, as well as a beer hall and other crowd-pleasing amenities. (And don’t worry—the OG food hall, Essex Street Market, isn’t going anywhere; it’ll move into a new space come next year.)
18. Actually knowing when your subway will arrive. There wasn’t much to celebrate about the subway system in 2017, but the final days of the year saw the MTA hit a milestone: countdown clocks are now installed in every subway station, with the final ones added on the 7 line and the Franklin Avenue shuttle. Does that mean they’ll always be correct? No, of course not—this is still the MTA we’re talking about. But even a small subway victory is worth celebrating these days.
What did we miss? What’s got you excited for 2018? Let us know in the comments.