Even before the Wall Street meltdown, New York's traditional media and advertising companies faced serious sales declines as internet competitors, including West Coast companies like Google, ate into margins. With financial services in freefall, a second pillar of the city economy has seriously weakened. Cue the Gotham press' anxious soul-searching and visions of a return to the weary days of the 1970s. "It's going to be very severe for New York City," a Manhattan College finance professor said in Tuesday morning's Times. New York magazined mused in this week's issue about the global financial center shifting from Wall Street to London, Dubai and Hong Kong, "like the decline of New York’s manufacturing base in the seventies." And the New Yorker is already racing to find the upside of financial armageddon, which as you know turns out to be creative ferment:

Let’s postulate that the collapse of the financial-services industry spells catastrophe for New York City, a return to the nineteen-seventies. Lost tax revenues, budgetary shortfalls, unemployment (not only of those in finance but of the hordes who rely on them), plunging property values, vanished retirement accounts.

Let’s cut this up, like a pile of bad debt, into various strips, and, as the rating agencies did to various slices of subprime-mortgage debt, take the top layer and, abracadabra, rate it triple A. Throw out the other strips, the grim probabilities—the crime, the decaying infrastructure, the hardship all around, the heroin and the syphilis.

What do we have left? The bright side: maybe Manhattan will become affordable again, and cool, and dangerous.

Ha ha, yes, a gritty edgy New York is great for reality television producers and bloggers who can figure how to keep selling advertising, and for trust fund kids. But with around 40,000 jobs likely lost so far, the city will need — oh wait, DOES need — some more lucrative industries to pick up the financial slack, right? Anyone have any ideas? Preferably for occupations that still involve expense accounts, an elitist worldview and a distinct lack of physical labor?

Hello? Anyone?

(Photo via NYC.gov)