Friends. I come before you tonight, hat in hand, ready to eat a little humble pie, if you will.
You see, throughout the pandemic, I have boldly, loudly, unabashedly and perhaps a little too gleefully proclaimed that “NYC is DEAD.”
Which, was definitely true, and arguably, still is…the jury’s out.
I mean, according to cell phone location data taken by Descartes Labs, nearly half a million people left Manhattan during the pandemic.
Which, I could definitely feel. My building had only a 30% occupancy rate during the height of COVID, my boyfriend’s building was just the same.
And still to this day, all but two apartments on the wing of my floor are for sale. Not to mention the rent prices are at historic lows, because there’s so much vacancy in the city.
But it was definitely dead as a doornail. Time Square was deserted. Steven and I would ride our bikes through that iconic block of flashing lights and tourism, and we’d be the only ones there!
I’d walk down the street and storefront after storefront after storefront was empty, with “For-Rent” signs on the window. Businesses closed. Restaurants that were historic mainstays in the neighborhood had to shutter their doors for good, as they just couldn’t sustain an existence without customers.
I mean, I would literally jog down the middle of the West Side Highway with zero traffic just one year ago to date.
However, I stand here as your resident New Yorker, who weathered the pandemic from my 500 square foot studio apartment, pleased to announce that NYC is no longer dead. It is slowly coming back.
To date, there have been 6,174,393 vaccinations administered, and as those numbers rise, so do people’s confidence to “get back out there” in circulation.
That, and I think quarantined people have reached their threshold of loneliness and are on the verge of becoming cat ladies or video game addicts, and therefore are desperate to start socializing again.
But this past Saturday, my special gentleman – Steven – and I walked from Midtown to Greenwhich village (an hour walk), and were absolutely shocked by the sheer number of people that were out. Shocked! Washington Square Park was, legitimately standing room only. The lawns were a sea of picnic blankets – probably only about 2 inches apart from one another, with parties of eight to ten young people all sharing wine, soaking up the spring sun, and just being social!
There was live music in the streets, lovers hand in hand on park benches — even pan handlers were back, interrupting you for cash. And heck – I was even happy to see them!
And the restaurants….packed.
Here’s the thing: yes, a lot of restaurants were sadly, unable to weather the pandemic storm. But there were two types that miraculously did: a) $1 Pizza Slice joints, and b) restaurants that took full advantage of their outdoor sidewalk/street space and offered a truncated version of their menu. And sidenote: those dollar slice joints are like the cockroaches of restaurants….they do not die! I don’t know how you can survive on profit margins of a dollar slice, but they’re open 24 hours a day, and somehow, making ends meet!
But let me tell ya – on Saturday, Steven and I, along with another friend, we went to three different restaurant/bars, enjoying drinks and appetizers, and it was just so nice to be out in the mix again. And how amazing that there’s a hustle/bustle again!
Here’s the real talk.
NYC might not be dead, but it is certainly on life support. Sure, it’s got wild and free millenials ready to mix and mingle among their vaccinated selves, however, New York City is in a world of hurt. Still.
Homelessness is at a record high. There is a soup kitchen/free food distribution center in my neighborhood that gives out food every Tuesday and Saturday, and throughout the pandemic, I have watched the line grow and grow. What started as maybe 10 people in line, now has hundreds and hundreds of people showing up for canned goods. They start lining up the night before to get in line.
And those real estate vacancies are no joke. Boarded up storefronts mean deserted streets, which are hot beds for New York’s biggest issue right now: crime.
The crime in New York right now has absolutely skyrocketed.
I am subscribed to the neighborhood “Citizen” app, which alerts you to reported incidents around you, and I’m telling you – all hours of every day and night, that thing is going off with alerts of a stabbing, a robbery, a knife fight, a mugging, a shooting. It is frankly, terrifying. And so, yes, there are people out during the day, but once those restaurants close at dark, people flee like you’ve never seen. And the city becomes something I’ve never before seen in my ten years living here: quiet.
Because when the country turned its back on the police during the summer of 2020, in a sprit of “woke solidarity,” the NYPD cut $1 BILLION dollars from its budget, and the effects are being felt now in a terrible, terrible way. That, coupled with the the current climate against officers, has NYPD officers — and officers across the country — walking off the force and retiring early at staggering rates. Staggering.
And that is what is going to have to be rectified if NYC is ever to truly return to what it once was.
So. Can I officially say that New York City is no longer dead? Mayyyybe not just quite yet.
Sure, it’s starting to return socially, but economically, law and order-wise, fiscally — it still has a long, difficult road ahead.
So that’s your update from Manhattan. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go grocery shopping before it gets dark and I dead bolt my door for the night.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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