The COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably taken a toll on both the general morale and financial standings of cities across the United States. The vibrant and crowded New York City was hit particularly hard, suffering over 250 thousand cases of the virus and over 23 thousand unfortunate COVID-19 related deaths. As a result of pandemic guidelines, many of the attractions of New York City were forced to shut down, leading to a great deal of financial loss for both the city and its inhabitants.
As early into the pandemic as March 12, live performances across NYC were canceled due to the risk of spreading coronavirus. The financial repercussions of the decision to shut down these popular venues were immediately and widely felt. This affected not only the affluent investors and theater owners, but everyone involved in the business, including actors, musicians, stage crew and maintenance employees. The restaurant industry also took a significant hit, with empty tables cluttering popular eateries where it had once been near-impossible to reserve a seat.
“There’s no reason to do business in New York,” Michael Weinstein, owner of Ark Restaurants as well as the famous Bryant Grill & Cafe told The New York Times. “I can do the same volume in Florida in the same square feet as I would have in New York, with my expenses being much less.”
Brick and mortar retail stores have also encountered major financial loss as many of them rely on New York City foot traffic to stay in business. As a result of the pandemic, most were forced to rely on money made from online sales while still paying rent and taxes for large retail spaces. Although many stores have managed to stay in business, a number of major stores such as Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and J.C. Penney were forced to declare bankruptcy.
The financial and public health challenges that New York City is currently facing have led many to believe that the city will never bounce back. Some who have reached this conclusion have simply left NYC, seeing no financial or social benefit in continuing to live in a closed city. Developing business owners have shifted their interests elsewhere, no longer viewing the city as a lucrative location to live or to conduct business. Due to high taxes, expenses have always been high for NYC residents and are correspondingly so for businesses. In light of the financial devastation of COVID-19, NYC and the state of New York may be forced to charge even higher taxes in order to recuperate their losses. This is anticipated to place more financial stress on residents of NYC and as a result there have been reports of large numbers of wealthy citizens moving out of the city in a “panic leave.” Many have decided that they will not return.
Despite these many challenges, a great deal of loyal New Yorkers still believe that over time the city will manage to bounce back. Already there is hope as small-scale indoor dining has recently returned, and the MTA has begun once again to collect fare. In addition, despite many businesses closing their doors for good, there are a great deal that are determined to persevere and resolve their losses as the economy gradually repairs itself.
“Real, live, inspiring human energy exists when we coagulate together in crazy places like New York City. Feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t go to the theater for a while is not the essential element of character that made New York the brilliant diamond of activity it will one day be again,” comedian Jerry Seinfeld wrote for the New York Times on Aug. 24.
“… And it [NYC] will sure as hell be back. Because of all the real, tough New Yorkers who, unlike you, loved it and understood it, stayed and rebuilt it.”
Perhaps New York City will never be quite the same but it seems many are not striving for the normal of the past. Reopening the city brings with it a new hope: one of a restored and perhaps increased vibrancy, diversity, and sense of unity for having endured so much. Although the struggles New Yorkers have faced over the course of the pandemic should not be taken lightly, NYC has remained a hub of knowledge, ideas and business through difficult times, and those who stay will ensure to keep it alive.