How is New York doing? – My view of the situation in the Big Apple
“How is New York doing?” is a question I am asked almost every day. New York is in the news a lot, but what’s it really like in the city? What’s it like walking the streets and how do New Yorkers experience this pandemic? I would like to tell you about my own experience in New York at the moment, and how this crisis is also having a positive impact on the city.
The Streets of New York
The feeling “in the streets” differs a lot per neighbourhood. Not every neighbourhood has been hit equally hard. For example, it’s still quite busy in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, where you notice little difference from before the pandemic. Other neighbourhoods, such as the East Village where normally many students live, and the places where there are many offices, are now almost deserted. This has affected the restaurants and shops in those areas, it has also applied to places that are largely dependent on tourism. Times Square is a shadow of what it normally is without the hordes of tourists. Some of the shops, such as the Disney Store, are only half-open. Other shops, which are normally open until late at night, now have limited opening hours. However, in many places, it’s much more lively and busier on weekends than on weekdays. This applies to tourist sights and hotels but also to restaurants and bars.
Face masks in New York
Face masks are mandatory everywhere, and when you walk around the city, it’s striking that 99% of the people always wear a face mask everywhere. Overall on the street and in the park, as well as while cycling and running. This is undoubtedly a result of the excessive promotion of the use of a face mask, although New Yorkers are generally conscientious so they do what is expected of them.
How are the New Yorkers dealing with the situation?
I think it’s important to recognize that there is a difference between the situation in New York and in the United States as a whole. New York has been very strict early in the crisis, resulting in a rapid improvement and ultimately the lowest contamination rates in all of America. Unfortunately, a second wave is now emerging and will also strike in New York again. However, knowing the New Yorkers they will adhere to the applicable measures as best as possible and limit the damage. New Yorkers have (temporarily) changed their lives. They order food instead of going to restaurants, organize clothes swap markets in their apartment complex instead of going shopping, and put a bookcase at the reception to replace library visits. Most people also work from home and visit little or no friends and family.
Naturally, this situation is also difficult for businesses in New York. I see around me that many companies are “stripped down” to just the owners. The salaried staff is often temporarily employed elsewhere but with the intention of returning as soon as the business picks up again. The loyalty the staff has maintained throughout the crisis is inspiring. Many people are also seeing opportunities, resulting in many successful start-ups.
Homelessness and boarded-up buildings
New York has never intimidated me. However, due to the situation in the city, homelessness in certain places is more noticeable than before. Sometimes this creates a somewhat unpleasant atmosphere. In many cases, these are people with mental health issues who can be noisy. However, they often target each other and not so many people that pass by. The municipality has created a lot of extra homeless shelters in empty hotels, which partly counteracts this problem. In addition, shops and restaurants have been boarded up in many places. Sometimes they are completely closed and other times they are open. They also have extra security in connection with the BLM protests and recent elections. I’ve seen more panelling disappear in recent weeks as the city is ‘opening’ more.
Sightseeing during corona
Since most of the tourists currently stay out of New York, it’s very quiet in most tourist spots. There are hardly any visitors to the attractions. My own experience is that only the Edge (which opened in the spring) is a bit busier but in all other places, I can walk straight through. I’m usually one of the few visitors, if not the only one. If you have the unique opportunity to visit New York now, get a discount pass so you don’t have to buy tickets and you can make the most of your time.
Dining in restaurants
Dining indoors is again prohibited but in recent months restaurants have been allowed to operate indoors with very limited capacity. This made it very quiet in most cases. In fact, at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, I was the only customer on a weekday. To compensate a little for this limited capacity, restaurants are allowed to offer tables outside. There are even streets closed to traffic to make room for terraces. Now that the first snow has fallen in New York, it is becoming less and less attractive to eat outside. Restaurants do their best to compensate for this by using heaters but it’s still very quiet in many places. Particularly in the neighbourhoods where normally many office workers are at work, the restaurants are now almost empty.
Travelling to New York again
When the borders open again and the first people travel to New York, they will likely experience two things. The first thing they will notice is that the city has suffered a blow, especially for people who already know New York, this will be quite a special experience. In addition, it will undoubtedly take a while before tourism is back to full strength, and especially in the first months, it will be a lot quieter everywhere than before. This has the advantage that sightseeing will be quieter and easier than before the pandemic.
Personally, I think that what it is “really” like in New York depends a lot on how you look at it. You see what you want to see. I love New York and I also see the positive sides that this new situation brings. Rents, in particular, have fallen sharply, to up to 50% lower than at the beginning of 2020. This offers unique opportunities for small entrepreneurs with big ideas and for new people who want to live in New York. New York will be “reset”. Despite the severe blow that the city has taken and is still experiencing, the new situation also offers many opportunities. I predict above all a revival of New York after this crisis, with new opportunities for many.