Corona destroys “Big Apple”: New York wants full streets back


After one of the toughest years in the history of New York, the struggle of the metropolis for its future begins: How quickly does the city manage to bring back life, guests, and something special after a hard Corona winter? Tourism experts paint a bleak picture.

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center shines until the New Year, special offers in the shop windows of 5th Avenue after the holidays, Manhattan’s ice rinks are open and have been well attended at least since the first snowfall shortly before Christmas. Some New York traditions have withstood the corona pandemic themselves.

But they cannot hide the fact that there are no crowds in the urban canyons to marvel at the winter attractions. The corona pandemic brought New York to its knees in unprecedented ways. In the coming year, the city wants to get up again. But the aftermath of the crisis should remain felt for a long time.

Vincent Lin is one of the few people in New York who are currently swimming against the current. While hundreds of restaurants in the city had to close in the past few months, he opened his “Blue Willow” with traditional Chinese cuisine in October 2020 in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

It looks bleak without tourists

“It’s not like we thought the time was right,” says Lin. Actually, the “Blue Willow” should have opened before the pandemic. But there were delays, then the Corona crisis dominated the city and Lin’s team had to improvise, as he says. Now the customers are scarce, because in Midtown the tourists and the employees of the office towers are missing. When they will come back is unclear. At least the next few weeks should be dark, say Covid experts.

But the vaccinations that have started give hope for spring. At first it looked good for the metropolis. While some infections were already known on the west coast, it took until early March 2020 for the first official case to be confirmed in New York. But then only a few weeks passed before images of refrigerated trucks in front of hospitals and mass graves on an island in front of the city caused horror worldwide.

The New Yorkers soon drew a parallel with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in which around 3,000 people died. But the comparison seems crooked. The terror struck with a tremendous bang. In 2020, the virus ate its way through the skyscrapers, blocks of flats and subways unnoticed for weeks in 2020. No open panic and no rubble, but as with terror, the shock remained.

20.200 Corona-Tote

To date, the city has 20,200 dead as corona victims on its website, in addition to around 4,800 deceased who probably died as a result of the virus. At least hundreds of thousands of the eight million inhabitants are sick. The prize for the unprecedented countermeasures: offices, museums, Broadway and concert halls closed. “The very things that make New York New York have been undermined by the pandemic,” Moody’s business analyst Mark Zandi recently told the New York Times.

In the service sector in particular – in restaurants, hotels, the arts, transport and construction sites – over a million jobs were lost. In between the unemployment rate rose to more than 20 percent, the city is struggling with a gigantic budget gap of four billion dollars. The pandemic also revealed the great differences in multicultural New York society. The poorer you were, the greater your existential fear became and the more likely you were to get Covid-19. The wealthy, on the other hand, could leave the city.

What New York needs again are tourists and the hustle and bustle of business. New Yorkers are certain that both will come back. There are several promising vaccines, two are already in use. Tens of thousands got them. If a few hundred thousand cans are distributed around the city and risk groups are protected, the situation could relax a good bit.

Will everything be the same again in 2024?

In spring, travel bans from Europe, for example, could also be relaxed. On Broadway, the comeback is planned for May. But the New York Tourism Authority expects business with vacationers to return to the level it was before the pandemic in 2024.

The news portal “Axios” speculated in September that the sharp fall in rents could help the metropolis with its rebirth and attract a wave of young and creative residents. Initially, however, the Americans fear the “very dark winter” for which the newly elected President Joe Biden has prepared them in view of the increasing number of infections.

New Yorkers fear renewed isolation. Families are restoring supplies. Singles are looking for a lockdown partner. And like almost everywhere else in the country, the number of people currently infected has risen to the level of spring. The hospitals are reporting increases in the number of intensive care beds occupied and in the week around the holidays, 200 deaths were reported instead of a few isolated cases.

The next few months will also be decisive for restaurant owner Vincent Lin. “It’s not too bad right now, but when new restrictions come in and dining in restaurants is banned again, it becomes problematic,” he says. He could hold out until April or May at the latest. If it is better by then, the “Blue Willow” will come through.

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