Sunbathing in the park, partying in the club: The life for which the city was known before Corona is returning in New York. The problems continue to smolder beneath the surface.
New York City – If you look at the surface alone, there has been a lot of normality in New York for months. The subway trains to the beach in Coney Island are so full on hot summer days as if there had never been a corona pandemic. And at the famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand on Surf Avenue you had to queue for half an hour again in July to get your sausage.
In Washington Square Park in the middle of the bohemian district of Greenwich Village, there has been a party atmosphere since June. Born out of the “Black Lives Matter” protests that gathered here last summer, the park has developed into a meeting place for young people from all over the city and a hip party party.
The grand staircase of the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue is black again, as it was before the corona pandemic, with people sitting in the sun before or after their visit, eating an ice cream from one of the many trucks parked at the museum and enjoying the sun. Inside, the entry queue winds its way back and forth through the monumental entrance hall and in front of the paintings of the most popular exhibitions people are pushed and jostled as ever.
The first jazz clubs in the village are offering live concerts again, while the nightclubs in Chelsea such as the Marquee or the Tao will be playing again until four in the morning. And on Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, the city’s gay bar district, the gay pride weekend was celebrated.
Corona in the USA: Life in New York is picking up speed – but it’s still a long way from “everything being the same”.
But if you take a closer look, it becomes clear that everything in New York is far from being the same as it was before Covid.
In Times Square, for example, the geographical and symbolic center of Manhattan, some of the hectic activity has returned. The great intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, which was eerily swept empty at the height of the pandemic a year ago, is full of life again. But the audience has become significantly different.
The large plaza between the monumental LED advertisements is dominated by black and Latino youth from the outskirts who meet here, listen to music, dance and flirt. There are no more tourist crowds from all over the world who take selfies, wait for a city tour or try to get a cheap ticket for a Broadway show. Most European and Asian countries still have entry restrictions and the Broadway theaters will be closed until autumn.
And how things will go on with Broadway is still uncertain. Even in autumn, travelers will not come back in full for a long time and the theaters are still a long way from being allowed to work at full capacity. How the theater industry, which made $ 1.7 billion a year before Covid and is on its knees anyway, is uncertain.
The same is true of the tourism industry, one of the pillars of the New York economy. Before Covid, New York tourism generated nearly $ 40 billion in annual sales and nearly $ 10 billion in tax revenue. In the past year these numbers have sunk to practically zero.
Corona in the USA: No tourism, no rents – New York is heading for a billion deficit
Now at least domestic American tourism has slowly started up again. You see families from the Midwest again in Times Square, moving down the sidewalk at an unbearably slow pace for New Yorkers and sneaking around the youngsters from the Bronx, a little anxious. But international tourism is sorely lacking.
Hardly anyone feels this as much as Sanel Huskanovic, a Serbian-born German who ran a travel agency for German and Italian travelers in front of Covid in Times Square. Huskanovic had to close his office and lay off 50 workers. He gave up his luxury apartment in Brooklyn and moved into a shared apartment with a friend. And there is no end in sight for him.
After all, he is now producing videos of the streets of New York again on social media for his German fans. “I’m not giving up,” he says. “As a penniless immigrant, I built something for myself from nothing.” And so he firmly believes that he can do it again this time.
But another group that populated Times Square before Covid has not returned either. Of the office workers who once worked in the glass office towers of the central business district, only a fraction has come back so far. The food trucks, which were booming here around lunchtime, are still not back today. Along Broadway, once a premium retail location, a good third of the shop windows have signs saying “For Rent”.
Entry into the USA
The Federal Foreign Office warns against unnecessary tourist trips to the United States. Since the country is still badly affected by Covid-19, it is still a high-risk area.
US President Joe Biden has also extended the tightened entry restrictions. Travelers from the EU Schengen area are currently not allowed to enter.
This also applies to all travelers who have been in the EU Schengen area within 14 days of entry, even if only to change trains at the airport.
Only US citizens, their families, employees of international organizations and people with special residence or work permits remain exempt from the entry restrictions.
Further information can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office: www.auswaertiges-amt.de
Whether the central business district of New York, the engine of the nation’s economy, will ever get its nervous, hectic energy back is still in the stars. Midtown office workers consistently report that fall back to work is optional. Most of them no longer have fixed offices, but rather shared workplaces. The companies have discovered that they can save millions in rental costs in the world’s most expensive square.
New York after Corona: The luxury districts are becoming a ghost town
The most visible symbol of the skyscraper crisis in the city right now is undoubtedly the Hudson Yards built in the middle of the pandemic. The ensemble of designer skyscrapers in west Manhattan, planned as a dazzling luxury city, has degenerated into a ghost town since the beginning of Covid. The prestigious apartments of the $ 25 billion project are empty, and the sellers are bored in the exclusive boutiques. The “Vessel”, a large walk-in sculpture conceived as a new New York attraction, has turned into a morbid metaphor of decline. This year alone, three people fell to their deaths from the 100-meter-high structure.
The long-term consequences of the crisis for the city are by no means in sight. On the one hand, there is the question of what will become of the center of Manhattan, its hustle and bustle and its energy is synonymous with the special urban experience of New York. Will New York ever again become the dynamic center of the world’s most dynamic economy, or will a whole new urban culture emerge here?
Much more tangible, however, the city is worried about the tax income from commercial tenants and tourism, which will certainly not be able to reach the level of before Covid in the coming year. The city sack urgently needs the talers from the banks, technology companies and travelers. In the coming year, the city budget is projected to have an estimated $ 5.4 billion gap.
However, the deficit will be just one of the enormous problems the new mayor will face when he takes office in early 2022. The upcoming November election is considered by many to be the most important since the 1970s, when New York was bankrupt, poor neighborhoods turned into burned-down slums and violent crime got completely out of hand.
Quite a few fear that the city could lapse back into these “bad old days” if the wrong man takes over the helm in January. The era of unlimited wealth and growth came to an abrupt end with Covid, the candidates in the primary elections paint horror scenarios of neglect and anarchy.
New York: Corona has made racism and homelessness even more visible
Many of the city’s problems, which have been exacerbated by Covid, were foreseeable long in advance. Extreme social inequality, for example. In poor, mostly black and Latino districts like Harlem and the Bronx, the infection and death rates were many times higher than in the affluent white areas. Cramped living conditions, the need to go to work in spite of everything, and the lack of medical supplies have allowed the epidemic to break through.
In addition, there is a homeless crisis that has gotten completely out of control. Around 70,000 people in New York do not have a home and current Mayor Bill DeBlasio has failed to bring about any improvement, even though this was exactly one of his key campaign promises.
Covid has once again significantly exacerbated the trend towards ever greater social inequality. Unemployment is still significantly higher in the suburbs than in Manhattan. While the service providers and financiers go about their business on the computer in their weekend homes on Long Island, the security guards, cleaning staff, street vendors and chauffeurs sit on the street.
What is completely new, however, is that violent crime has risen sharply for the first time since the 1990s. 462 people were shot dead in New York in 2020, 45 percent more than the year before. The trend this year suggests that there will be a lot more in 2021.
Corona pandemic: The Democratic candidate Eric Adams is considered a beacon of hope in New York
Sociologists largely agree on the reasons for the rise in violence. “The marginalized and isolated groups in society most vulnerable to violence feel even more neglected by the pandemic than before,” says Thomas Abt, director of the national commission on crime caused by Covid. “And so, for the first time in more than 20 years, many New Yorkers are living in fear of getting involved in gang wars, as was the case recently with seven passers-by who were seriously injured in a shootout between two rival gangs in broad daylight.
The man who is now supposed to fix all of this is called Eric Adams. The previous district president of Brooklyn has won the mayor’s area code of the Democratic Party and is thus a superior favorite for the post.
Adams is considered just the right man for this moment. The former patrol officer won the area code not least because he is believed to be capable of bringing crime back under control. At the same time, as an Afro-American from a humble background, he is sensitive to the needs of the lower class. “I know how the officer feels when he is on patrol late at night. But I also know what the black boy on the corner feels, who is constantly afraid of landing on the asphalt with a policeman’s knee behind his neck, ”he said in an interview with the New York Times.
Unlike billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, who for 12 years made New York a “luxury product” in his own words, Adams is not considered to be blind to the social injustice in the city. But he also seems – unlike his direct predecessor Bill DeBlasio, who was considered extremely ineffective – to be someone who can tackle and move things. But the tasks that pile up before Adams seem overwhelming. And so New York’s path into the future remains uncertain. (Sebastian Moll)