“I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps,” sang Frank Sinatra in “New York, New York,” one of the biggest hits he has ever recorded. But the slogan that defined New York and withstood the tragedy of 9/11 ended up striking the sleep imposed by the pandemic.
Like all major cities that have been stranded, as of March 2020, New York City expected an earlier hiatus. And new waves of Covid-19 infection have come which caused a sharp increase in cases by the end of the year and killed more than 32,000 people.
This Thursday 29, the mayor of New York announced that the city would return “to 100% from July 1”. Bill de Blasio has promised that there will be no more restrictions on the operation of commercial establishments and events during the northern hemisphere summer.
“It will be summer in New York,” the mayor announced triumphantly after the second term in 2022. The mayor’s euphoric announcement was tempered by concerns about pockets of infection in New York City – with residents resisting to be vaccinated and can reach more than 35% of the population of certain districts.
Last Wednesday (21), local travel agency NYC & Company presented hundreds of reporters with the New York Desperta Plan, an unprecedented marketing campaign valued at US $ 30 million (approximately R $ 161 million), with multiple fronts, covering Broadway, museums, tourist attractions, parks, new hotels and restaurants, in an attempt to bring back some of the 66.6 million who visited the city in 2019.
All the optimism conveyed by De Blasio and other representatives of the economic sectors during the press conference is not a vaccine against uncertainty. The reopening of Broadway, for example, was announced for September, “maybe sooner,” but a date has yet to be set for ticket sales to begin.
Fred Wanke, CEO of Schubert Organizations, Broadway’s largest theatrical conglomerate, said last week that it was economically impossible to bring back plays and musicals with occupancy limits in the audience. Prior to Covid-19 Broadway contributed $ 1.75 billion (approximately $ 9.4 billion) to the local economy.
As well as being the densest city in the country, New York is home to America’s largest business district and is particularly vulnerable to distance restrictions imposed by a pandemic whose completion continues to be delayed. And a more recent budget trend exacerbates the economic scenario: Today, 50% of the money that goes into New York’s coffers comes from property taxes.
Walking down rich Madison Avenue in Manhattan is counting facade after facade of empty stores. The store vacancy rate is currently 40%, and 17% of offices are empty, a higher rate than in the post-financial crash of 2008.
The powerful New York real estate lobby offers the possibility of converting nearly 100,000 square meters of office space into housing – the residential square meter here is one of the most expensive in the country. This helps to explain the deficit of more than 300,000 households – the difference between those who arrived and who left in 2020 – in the city of 8.7 million inhabitants.
“It’s just an idea,” reacts skeptically Kathryn Wylde, CEO of Partnership for New York for 20 years, an influential foundation created by David Rockefeller in 1979 that brings together business leaders and is a constant presence in the world. dialogue between municipal government and companies.
Wylde believes the dominant transportation flow pattern in New York City for most of the 20th century and through 2019 – the suburbs feeding Manhattan to workers – will change.
A well-known literary quote about New York is that of author EB White, who in 1948 wrote about “the city that locusts devour by day and spit up every night.” In fact, Manhattan’s population before the pandemic hovered around 3.1 million during the day and 1.6 million at night.
“There will be a tendency for workplaces to be distributed to other parts of the city, outside of Manhattan Island,” Wylde predicts. This change would allow shorter daily trips.
Remote working, which is here to stay, is expected to transform the future in New York City more than in any other urban area in the country. Folha spoke to the director of a media company, located in downtown Manhattan, which has fewer than 50 employees. The company suffered significant losses in 2020 and tried to renegotiate with the owner the annual lease of $ 400,000 (R $ 2.1 million), which runs until 2027.
He heard a resounding “no” in the middle of last year. Given the extension of the pandemic, the property owner agreed to use the initial deposit of three months’ rent to reduce monthly expenses for one year, but the company will have to deposit twice the same amount, at the end. of the agreement.
The manager, who has chosen not to identify himself due to ongoing negotiations, estimates that, in the best-case scenario, there will be a face-to-face rotation of half of the employees every three days, starting from middle of the year. .
When asked if she sees with concern the news of the possible rush to the financial sector, with hedge funds selling their covers and moving offices to Florida, Kathryn Wylde explains that these are not the cheapest mansions. dear ones from the other state which attract financiers.
“This is the fiscal climate,” she said, recalling that with the approved state legislature and municipal tax changes, New York millionaires will receive the biggest lion bite across the country – until ‘at 52%.
Although it employs less than 10% of New Yorkers, the financial sector generates nearly 20% of the city’s tax revenue.
This reporter went through more than one recession in New York. In the crisis that marked the early 1990s, for example, she managed to reduce the rent to 40% of what she had paid five years earlier. The pandemic has driven tens of thousands of New Yorkers without the desire to work in cramped and expensive apartments, especially those with children who are intermittently remote schooling.
A certain 20th century New York postcard is unlikely to return, as no other major city will emerge from this pandemic unchanged. But if the history of other crises repeats itself, empty and more accessible spaces can attract a new generation of urban explorers to regenerate the continent’s most diverse metropolis.