Dear Commons Community,
It has been more than a year since the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools, businesses, eateries and everything else in New York City and much of the rest of the country. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday (see video above) that he foresees the city would “fully reopen” on July 1.
“We can see that light at the end of the tunnel,” he said at a press conference. “This is going to be the summer of New York City.” As reported by The New York Times:
“The mayor’s promise brought hope that after more than a year of restrictions, New Yorkers and tourists could once again swarm shops and galleries, baseball fans could watch games at sports bars, and sweaty revelers could dance until the wee hours at nightclubs.
Yet restoring the city to its earlier state, before it was stifled by the virus and scarred by profound losses, will pose a significant challenge.
Many of the city’s large employers have set their sights on a fall return, which will keep workers away from Manhattan’s business districts until then. The hospitality industry does not expect tourism, a key economic engine of the city, to return to pre-pandemic levels for years. Transit officials do not believe ridership on the subway, which is still closed for two hours each night, will completely rebound until 2024.
The city’s devastated cultural sector has yet to bounce back. Mr. de Blasio hailed the impact a reopening would have on the theater industry, but full-scale productions on Broadway — one of the city’s crown jewels and a key draw for tourists — will not return until September at the earliest, the Broadway League confirmed in a statement.
Mr. de Blasio’s authority to lift virus-related restrictions, which were imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, is also limited. But should the reopening proceed, its success will still depend on the willingness of wary residents and workers to return to crowded spaces.
“Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be fully open again,” said Miguel de Leon, the wine director at Pinch Chinese in SoHo. “But I just want to make sure that these lines that they are drawing don’t feel so arbitrary.”
Even as the spring has brought New Yorkers back out of their homes, many shared Mr. de Leon’s cautious view. They were thrilled by the possibility of reopening but unsure whether Mr. de Blasio’s vision could be realized or his timeline met.
“Part of me is excited, part of me is overwhelmed,” Max Barrett, a musician, said as he sat on a bench in Union Square. “I feel like a lot of people who aren’t vaccinated will start flocking to the city, and I’m a little bit nervous about entering society.”
In some cases, residents worried that the mayor, who has frequently criticized the governor for pushing to reopen too quickly, was himself moving too fast.
“It’s a little too soon,” said Bwezani Manda, who was trying to get people to sign up for vaccine appointments in the Corona section of Queens, an early epicenter of the pandemic. “But people need to make a living.”
Santi Dady, who works at Please Don’t Tell, a windowless cocktail bar in Manhattan’s East Village, said that she was concerned about serving customers at full capacity but she had no choice.
“I am partially vaccinated and extremely broke,” Ms. Dady said.
The reopened New York City that Mr. de Blasio envisions will be strikingly different from the one that was shut down last year. More than 32,000 New Yorkers have died. Thousands of businesses have closed, and hundreds of thousands of jobs have vanished and have yet to return.
Officials and business leaders have said that tourism would be key to the city’s full recovery, but travel to the city, which ground to a halt at the start of the pandemic, has not yet recovered. New York is heavily reliant on travelers to fill hotels and occupy seats in restaurants, theaters and stadiums.
According to Cirium, an aviation data firm, the number of flights scheduled into New York in July is expected to be down about 31 percent from 2019. Nationwide, a decrease of only about 14 percent is expected.
Sign up for the New York Today Newsletter: Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more.
Vijay Dandapani, the president of the Hotel Association of New York City, said that hotels were still years away from returning to normal capacity, especially with many major conferences and events still canceled.”
A July 1 reopening would be “a very positive step,” he said. “But you have just about begun to crawl when there’s a long way walking and running.”
I would love to see New York City reopen fully again in July but Mayor de Blasio may be a bit over optimistic about where we are with the pandemic recovery.