One of the number one questions I’ve been sent since the pandemic started is “What’s New York City like right now?” and while I’ve been here the whole time the question always seems hard to answer.
What It’s Like in New York City Right Now
If I had to sum it up in one word, I would describe New York City right now as feeling: Somber.
New York City doesn’t feel like herself this year.
It feels like we’ve come so far, overcome so much…and yet we can’t celebrate it.
When the pandemic began and the city ground to a halt the changes were palpable. I could hear birds chipping. I could walk down the middle of the street with no cars in sight. And I could see boarded up storefronts and shuttered businesses. I could feel like the only one in Lower Manhattan.
I couldn’t ride the subway. Or take in a show. Or go out to eat. I couldn’t find disinfectant or toilet paper. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without standing in line. And I couldn’t not be afraid.
But as New York City has re-opened in phases the city still lacks its usual luster, its usual energy, its usual pizazz. It’s a bit like she’s a shell of herself. Some schools are open; other remains shut. Indoor dining has limited capacity. Outdoor dining just doesn’t feel the same and comes with a host of restrictions as well.
While I’ve made some attempts to take advantage of the “reopening” I still feel a sense of fear about going much beyond my own neighborhood. And with the heat of summer I’ve stopped my long walks and my walks into Manhattan for now.
I’m working to get in all my necessary medical appointments and I’m seeing friends from time to time to do a drink or an outdoor meal but the idea of dining at restaurants still feels foreign and I still feel safest when at home.
And due to the lack of federal and state support of small businesses they are closing.
One by one. Dominoes falling and it is heartbreaking. Businesses that have survived 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy are being forced to close because they can’t sustain without locals, without tourists and without breaks on rent and taxes that haven’t come during the pandemic.
A lot of people have asked me whether they should cancel upcoming 2020 travel plans to the city and my answer is always: Yes. The city isn’t what it should be right now and it remains an expensive city to explore and take advantage of. And with most major attractions like the Empire State Building and Broadway still closed, and locations like Times Square brought to an empty standstill – it just doesn’t seem worth it. With the safest activities being outdoors as well – what if your trip is met with bad weather? I personally wouldn’t want to be holed up in a hotel in the city. And if you plan to travel by air here – you’ll need to do a 14 day quarantine or test out with a negative Covid test.
I have every faith that New York City will regain her former glory but truth be told that milestone feels far off.
Right now my heart breaks for the city.
And while I am searching for silver linings like Central Park more to myself, less crowded parks and ferries and streets and more time to plot how I want to take advantage of the city in the future. But I don’t know what that city looks like in the future. And that’s so very hard.
For months now, every week it seems I hear of another friend or acquaintance that gave up their apartment or didn’t re-sign their lease or moved all their stuff into storage or moved home indefinitely. One by one my New York City circle is shrinking – and it’s heartbreaking if I’m being honest. I don’t know if or when these people may come back to the city.
And in the meantime it feels like goodbyes are so much more a part of 2020 than anyone ever wanted or expected. In truly so many ways.
Every day it is hard to pay New York City rent and New York City prices for a city we can barely enjoy right now. I miss my old New York City. And I know so many of you love this city in ways only you can and that you miss it too. Whether you’ve lived here before, whether you live here now, whether you used to visit often, whether you have fond memories here or whether you came once and understood in a short period of time the magic the city holds.
I for one cannot wait till the magic is back. Until then though, I’m staying by her side. And there’s so much I won’t forget about this time spent together.