It’s a hot July afternoon in NYC. All over town, there are people visiting from other cities around the world. They are taking in the sights, tasting the food and mingling with the weary New Yorkers who wish that they were visiting other cities (preferably with less heat!). The visitors bring a steady stream of income for so many of the businesses. The art in the museums gets appreciated, the theatres on Broadway are filled to capacity, and the hot dog, pretzel and ice cream carts are selling like crazy. Except…not this year.
During a global pandemic, people are loath to venture much beyond their own front doors. Their restaurants are fulfilling their orders for food. Their museums are offering virtual tours. Their theatres are going online with their performances. They want to support their local businesses, but they also long to visit other places, and New York City is on a lot of peoples bucket list to visit.
New York City will be ready for visitors again one day. And when that day comes, New Yorkers will complain about the crowds and grumble about the people who stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look up at buildings. But, secretly, New Yorkers will be happy to have visitors back. Not just for the revenue that they bring, but for the sign that life is “back”.
It is a very strange thing to walk down the middle of Broadway in Times Square…actually walk where cars would normally drive. I took that walk right before NYC PAUSE went into place and again when it lifted. It was beyond surreal. Something out of a sci-fi novel. Have you seen The Walking Dead or read the graphic novel? There is a scene in the first season where the main character rides his horse through a deserted downtown Atlanta. He was in disbelief! I kept thinking of that scene as I walked past the TKTS booth and stood underneath neon signs advertising shows and products that seemed to be from a lifetime ago. Where is everyone? Will they come back?
I know that people will return to NYC. The pandemic will abate and people will be able to travel. Things will not be the way they are today forever. Heck! Things are better than they were a few months ago! And when the people return to NYC, I will be ready for them. I will complain about crowned sidewalks and grumble about the people who stop in the middle of the sidewalk to look up at buildings. But, I will be happy. Happy because life will be evident in the city that never sleeps. People will take in the sights and eat the food and see the shows. The new normal will be navigated as a global community, and New York City will be ready.
April 2015 (left) vs. May 2020 (right)