How the coronavirus pandemic has changed NYC for the better

The COVID pandemic has killed almost 23,000 New Yorkers, sickened 229,000 extra, destroyed companies and put tens of millions out of labor. However the brand new metropolis that can rise on the ruins guarantees to be — is it permissible to say? — a happier place than the overcrowded, overheated mosh pit of a city that it had develop into.

I’d gladly take again the previous metropolis with all its in-your-face congestion if it could deliver again a single life misplaced. However since that isn’t attainable, I take consolation within the already obvious hints of a gentler, extra humane future. There will probably be a brand new style for respiration room as soon as the bug is overwhelmed.

I really like crowds. They’re a part of town’s DNA. They exist as a result of our great museums, eating places, parks and leisure venues are a lot in demand. However within the final 20 years, unparalleled prosperity flowed in from across the globe. On the similar time, Metropolis Corridor turned streets into “plazas” and occasion grounds.

These twin phenomena made our public areas dense to the breaking level, by no means thoughts the injury to neighborhoods — or folks’s sanity. So many overlapping parades, road gala’s, road races, fireworks reveals and biking occasions made each weekend a problem to get anyplace, whether or not by taxi, bus or foot.

With everybody chasing the identical thrill, it took without end to purchase a street-truck taco in Midtown or to seek out room to splash within the kid-friendly fountains at Williamsburg’s Domino Park.

All of us need vacationers and enterprise vacationers again. However 70 million a yr overwhelmed high-end shops, eating places and the Excessive Line Park. We depended an excessive amount of on them to pump $45 billion into our annual financial system. Metropolis Corridor should discover different methods to pay its payments.

Subways are more bearable today because of daily cleanings.
Subways are extra bearable right now due to day by day cleanings.Matthew McDermott

The COVID aftermath will skinny the compression of so many human our bodies right into a single house. My buddy who recovered from a extreme case of the illness believed she caught it on the East 53rd Avenue subway platform that was so dangerously overcrowded attributable to no-show trains that “I smelled illness within the air.”

Now, the subways are extra bearable than they’ve been since Fiorello La Guardia was mayor, due to the daring stroke of shutting them down for cleansing between 1-Four a.m. — once they have been utilized by a mere 1.5 p.c of weekday riders. Let’s maintain them that means, regardless of our nostalgia for “town that by no means sleeps.”

On the ultimate efficiency of “Firm” on the Bernard J. Jacobs Theatre on the night time earlier than Broadway shut down, my intermission journey to the lads’s room entailed a tense, 20-minute wait on a snaking, bodies-girding line in the home basement. It was unacceptable even pre-virus, however the form of dehumanizing expertise (at $300 a ticket!) we had all been pressured to suck up. The present shutdown provides theater homeowners time to determine easy methods to repair this drawback. (Already, New York park-goers are discovering the pleasures of getting extra space to unfold out — certainly, we are able to do the identical indoors, as effectively.)

Pre-COVID, restaurant-going had develop into a chore to endure. Whether or not at 300-seat Cathedrale within the East Village or at 50-seat Ernesto’s on the Decrease East Aspect, our bodies have been scrunched collectively with out mercy. And did I point out loud? However right now’s expanded al-fresco eating scene with safely-spaced tables is a joyful, high-summer antidote to the “useless metropolis” narrative. It’s much less pretentious and fewer rowdy than scene- and trend-driven indoor consuming ever was.

The friendlier vibe must be allowed to prevail as soon as we are able to go inside once more. Social-distancing guidelines will tame the tumult, even when homeowners complain they’ll’t generate profits with out squeezing in clients like anchovies in a can.

Our new regular may even profit from the return of New Yorkers who fled to summer time houses however quietly yearn to return. They’ll discover a metropolis without end modified from what they keep in mind, and be glad for it.

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