New York’s patchwork recovery masks vast inequalities exposed by Covid | new York

For most of the past year, Manhattan’s iconic yellow taxis have been a rarity on avenues and side streets. Now, as the city picks up and office workers start to return, they too are coming back – but not yet on a pre-pandemic scale. At the same time, the city is congested with traffic.

A mosaic of indicators suggests that the recovery from a pandemic that struck hard and early, caused nearly 30,000 deaths in a population of 8.4 million and placed the metropolis in an economic freeze will be equally uneven.

The surface indicators – yellow cabs, crowded restaurants, celebrating NYU students in Washington Square Park, Bruce Springsteen on Broadway – are in their own way only masks for the social and economic disparities already present but exposed by the onset of the pandemic and the corresponding racial demands and economic equality that followed.

The complexity of the New York recovery will take years to unravel. Before the pandemic, Americans spent 5% of their working time at home. In spring 2020, the figure was 60%. It was a seismic change that hit Manhattan particularly hard. The New York City Partnership predicts that only 62% of office workers will return, mostly three days a week, by September.

Banks, which have for the most part ordered a full return to the office, are facing the setback of workers, who point to higher levels of happiness and productivity from working from home. But it is also a way of returning the overhead of production to the workforce. The conflict will take time to resolve and could trigger a crisis in commercial property values ​​if workers win. According to brokers Cushman and Wakefield, last year saw the loss of 18% more leased space than during the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Tourism, which contributes $ 60 billion to the city’s economy each year, remains anemic, though some of the hardiest travelers – Italians – appear to be making the trip. The success of the city’s leisure and hospitality sector, which peaked at 300,000 jobs in December 2019, is severe. After dropping to 80,000 in the first months of the pandemic, the numbers have returned to nearly 200,000.

Felipe Beltran, 25, gives a salsa lesson to Brianna Davis, 29, at Domino Park in New York City. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

A statewide report released on Friday found New York City lost 2 million jobs during the pandemic and unemployment in May stood at 8.2%, well above the pre-pandemic level and well above the national average by 5.9%.

He also revealed that the leisure and hospitality sector saw the biggest drop in revenue last year and would likely be the slowest to recover from the crisis. Incomes from hospitality jobs are almost 32% lower than they were at the end of 2019.

But others have thrived. The report found that personal income in New York City rose 12.8%, reaching $ 1.6 billion in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and experiencing an increase of more than 50% per year. report as of the last quarter of 2020. Revenue growth, largely due to government pandemics, contributed $ 430 billion, or 28%, of the total.

At the same time, the movement of people in the city has changed dramatically. While the use of public transport decreased, road traffic increased. The New York City area now officially has the worst traffic in the country, according to a survey conducted for Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute.

Investigation indicates that a driver from New York to Newark, New Jersey, spent an average of 56 hours stuck in traffic last year – worse than first place holder for 30 years, Los Angeles. “So if you think things are worse on the road, you wouldn’t. They are ”, transport engineer Sam Schwartz said Dave Carlin of CBS2.

“You can always come back, but you can’t come back to the end,” as Bob Dylan wrote 20 years ago. Such indicators, by definition incomplete, suggest that New York is making a strong comeback. The question, asked almost daily in the New York press, is whether you would necessarily want it.

The city recovered after 9/11, but this, according to Manhattan Borough historian Robert Snyder, only happened after it was patrioticly named “America’s City” as a result. terrorist attacks. The current and polarized political lens through which the city’s economic and social problems, including crime, are viewed, produces a striking, and perhaps typical, inconsistency.

“The history of New York City is a history of crises suffered and crises overcome,” Snyder told The Guardian. Snyder points out that during the waves of the cholera epidemic of the early to mid-19th century, the city’s population quadrupled thanks to Irish and Italian immigration.

“The city has continued to grow because of its fundamental strength as a gateway to the North American market and the financial capital to the south for slave labor. The epidemics were terrible, and they could incite nativism and scare people away to the outskirts, but the city’s fundamental strength continued to fuel it.

The city’s death has been declared frequently, Snyder said. After the financial crisis of the 1970s, “we were sure the city was made for the time. After September 11, we were sure it was over. Again, after the great recession of 2008-9. That’s not to say these crises don’t matter, they do. They change the course of the city, accelerate the changes already underway and shed light on living conditions. But New York has a long history of overcoming its crises. “

What is undeniable about the pandemic, he says, is how it exposed the “cruel inequalities in living conditions between wealthier white residents and people of color, immigrants and low-income residents. returned. The injustice of this is clear and people’s sentiment has been sharpened. “

“While some people feared they would gain 15 pounds during Covid, others feared they would be infected by their next client, and these people were disproportionately immigrants and people of color living in crowded conditions in which the virus spread more easily. “

New York public school
“Children in public schools have been denied a year of education and food that they usually receive and the effect is appalling,” said Petra Moser of New York University. Photograph: Niyi Fote / Zuma Wire / Rex / Shutterstock

Petra Moser, an economist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said the long-term effects of the pandemic will take years to show. “The most striking effect is in schooling. Poor children in public schools have been hit hard. They have been denied a year of education and food that they usually receive and the effect is appalling.

“You have kids who watch a screen for hours a day for a year. Not only did they lose their teachers for a year, but they can now concentrate less because they were not fed, ”adds Moser.

Other aspects of the pandemic that could affect New York’s return include the role of women, who have dropped out of the workforce in disproportionate numbers. “This pandemic has the danger of deporting women, and we risk losing young women with children who have had to stay at home. We will see greater inequality in this area and we will need to ensure that we encourage them to stay in the labor market or come back. “

Concerns about the value of commercial real estate, according to Moser, are pale compared to the costs incurred during the pandemic in terms of human capital.

“There could be an increase in inequalities unless there are specific policies to help children in public schools catch up and help mothers who have had to reduce their work. The vitality of the city depends on whether everyone has a chance, because the purpose of living in a place like this is to provide opportunities. “

About Mark A. Tomlin

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