The COVID pandemic has killed practically 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 turn into.
I’d gladly take again the outdated metropolis with all its in-your-face congestion if it could convey again a single life misplaced. However since that isn’t potential, I take consolation within the already obvious hints of a gentler, extra humane future. There will likely 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 fantastic 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 harm to neighborhoods — or folks’s sanity. So many overlapping parades, avenue festivals, avenue races, fireworks reveals and biking occasions made each weekend a problem to get wherever, whether or not by taxi, bus or foot.
With everybody chasing the identical thrill, it took perpetually 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 12 months 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.
The COVID aftermath will skinny the compression of so many human our bodies right into a single house. My good friend who recovered from a extreme case of the illness believed she caught it on the East 53rd Road subway platform that was so dangerously overcrowded on account of 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 closing efficiency of “Firm” on the Bernard J. Jacobs Theatre on the night time earlier than Broadway shut down, my intermission journey to the boys’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 sort of dehumanizing expertise (at $300 a ticket!) we had all been pressured to suck up. The present shutdown provides theater homeowners time to determine find out how to repair this downside. (Already, New York park-goers are discovering the pleasures of getting extra space to unfold out — certainly, we will do the identical indoors, as nicely.)
Pre-COVID, restaurant-going had turn 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 at this time’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 needs to be allowed to prevail as soon as we will go inside once more. Social-distancing guidelines will tame the tumult, even when homeowners complain they will’t earn a living with out squeezing in clients like anchovies in a can.
Our new regular can even profit from the return of New Yorkers who fled to summer season houses however quietly yearn to return. They’ll discover a metropolis perpetually modified from what they keep in mind, and be glad for it.