To say 2020 in NYC has been challenging is an understatement.
This year may go down as one of the worst years in NYC’s history. Thank God it’s over.
Covid-19 wreaked havoc on our beautiful city as it became the epicenter of the pandemic in March. But those of us who stayed to weather the storm rose to the occasion. We stayed in. Washed our hands. Hand-sanitized. And when we had to go out, we social-distanced and stayed masked, somehow managing to flatten the curve.
But the fallout was tragic.
As NYC went on pause for three months, only essential businesses remained open. Large gatherings were banned, as theaters, clubs, and other gathering places ceased operations.
Schools closed and remote learning began. With a few exceptions, shops closed too. And restaurants that chose to stay open were permitted to offer pickup and delivery only. Many businesses shuttered, and thousands of servers, chefs, busboys, managers, hair stylists, fitness trainers, and salespeople were furloughed.
New York, however, pulled its creative resources together as a community, and when outdoor dining returned in summer, the city transformed itself into one giant Euro-style cafe, stringing lights, tenting parking spaces, and adorning tables with crisp white cloths, candles, and fresh flowers. Restaurants brought much-needed life back to our desolate city streets, drawing scores of diners eager to support their favorite spots.
Non-essential shops were back also, as were hair and nail salons, spas, and fitness centers, albeit without group classes.
With temperature checks and mandatory masks, museums reopened as well, offering timed tickets. I visited The Met in August and it was just as spectacular as ever.
But now, we’re in the midst of a second wave, with indoor dining closed once again. We’re also knee-deep in the coldest (and wettest) months of the year. Countless small businesses are still struggling to stay afloat, while others have made the decision to end their run. Still others have shut down temporarily, with hopes of making a comeback once the pandemic is behind us.
Empty storefronts dot our neighborhoods, as do memories of the bagel shop, pizzeria, French bistro, and neighborhood pub that once were there.
Transit ridership is down, but subway crime is up. Shootings have increased, and homelessness is at an all-time high.
In June, looters vandalized retailers, and for the first time in decades, New York was under a mandatory curfew. But protests were largely peaceful, with thousands of all ages and backgrounds joining to march miles in the summer heat––parading, chanting, and uniting to be vocal about what is right, fighting for racial justice and equity. Because one voice can make a difference.
There has undoubtedly been so much sadness this past year. But I think what has left me saddest is the part of the city that’s missing–– the lifeblood of New York and its beating heart. Broadway. The Ballet. The Opera. Classical music. Jazz. Standup comedy. It’s all still on pause, with no return in sight.
Many artists have been forced to leave the city they love because they have no work, no paychecks, and no reason to fight to stay here. New York is not New York without them. My heart breaks.
And yet, somehow when I walk the city streets, there is a glimmer of hope. And unbelievably, some level of normalcy (what’s that?), as an end to this cataclysmic year and a virus that took too many too soon, is in view. There is a light at the end of that long, dark tunnel, and with a vaccine here, recovery is in our future.
When will New York be back to what it was pre-pandemic?
I’m not sure. But I can tell you one thing. Don’t believe all you read or hear. New York is not dead. Far from it. New Yorkers are a tough crew, and more than anything, they love their city.
I have no doubt that New York City will be back and be stronger and better than ever, because the people will bring this city back. It’s New Yorkers’ energy, passion, creativity, and determination that make New York great.
When I started coming to New York in the late ’70s, those were trying times. Yet somehow, NYC prevailed. This is a city that will reinvent itself time and time again. And this time, while it may be different, it’s in many ways very similar to the bankrupt city of the 1970s and the New York of the 2008 recession.
Jerry Seinfeld says in his op-ed for the New York Times:
When I got my first apartment in Manhattan in the hot summer of 1976, there was no pooper-scooper law, and the streets were covered in dog crap. I signed the rental agreement, walked outside, and my car had been towed. I still thought, “This is the greatest place I’ve ever been in my life.”
New York will always be great. It’s a city that exemplifies greatness. Yes, even in its darkest hour, New York is the greatest city in the world.
NYC is dazzling in this video narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. You may have seen it before, but you might like to watch it again for a reminder of how great New York is, and why so many people around the globe love this city.
I’m looking forward to New York’s future, because no matter what, it will be bright.
Thanks to loyal blog follower Les Legaspi for sharing this video.
Forget 2020 in NYC….Good riddance. Cheers to 2021!
Cover photo by Michael Discenza. Nighttime Times Square photo by Alec Favale. Protest photo by Hilo Carré. Covid prevention photo by Richard Goff. All via Unsplash.
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM NEW YORK!