There Is No Future For New York Until The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Over

Pleas For Post-Pandemic Plans Are Just Wishcasting Until We Can Go Back To ‘Normal’ Life

I have a vision that keeps me getting up in the morning.

In my vision, New York City, having suffered a bad COVID-19 outbreak early, doesn’t have another wave. We remain at low levels of transmission into the fall and winter until a vaccine is approved and begins rollout in early 2021. By Spring 2021, several million New Yorkers are vaccinated and health experts say restrictions can begin to be lifted. Broadway reopens, concerts start up again, the Mets and Yankees welcome fans, bars and nightlife bustle once more. A month or so with no spikes means the pandemic is behind us. A healthy dose of federal funding from the new Biden administration and Democratic Congress helps the city pay its bills. Now, we begin thinking about bike lanes, bus lanes, pedestrianizing streets, changing zoning to build more affordable housing, the Second Avenue Subway and perhaps extensions in the outer boroughs, and so on. At that point, we can talk about how New York City recovers from arguably its worst crisis since the British invasion in 1776.

In order for our leaders to come up with realistic post-pandemic plans for New York City, we must know the pandemic will end and when.

In recent weeks, many of New York City’s well-known reporters and activists have been critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio for not having provided a vision for post-pandemic Big Apple. I’ll admit that de Blasio, elected in 2013 as a visionary progressive, has been lacking vision and bold ideas for a while now, but its really hard to have a post-pandemic vision when we don’t know when post-pandemic is, or even if there’s a post-pandemic at all. It is not an accident that neither the governor, nor the potential 2021 mayoral candidates have laid out a vision either. We don’t know when, or even if, the “post-pandemic world” will happen. We’re in an indefinitely state of purgatory with COVID-19. And if that’s the case, any plan is worth less than the paper the PowerPoint presentation would be printed on.

For de Blasio, who is term-limited and will leave office on December 31, 2021, that means the pandemic may eat up the rest of his term and any post-pandemic New York will not have him as mayor.

New York City still has yet to open indoor dining at its restaurants, it has yet to open its bars, nightclubs and theaters. The museums are still closed, as are the malls. There are no parades, no street fairs and no community events. Most jobs are not remote. As a realtor, I know very well the way apartments in the city are marketed, and very often, whether in luxury Manhattan high rises, or three bedroom walkups in Astoria or Bushwick, apartments are not marketing as places to “live,” but as rather places to sleep, eat and store your clothes. Now we have people who were forced to stay in their apartments for months, when they didn’t expect to spent more than half a day there. No wonder so many left the city.

In short: New York City isn’t designed to survive a world of social distancing. The longer it lasts, the harder it is to endure. There are eight and a half million people in this city, and getting them to continuously remain six feet apart indefinitely is not a realistic “new normal” for New York. There is no workable plan for how to manage a socially-distant New York, but our leaders have to do it, at least for the next 6 to 12 months.

New York City isn’t designed to survive a world of social distancing

The only “magical thinking” is believing the city can continue to survive without the industries that maintained it; the arts, culture, restaurants and nightlife. It can’t. The focus now must be on ending the pandemic, and then plan for life afterward. It doesn’t matter anyway. Any plan Mayor de Blasio comes up with is only going to lead to talking heads criticizing that he wasn’t focused on the pandemic, but rather on “legacy items” that have to wait for COVID-19 to subside.

Now I know we HAVE to do it, so I want to make it clear I’m not arguing for an immediate return to normal, but the reality is ‘normalcy’ has to happen, and soon, if we want the city to survive.

The good news is we seem to be on our way forward. Museums are scheduled to reopen August 24th, with social distancing, and New York City’s infection has remain at or under 1 percent for two months. If we can maintain this for the next six months or so, it might put us in a much, much better position in 2021.

But a lot depends if we can return to normal next year with a vaccine or some other miracle ending to the pandemic. Only then can we begin to plan for a post-pandemic future, and outline ideas and plans to help New York City recover and thrive in its next chapter.

Right now, calls or such plans are all just wishing upon a star. COVID-19 is where all our focus should be.

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