We barely heard it coming. The large gray SUV glides silently along the sidewalk of Mercer Street in lower Manhattan. Three lads emerge, pants flush with the buttocks and big gold chains around their necks. Only the driver waits at the wheel. Watchful. After all, guys are flaunting their zone in Soho, the ultra-chic New York neighborhood that has been deserted since the pandemic began in March. So, in the meantime, the streets are theirs. A popular sports brand has reopened. Luckily, drug trafficking continues, the city dealers have cash to spend.
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Twilight. New York no longer looks like New York. With 24,000 dead in the spring, the Big Apple paid a very heavy price for Covid-19. She has struggled to stand up since then. Fear, misery, drugs … The virus has laid bare anxieties in shambles. New York no longer belongs to New Yorkers. The homeless have taken possession of the main tourist arteries. Times Square still spits images on its giant screens, but there is no one left to watch them.
Where have the crowds of foreigners gone who posed to immortalize their passage through the city that never sleeps? If national tourism is picking up a little, nothing is as before. The hotels have abolished the luggage lockers. Result: people wander with their suitcases in the streets while waiting for their room or collapse in the halls of four – or five – stars under the bewildered and terrorized eyes of hotel staff. What to do, what new rules to apply, how to reconcile health security and economic recovery? The disarray is total, the initiatives become anarchic. And America doesn’t like anarchy.
Manhattan concentrates the majority of offenses
The rise in crime worries New Yorkers as much as the virus. Well Named. According to a police report in early September, the city has recorded 791 violent crimes since May, a 140% increase compared to the same period of 2019. With more than 1,000 gun homicides between January and the September 6, this year has its worst statistics since 2015. Under pressure from Black Lives Matter, the movement for the defense of the black cause on the other side of the Atlantic, the democratic mayor of the city, Bill de Blasio, has promised to cut the budget allocated to the police, which would partly explain these figures.
If the suburbs are spared by this increase in violence, Manhattan concentrates the majority of offenses. Michael Angelo, hairdresser in the very trendy Meatpacking District, confirms. “Yes, for example, there is a return of drug addicts in the city, underlines the owner of the Wonderland Beauty Parlor, which creates a feeling of insecurity. We are not back to the years 1980-1990, let’s not exaggerate, but it shouldn’t last. ” In any case, he chose not to abandon his city.
Between the closing of international borders and the Covid restrictions between states, who will still visit the Empire State Building?
If Michael Angelo has not gone out of business, there are nearly 3,000 small businesses to have closed permanently since March. The big brands which had already started to desert the avenues of New York precipitated the closure of their stores with the Covid-19. Institutions like Dean & DeLuca, the favorite food store of New York’s elite, no longer exist. Even Victoria’s Secret, with her alluring underwear, is gone. One in three hotels has not yet reopened.
Osa Topa, a tour guide, was out of work for five months, receiving $ 600 in compensation per week. Since the end of June, he has not received anything. So he picks up clients at the hotel exits to convince them to climb into the red double-decker buses. “But there is no one there,” he sighs. “Between the closing of international borders and the Covid restrictions between states, who is still going to visit the Empire State Building?” Manhattan is paying a high price, with small business revenue still 40% below its January level. The traders, however, try to look good and say straight in the eyes: “Business is coming back, yeah, business is coming back!”
Resumption of the epidemic and schools still closed
The month of September promised to be promising. But the resurgence of the epidemic, especially in certain religious communities like that of Orthodox Jews, has prompted New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to reconfine neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn this week. A blow of the club. The question of a total closure of the city comes back to haunt its inhabitants, especially parents and teachers. September 21 was to mark the return to school for 1.1 million school children but, three days before the start of the school year, de Blasio backed down. “In reality, to compensate for the closure of schools, parents organize themselves among themselves and those who have the means pay tutors who agree to come in person to teach for small groups”, explains Nathalie Van Braekel, Belgian teacher, who taught remotely throughout the first confinement.
The writer Mary Morris * no longer has to worry about these kinds of concerns. She made the choice of exile. “We left our Brooklyn apartment in March and we’re not ready to come back and live there,” she says. “The situation remains too uncertain. My husband, who was an editor at New York Post, was disembarked, our daughter lost her restaurant, we were hit hard by the economic consequences of the pandemic. “
The distress of this claimed Francophile is abysmal. The fear of the unknown overwhelms her. Can we dare a comparison with the tragedy of September 11, 2001? “Yes, of course,” she breathes. “That day my husband walked into one of the towers of the World Trade Center and… miracle, today he is alive. 9/11 was a moment. tragic and unique. What we are experiencing here may be worse. It is endless, a black hole we all fell into. “
* Author of “Jazz Palace”, ed. Liana Levi.