It’s said that New York City is an island holding eight million people in an area designed to hold two million people. Walking through the streets of New York in the time of Corona, it appears to be an island of two million people in an area designed to hold eight million. Most of the shops are closed. There are twenty seven thousand restaurants located in New York City. All of them are closed except for Take Out or Delivery. Broadway has shut down. Movie theaters are shut down. All museums, galleries and music spots are closed. For the moment people are allowed out of their homes but they are waiting for an order from the city to establish a ‘shelter in place’ procedure which would prohibit them from leaving the house; the sort of restrictions San Francisco is currently under. The difficulty is that San Francisco has 900,000 people in it. Brooklyn alone has 2.5 million. The entire country is feeling the effects of the Corona Virus but perhaps no where feels it more profoundly than Manhattan.
Among the most obvious and perhaps hardest hit industries is the theater industry. If and when things go back to normal the airlines, hotel and tourist trades will be able to pick up almost right away. Museums and galleries don’t need that much lead time to get the doors open again. A show, on the other hand, takes weeks if not months to get ready. While Herculean efforts are being made to keep shows intact during this shutdown, there’s just no telling how long this will last yet. This is bad news not just for the shows which were already running when this all came down, some of which will undoubtedly have to close, but it’s also bad for those shows which were looking to move into New York. This is unlike a hurricane or flood, the sort of disaster where you could at least say we’ll be open in a month. There’s no timetable for this, which means shows can’t make plans. This hurts more than just a handful of actors, actresses and stagehands. Broadway contributed $12 billion to New York City’s economy in 2019. It is responsible for 87,000 jobs. Times Square is, for all intents and purposes, a ghost town.
While many are understandably apprehensive, it’s important to realize that not all the news is bad. While large chains like Food Emporium and Whole Foods are often depleted of items like bread, paper towels and toilet paper, most of the local delis are open and they have almost everything you need, including bread, paper towels and toilet paper. Banks will still give you money. Netflix exists. Schools are shut down but both my daughters are attending class online, something that could never have occurred when I was in school. Buses and trains are still running at the moment. The Church of Scientology is still open (oddly enough), and if you want the best Reubens sandwich in Hell’s Kitchen, Lenwich on 9th and 43rd is happy to take your business. And if you’re a writer, you’ve been preparing for this your whole life.
We are still in the early stages of what can happen here in the Big Apple but this city has been through harder times than this and it’s always come through. It may perhaps get worse before it gets better, but it WILL get better. Before you know it, the theater doors will open again, the street vendors will cart their wares again, the parks and museums and sporting events will continue. And we’ll go on. There’s a popular meme going around the internet which states, factually, ‘Your grandparents were asked to go to war. You’re being asked to sit on a couch. You can do this.”
See you on the other side.