New York City is a shadow of its pre-pandemic normal. Like Shell, many residents are out of work, out of money, out of patience and out of sorts. Reassessments are happening throughout the country, but nowhere else are they as sharply focused as here, in the nation’s most populated, most dense, most diverse metropolis — where more than 21,000 have died. Even with all the chaos, filth and struggle, nostalgics have long mourned every change in what they called the “vanishing” city. But calls to the city’s mental health hotlines have surged. Whether they have left, or whether they have no option to leave, New Yorkers are having to ask themselves whether the city they love is really still livable.
“The ’rona sat every New Yorker down and legit asked that question everyone knows from tired job interviews: Where do you see yourself in five years?” said Sandy José Nuñez, 31, a bartender hoping to pivot toward opening a jujitsu gym. “You have plenty of time now to step up to a solid answer.”
But there is no universal answer. The pandemic has laid bare the inequities of who gets to go and who has to stay, of who lives and who dies. The average rent in Manhattan began the year at a record high of $4,210 a month, while Queens and the Bronx, the boroughs hardest-hit by covid-19, were also on a decade-long upswing. In February, discussing the state’s $2.3 billion revenue shortfall, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said, sincerely, “God forbid if the rich leave.” But 420,000 of the city’s wealthiest residents did go, gutting marquee neighborhoods now facing up to 40 percent vacancy.