After two months of confinement, the city of New York, the economic and cultural capital of the United States, still does not see the end of the tunnel, raising growing doubts about the future of this metropolis symbol of crowds and effervescence.
If many European metropolises are gradually relaunching their economy, the largest city in the United States, epicenter of the American epidemic with more than 20,000 deaths, will have to wait until at least June to find out when its shops, restaurants or shows, which attracted tourists by the millions, will reopen.
“We have to be really, really disciplined,” Mayor Bill de Blasio repeated Thursday on CNN. “We are going to take it slowly and gradually”.
If the containment decree for New York State expires this Friday, only sparsely populated areas will be able to revive certain commercial, industrial and recreational activities.
Despite the epidemic slowing – the daily death toll is down sharply, below 200, and ambulance sirens have become scarce – authorities refuse to commit to the resumption of schools in September, leaving millions parents in uncertainty.
“We must be smart,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, who continues to warn of a new outbreak of the virus.
For the moment, this metropolis of 8.6 million inhabitants is far from fulfilling the key criteria necessary to gradually revive the economy: continuous decline in the number of hospitalizations, people in intensive care and positive tests for the coronavirus.
In the face of dragging on confinement, New Yorkers have so far remained relatively disciplined, despite the dramatic consequences for hundreds of thousands of people now deprived of income, especially among black and Hispanic minorities.
While elsewhere in the United States, protests have multiplied against containment, many adhere to the caution of their leaders. Especially since more than 80 New York children have suffered from rare pediatric inflammation, probably linked to the virus.
“The confinement must continue for two or three more months, because we live in a big city with a lot of people”, Denzel Charles, postman told AFP.
“Many people are in a hurry to resume quickly (…) but the places that have reopened, it’s chaos,” said Kiyona Carswell, model now unemployed.
Threat of bankruptcy?
However, the more the economy remains immersed in lethargy, the more uncertainty rises about the future of a city which owes its influence to its density and permanent hyperactivity.
Many affluent New Yorkers have already left to go green, and some are considering never coming back.
“All the reasons we’re (in New York) – restaurants, concerts, etc. – are gone,” says Hans Robert, 49, an IT executive at a major New York bank.
He and his family, for 10 years in Manhattan, moved at the end of April to their country house in northern New York, from where they telecommute.
If their daughter’s school does not reopen in September, Mr. Robert does not rule out staying there. Especially since his bank is thinking, like other companies, of allowing its employees to continue working remotely.
Another question: the financial health of the city, whose tax revenues have melted with the stoppage of the economy.
The Democratic mayor brandishes the specter of a bankruptcy like that of the 1970s, which dramatically cut public services and exploded crime.
He begs Republican President Donald Trump to validate a new stimulus plan, concocted by the Democrats in Congress, which would bail out the city to the tune of 17 billion over two years. But the president has already ruled out adopting it as it is.
“New York has known a lot of crises and always ends up bouncing back,” says Maria Kopman, an anesthetist in a New York hospital. Even if everything will not be the way it was before, “people who come here for the boil, the socialization, I don’t believe it will go away.”