New York, Manhattan, Times Square at midnight: the oversized LED screens shine brightly, and the advertisements change hectically. At the intersection with Broadway, a yellow taxi waits for green, on the corner of the street the vendor from the hot dog stand is waiting for customers. In normal times here in Midtown Manhattan, even at this late hour, thousands of people would crowd past one another. But the city that never sleeps has run out of tourists. And the New Yorkers lay down.
A few hours earlier, under the surface: The subway is finally arriving. Nobody gets out. A dozen people are sitting in the car, all faces are hidden behind a mask. Only one elderly woman is standing, holding onto a pole – her hands wrapped in protective gloves. It’s Monday evening, just after 6 p.m., rush hour, and no one gets on their feet. “People are still afraid to take the subway,” says Heiko Timm (35), a German who lives in Manhattan.
Timm has lived through a nightmare with his girlfriend and around eight million New Yorkers in the past few months. It has been over half a year since Governor Andrew Cuomo (62) declared lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Manhattan became a ghost town overnight for three months,” recalls Timm. It was the time when New York City was the corona epicenter of the world. The hospitals overcrowded, the hearses in constant use. In the city alone, the virus killed 23,000 people in these weeks, and more than 30,000 in the state.
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“We went through hell”
The number of cases has fallen sharply since the horror spring. Some easing measures were initiated in the summer. The fear, however, is only slowly disappearing, and the respect for the pandemic remains permanent. Nowhere else in the United States do people wear protective masks as disciplined as in New York, whether for a walk or sports. “The difference is that we really went through hell here. Every New Yorker knows someone who fell ill or died of Covid-19, “says Timm.
The city has compared the crisis to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 or the devastating Hurricane Sandy in 2012. But unlike these terrible events, the pandemic continues for an indefinite period of time. With the falling temperatures, the number of cases has soared again. A few days ago, the measures were ramped up again in some districts. “It will take years before the city has even remotely recovered and the usual number of people comes,” believes Timm.
Escape from New York – people and companies leave Manhattan
It looks bleak. The culture, which is immensely important in New York, is in the intensive care unit. Cinema, theater, concerts – everything lies idle. The subway is already bankrupt. And now people are running away from the city too. In the summer there was a real escape from Manhattan. Moving trucks shaped the street scene. Boxes, rubbish and furniture were piled up everywhere. A quarter of a million people have turned their backs on New York City since the pandemic began.
One of them is the native Austrian Michael Schwartz (34). «In the city you live like in a shoebox. Because real estate prices outside have dropped, I bought a house in the Hamptons – with a lot more space. ” The American Kevin Papilla (36) had to move away with his girlfriend for financial reasons. “There was no income, we simply couldn’t afford the rent anymore. Now we have returned to California with a heavy heart, ”he says. The dream of living in New York City: over.
The number of vacant rental apartments in Manhattan is currently higher than it has been in 14 years. And the company buildings are also orphaned. “My friend’s employer has 34 floors with 6000 workplaces,” Timm calculates. “There are currently six people working in the office,” he says. It seems impossible that some 1.6 million commuters will flow into the city again one day. Many companies have renounced expensive office space and announced plans to work from home.
Legendary restaurant faces ruin after 112 years
Manhattan, East Village, just before 7 p.m .: It’s a mild autumn evening, mid-week. Leo Osmani (26), restaurant manager at the legendary John’s, covers one of the four tables outside the restaurant. There are no guests. “We only have to wait,” he says and smiles.
John’s is 112 years old. It survived the Spanish flu in 1917, World Wars I and II, and all subsequent crises. But in spring during the pandemic, the award-winning restaurant had to close for the first time in its history. “We laid off 90 percent of our workforce,” says Osmani.
The native Kosovar was allowed to stay as a manager and was on the front line when the restaurant reopened in the summer. But nobody fills the hole in the till. The tourists stay away, the New Yorkers are scared. “It hurts. The future is highly uncertain. And we are not alone with this fate, ”he says.
The US presidential elections will take place on November 3, 2020. For the Democrats, Joe Biden (77) will most likely challenge Donald Trump (73). What has changed in the Trump era since 2016 and what challenges is the country facing today? VIEW pursues the big and formative topics in a loose series. To do this, our USA correspondent Nicola Imfeld travels through various states of America wherever the corona pandemic allows and gets an idea of the situation.
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A third of the small shops are closed forever
John’s is still in a privileged situation. Over 5000 shops have closed since spring, half of them permanently. According to a projection by the “New York Times”, around a third of all small businesses such as restaurants, bars and shops will never return. Adan Malek (32), owner of a small grocery store, shows the desperation. «Can I get through this? Do you believe in miracles? ”He asks doggedly. He has lost 70 to 80 percent of his income since March. “Only expenses like rent remained. If it goes back into a lockdown, then the last one can turn off the light here, ”he says.
Oli Grieb (46) sounds more confident. He has been offering individual tours through New York for years. “I must have lost $ 100,000 in revenue,” he says. The emigrant from Germany is financially in good shape because his wife is still working full-time. «And I have a loyal clientele – including from Switzerland. As soon as the first plane from Europe lands, I’ll be fully booked again, ”he is sure.
The city changes in the long run, optimism remains
New York, October 2020: a city between despair, melancholy and a glimmer of hope. Tens of thousands of lives have already been lost in the pandemic, thousands of entrepreneurs had to give up their lifelong dream overnight, and nothing is over yet. And yet you sometimes encounter this very own New York optimism – the self-image of a city that has already overcome many a crisis.
“Manhattan will be more local for the next few years. New York for the New Yorkers, that has something too », says Heiko Timm. Where dreams burst, there is room for new things. This is more true in this city than anywhere else in the world. Manhattan will be different in the long run. But you can feel: The New York comeback is coming. At some point the city will awaken again.
The US presidential election took place on November 3, 2020. The incumbent President Donald Trump could not defend his office. Challenger Joe Biden won the election.
All current developments on the elections and candidates are always available in the news ticker, and all articles on the topic can be found here on the US elections page.