New YorkIt’s been less than 24 hours since New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio closed the city’s restaurants, bars and schools and compared the fight against the coronavirus to a war, but here on the Hudson there is no sign of a state of emergency. It’s Wednesday, a normal working day in and of itself, but the park that runs the length of Manhattan Island along the river is busier than usual on the weekend.
It’s spring New York, the cherry trees are in bloom down here, and the many New Yorkers off work are enjoying the day. There is jogging and cycling, families go for walks together. Fathers who would otherwise be in the office toss the balls with their children. You enjoy the unreal idyll before the total curfew that DeBlasio has announced for the coming days.
Memories of 9/11
Inside the island, on the other hand, there is a completely different picture, it is as if Manhattan was turned inside out like a sock. Wall Street, the heart of the financial district, has died out, memories of 9/11 are awakening. A few tourists who either did not get out of the city on time or who started their trip despite the pandemic take photos of each other in front of the stock exchange. A young man anxiously takes off his respirator for the photo and then quickly tucks it back behind his ears.
The owner of a food truck, who usually supplies the busy office people with burritos at lunch break, chats with the souvenir seller next door, whose business is just as bad, leaning on his counter. “I haven’t sold anything today,” he says. “This morning an office worker came to me to change money. That’s it. “
The Pennsylvania Station on 34th Street, through which 600,000 commuters and long-distance travelers jostle every day, is also dead. The sound of leather soles and heels echoes through the empty halls. The voice of a woman who fervently preaches to passers-by that the Lord God is watching over her and that this is the time to confide in him penetrates the entire labyrinth of underground passages.
Today the train station is as full of homeless people as it is with the few commuters who have to go to work. For the homeless, life has got a little tougher these days than it already is. People who were otherwise inclined to slip them a dollar now steer clear of them. If they haven’t felt like lepers before, the virus has made them so for good.
The train station is still the best place to stay for them. Eight or twelve of them often have to share a room in the city’s homeless shelters. The risk of infection is enormous.
New York’s 60,000 or so homeless are among the most vulnerable residents of a city that is more threatened than any other in North America. If you look at the maps on which the spread of the virus in the USA is shown, New York and the region around the metropolis are deep red, nowhere else is the situation so dramatic. As of Thursday this week, 3,600 cases of the virus were confirmed in New York City. 22 people died. Four days earlier, when DeBlasio announced that schools and restaurants would be closing, there were just 329.
Seriously understood the situation
Across the country, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University on Friday, 14,200 people have died. 205 people have died. The authorities expect a further steep increase in the number of cases. The state of California is imposing a curfew on its residents. There were 676 cases of infection recorded by Thursday.
The night before the mayor’s press conference, at which he tried in the most serious manner to make the eight million people in New York understand the seriousness of the situation, the restaurants and bars were full. The city celebrated the Irish national holiday of St. Patrick’s Day and although the parade was canceled on that day, Irish pubs were bursting at the seams.
Hardly anyone takes the virus lightly anymore. The subways are empty, and the people who have to be on the street give each other a wide berth. The joggers in the park are careful not to get into each other.
The worst thing for New Yorkers, however, is uncertainty. After the federal government delayed the development and approval of tests for weeks, nobody in New York knows who already has the virus and who doesn’t. Virtually no tests were available as of the beginning of this week. Anyone who had symptoms was dismissed, and family doctors and hospitals could only advise people to stay at home.
Tests on a larger scale did not start until the middle of the week; on Wednesday around 7,500 tests were carried out across New York state. The New York Mayor De-Blasio, a sharp critic of Donald Trump, has allowed private laboratories to carry out and evaluate tests, contrary to federal instructions. But there are still far too few and far too late. “In principle, we all have to assume that we are infected,” wrote the New York Post last week.
On Mott Street, in the heart of New York’s Chinatown, a young woman wearing a face mask is standing in front of a restaurant and selling filled dumplings. The eatery “Royal Seafood”, which is now in the third generation of her family, has, like all New York restaurants, bowed to the mayor’s orders. Now you are trying to make ends meet with street sales, which are still allowed.
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Empty swept streets
The streets around them have been swept empty. Even more than anywhere else in Manhattan, New York has turned into a ghost town here. The shutters are down everywhere, only a few grocery stores and the famous Chinese pharmacies with their natural medicines, which are considered health establishments, are still open. Every passerby is waved in by the shop assistants behind the counter in the hope of earning at least a few dollars.
The location is new for most of the city’s shops. Here, in Chinatown, which is otherwise overflowing with liveliness, business already stalled in mid-January when the first news of the coronavirus came from Wuhan. The fact that Donald Trump keeps calling Corona the “Chinese virus” has not made the situation any better.
The businesses in Chinatown are therefore already a month deeper in the fight for survival than other businesses in the city. Even an interim solidarity campaign under the hashtag #savechinatown brought little relief. Since DeBlasio’s order, Chinatown has now finally died out.
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Hold out for months
The popular Nom Wah Tea Parlor on narrow Doyers Street, which otherwise has lunchtime queues, has closed for the first time in its 100 years of existence. “At the beginning of February I had 40 percent less business than last year,” says owner Wilson Tang.
Tang still hopes to be able to save his workforce by making ends meet. “I’m lucky that the building belongs to my family.” He believes he can hold out for about six months without having to lay off his staff. But many shops and eateries in Chinatown don’t have nearly this staying power. As a result, nobody can predict today what the big tourist magnet Chinatown will look like once the crisis is over.
Concern about how New York is changing due to the virus is also spreading outside of Chinatown. Independent small businesses that were already under massive pressure in the city before Corona are being pushed to the edge of the abyss. “If we don’t support our cafes, bookstores and bars now,” says blogger and writer Jeremiah Moss, who has been complaining about the disappearance of old, colorful New York for many years, “then we will wake up after Corona in a city that is theirs Has lost soul. “
In the heart of New York, around Times Square, you already have the feeling that the soul of New York is in critical condition. Broadway is dark, the theaters and musicals are closed indefinitely for the first time in their history.
The loss isn’t just cultural and financial – Broadway grossed $ 1.8 billion last year. Broadway theater has always been a symbol of New York’s resilience. In 2001 the curtain went up again on September 13th on Broadway. It is now uncertain when the game will be resumed and which of the productions will then even come about.
Other cultural institutions are doing no better. The big New York museums have all closed and are preparing for losses that go to the substance. The Metropolitan Museum announced on Monday that it was expecting a loss of $ 100 million. There will be layoffs and the program will be significantly reduced when it reopens in autumn.
Big houses like the Metropolitan Museum are still doing well. Many smaller museums will have to struggle to reopen at all. The Association of American Museums estimates that a third of its members will not survive. The cultural landscape in New York and the entire USA will be significantly poorer after Corona.
Meanwhile, the artists themselves try to use the forced break to refuel creatively. “I practice and compose and try not to worry too much,” says bassist Jeff Allen, who plays in the orchestra in six Broadway musicals. Allen says he could hold out the dry spell for about three months.
The artist Joan Bankemper has retired to her studio in the country, where she works on ceramic objects. So far, she has formed elaborate vase-like objects. Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, however, she has been moved to make urns. “There is death in the air,” she says. “It is time we accepted death as part of life again.”