I’ve been away from NYC the last couple of months as the pandemic unfolded but recently came back to a different experience. As I left the terminal at LaGuardia on a weekday morning there were no taxi lines and no one hustling me for a ride. It was strange but also somewhat peaceful. After a record setting 25 min into Manhattan I arrived downtown. I spent the afternoon walking around a few different neighborhoods to get a feel for how things had changed. Some shop owners told me business was slower for sure, and yet others said it’s about normal for August. Some said they had been able to negotiate rent concessions, others had not. People were in less of a rush and the tourists were gone. The parks were more alive than I’ve ever seen as people sat out on blankets with friends and their 4-legged friends.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles claiming a “mass exodus for the suburbs,” “New York will never be the same,” “your favorite lunch place won’t survive because no one is going back into the office, etc, etc, etc.” The reality is this is a tough time for the city, but there’s a silver lining I believe. So much of Manhattan has become essentially one big shopping mall overrun with chain stores. As vacancy rates rise, rents will fall. In fact, we’re already beginning to see around 10% discounts. This will (hopefully) draw the artists back to soho, the true mom and pop stores, independent restaurants, theaters, etc. Not to say this is going to reverse decades of gentrification but I hope it gives rise to a new batch of entrepreneurs that historically have been shut out due to high costs.
There’s still no place like New York.