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Photos: How Covid Changed New York’s Economy

Photos: How Covid Changed New York’s Economy

MARKETING NEWS

Photos: How Covid Changed New York’s Economy

Photographs by Ashley Gilbertson Produced by Renee Melides and Rebecca Lieberman Text by Nelson D. SchwartzMarch 9, 2021

New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and an engine of the American economy, is more than just another victim of the coronavirus. It is a canvas upon which nearly every element of the pandemic played out, from the collapse in tourism and employment to the rise in crime and the strain on city services.

Aug. 23, 2020 Times Square

Oct. 1, 2020 Inside the Astoria, Queens, home of a couple while they worked alongside their two small children

As the virus marched across the United States last year, over 20 million jobs vanished in just one month, the worst toll since the Great Depression. In New York, where cases peaked early, the health and economic crises were devastating.

Retailers closed their doors. Wealthy residents fled to second homes in the Hamptons. Late-night subway service was eliminated, a sign that many New Yorkers who had to keep going to work were largely left to fend for themselves.

Sept. 5, 2020 Moving out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to return to New Mexico

We spent months documenting the changing city as its economy frayed and split during the pandemic.

Dec. 6, 2020 Dining out in SoHo

Oct. 30, 2020 Times Square

In a city with gleaming penthouses and decrepit slums, the pandemic made the extremes of rich and poor stand out even more.

A 10-minute cab ride separated the moneyed fortresses of Park Avenue, with their gloved doormen and spacious apartments, from housing projects in disrepair. White-collar workers were able to retreat to home offices. Service workers found themselves out of jobs.

Dec. 21, 2020 The New York Stock Exchange

Oct. 30, 2020 Times Square

Dec. 6, 2020 Dining out in SoHo

The most fortunate residents were among the first to abandon the city. Over three months, the residential population in affluent neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, SoHo and Brooklyn Heights decreased by 40 percent or more. Midweek felt like the weekend.

And while the growing ranks of homeless begged for change in areas like Downtown Manhattan, Lamborghinis sat parked outside crowded restaurants.

Sept. 26, 2020 Moving to Long Island from the Upper East Side

Aug. 17, 2020 Outdoor dining in SoHo

In large swaths of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, there was nowhere to run or hide. The death rate was higher, and hospitals and morgues became overwhelmed — with hundreds of deaths a day across the city during the brutal first wave. Ambulance sirens haunted the streets.

From the safety of our homes, many of us grew accustomed to ordering groceries and toilet paper online. But armies of service workers who were deemed “essential” often went unseen and unprotected.

Dec. 7, 2020 An Amazon distribution point in Midtown

Oct. 20, 2020 At Marea, a Michelin-starred restaurant near Central Park

Aug. 20, 2020 A woman shopping near Penn Station

Even after vaccines became available, inequalities have persisted: Rates of inoculation are far higher for white residents than for other groups, and access remains a problem.

Dec. 14, 2020 A salon in Chinatown

Nov. 19, 2020 Preparing to disinfect an office in Midtown

When lockdown orders first went into effect one year ago this month, how we shopped, what we ate, how we worked immediately shifted. Office employees learned to take video calls from home, while owners of restaurants and small businesses desperately tried to stay connected to customers, while separated by screens and windows and other barriers.

Oct. 2, 2020 An occupational therapist working over Zoom in Hell’s Kitchen Sept. 28, 2020 Food delivery people in Harlem

Sept. 17, 2020 Real estate agents during a meeting separated by a window in Midtown

Oct. 7, 2020 Diners in personal heated tents on the Upper West Side

Many businesses couldn’t keep their doors open at all. As the months went on, stores closed down on street corners one by one. Sometimes you could see whole neighborhoods seemingly change overnight.

The city’s unemployment rate spiked to 18.3 percent in May, the highest level in the 44 years that the data has been collected, with 670,000 residents out of work.

With no end in sight for lockdowns, a flood of New Yorkers sought unemployment insurance, food stamps and other aid.

Sept. 28, 2020 A food line for people in need on the Lower East Side

Nov. 19, 2020 Preparing to disinfect at an office in Midtown

Dec. 14, 2020 A salon in Chinatown

Oct. 2, 2020 Along a busy commercial strip in the South Bronx

As flashy window displays were replaced by For Rent signs, retailers like Century 21 and Lord & Taylor simply shut down. Fashion Week needed to be rethought.

By some estimates, one out of every seven chain stores closed.

And with stores closed, there was less demand in one of New York’s last remaining centers of industrial production: the garment district.

Sept. 24, 2020 A fabric store closing down in the Garment District

Sept. 15, 2020 A Fashion Week event in TriBeCa

Still, life went on. Products moved off the shelves of Amazon and FreshDirect warehouses as quickly as they moved onto them. Vendors hustled their merchandise down the sidewalk, even if there were fewer cars to dodge when they crossed the street.

Lines of people routinely waited outside stores for the latest shoe release. Masked and socially distanced, they were symbols of New York’s enduring resilience amid the carnage.

Sept. 19, 2020 Waiting for a streetwear release outside a Supreme store on Bowery

Feb. 17, 2021 A shuttered McDonald’s in Greenwich Village

Oct. 20, 2020 The FreshDirect warehouse in the South Bronx

Sept. 13, 2020 A dumpling wholesaler making a delivery in Chinatown

Aug. 28, 2020 An arrest after a stabbing in Times Square

Sept. 15, 2020 The scene after a man died from an overdose on the Lower East Side

By summer, the frustrations of shutdowns and economic collapse had burst into the open. Shootings had doubled, and most of them were concentrated in the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus and unemployment.

Sept. 14, 2020 A graffiti artist in Williamsburg

Sept. 14, 2020 Graffiti in the South Bronx

Oct. 11, 2020 Street vendors with counterfeit luxury goods on Canal Street

Counterfeit goods, once hawked with an eye out for the police, were sold openly. Thefts and robberies and hit-and-runs increased.

Oct. 15, 2020 Staten Island Oct. 23, 2020 After a collision on the Upper East Side

The city recorded over a thousand shootings by Labor Day, making it the worst year for gun violence since 2015, with four months still left to go.

“This is something that we have to double down on,” said Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor, at a news conference earlier in the year, adding that the rise in shootings was fueled mainly by the “dislocation that has happened over these last four months with the coronavirus.”

“The fact that the court system is not working, the economy is not working, people have been penned up for months and months — so many issues underlying this challenge,” he added.

Sept. 17, 2020 The lobby of the Conrad Hotel in Midtown

Oct. 13, 2020 Morning rush hour in Times Square

New York City is heavily dependent on tourism: 66 million people visited in 2019, and the hospitality industry generated $46 billion in annual spending and supported hundreds of thousands of jobs. The sudden disappearance of this revenue was among the first economic jolts of the pandemic, and this sector has been among the slowest to return.

Popular areas like the meatpacking district were often eerily calm. One day last fall, as a lone pedestrian crossed Times Square, it was quiet enough to hear the sound of the traffic lights changing.

Aug. 21, 2020 Eating in the meatpacking district

Oct. 13, 2020 Morning rush hour in Times Square

Sept. 17, 2020 The lobby of the Conrad Hotel in Midtown

The economy’s downturn seemed bleakest at the airports that once throbbed with activity. At various moments, the terminals of Kennedy Airport and La Guardia have felt like grand, forgotten monuments to the age of travel. Unused planes were often parked on tarmacs in neat rows.

Sept. 22, 2020 A flight attendant in the pool of the TWA Hotel at Kennedy Airport

Sept. 15, 2020 Outside a Fashion Week event in TriBeCa

Oct. 11, 2020 The final days of the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown before it shut down

Luxury hotels can still barely fill rooms. Others were used to temporarily house recovering Covid-19 patients or were converted to accommodate homeless people as shelters became transmission sites for the virus.

And there is little clue of when the footlights in Broadway theaters will shine again. Or when the crowds will return fully to destinations like the Bronx Zoo.

Dec. 30, 2020 The Bronx Zoo

Sept. 24, 2020 A garage beneath a mall in Marine Park, Brooklyn, that was losing its businesses

Oct. 5, 2020 Virus testing in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn

In a city famous for never sleeping, the subway is now shut down between 2 and 4 a.m.

It was only one of many city services to be cut during the pandemic. Trash began to pile up after $100 million was stripped from the sanitation budget in June.

Stuyvesant Cove Park along the East River turned to goats to trim back on weeds after Parks Department cutbacks left it overgrown.

Sept. 9, 2020 Goats clearing weeds at Stuyvesant Cove Park

Oct. 29, 2020 A Bronx-bound subway

The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill nearing passage in Washington will most likely help the city avert the worst of the feared cuts.

But the scars will remain for years to come.

Aug. 28, 2020 A recently fired security guard taking a bath at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn

Sept, 17, 2020 Firefighters spent hours putting out a three-alarm blaze in Chinatown

Nov. 30, 2020 A life-threatening Covid-19 case at Mount Sinai in Midwood, Brooklyn

Oct. 15, 2020 A ferry bound for Staten Island

Aug. 19, 2020 East Village

In December, more than one in 10 New Yorkers who wanted to work still didn’t have a job. The unemployment rate is still almost twice the country’s average.

But as the vaccine rollout picks up speed, people have begun trickling back into public life.

Aug. 19, 2020 East Village

Oct. 15, 2020 A ferry bound for Staten Island

Aug. 19, 2020 Bangladeshi-American men playing a board game in Queens

Schools are reopening. People have started dining indoors again, albeit with restrictions. And tourists and New Yorkers have begun to rediscover old pleasures, like the view of the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge or the quiet calm of a bench to yourself at MoMA. Or a hug with someone who has been six feet away for the last year.

Sept. 26, 2020 Below the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown

Dec. 11, 2020 In front of Matisse’s “Dance” at MoMA

Oct. 8, 2020 An otherwise empty Brooklyn Bridge


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