Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that New York City would reopen fully on July 1, evoking a tantalizing vision of a summer in which the nation’s largest city opens its doors and regains its pre-pandemic dynamism.
“It will be the New York summer,” de Blasio said during a press briefing. “We’re all going to be able to enjoy the city again, and people from all over the country are going to flock here to be a part of this incredible moment.”
The mayor’s pledge raised hopes that after more than a year of restrictions New Yorkers and tourists could once again swarm shops and galleries, baseball fans could watch games in sports bars and partiers. sweaty could dance until the wee hours in nightclubs.
Yet restoring the city to its former state, before it was suffocated by the virus and marred by deep loss, will pose a daunting challenge.
Many of the city’s big employers have set their sights on a fall return, which will keep workers away from Manhattan’s business districts until then. The hospitality industry doesn’t expect tourism, the city’s key economic engine, to return to pre-pandemic levels for years to come. Transit officials don’t think ridership at the metro, which is still closed for two hours each night, will fully rebound until 2024.
The city’s devastated cultural sector has yet to rebound. Mr de Blasio hailed the impact a reopening would have on the theater industry, but the large-scale productions on Broadway – one of the city’s gems and a major draw for tourists – won’t return until September at the earliest, the Broadway League confirmed. in a report.
Mr de Blasio’s power to lift virus restrictions, imposed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, is also limited. But if the reopening were to take place, its success will always depend on the willingness of residents and wary workers to return to crowded spaces.
“Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be fully open again,” said Miguel de Leon, wine manager at Pinch Chinese in SoHo. “But I just want to make sure that the lines they draw don’t look so arbitrary.
Even as spring brought New Yorkers out of their homes, many shared Mr. de Leon’s cautious view. They were thrilled with the possibility of reopening but were unsure if Mr de Blasio’s vision could come true or if his schedule was on track.
“Part of me is excited, part of me is overwhelmed,” said Max Barrett, a musician, as he sat on a bench in Union Square. “I have a feeling that a lot of people who aren’t vaccinated are going to start flocking to town, and I’m a little nervous about entering society.”
In some cases, residents feared that the mayor, who has frequently criticized the governor for pushing the reopening too quickly, himself would act too quickly.
“It’s a little too early,” said Bwezani Manda, who was trying to get people to sign up for vaccine appointments in the Corona section of Queens, an early epicenter of the pandemic. “But people need to make a living.”
Santi Dady, who works at Please Don’t Tell, a windowless cocktail bar in Manhattan’s East Village, said she was concerned about serving customers at full capacity, but didn’t have the choice.
“I am partially vaccinated and extremely broke,” Ms. Dady said.
The reopened New York City Mr. de Blasio envisions will be remarkably different from the one that was closed last year. More than 32,000 New Yorkers have died. Thousands of businesses have closed and hundreds of thousands of jobs have disappeared and still have not returned.
Officials and business leaders have said tourism will be key to the city’s full recovery, but travel to the city, which came to a halt at the start of the pandemic, has yet to recover. New York relies heavily on travelers to fill hotels and occupy seats in restaurants, theaters and stadiums.
According to Cirium, an aeronautical data company, the number of flights scheduled to New York in July is expected to drop by about 31% from 2019. Nationally, a decrease of only about 14% is expected.
Vijay Dandapani, president of the New York Hotel Association, said hotels are still years of return to normal capacity, especially with many conferences and major events still canceled.
A reopening on July 1 would be “a very positive step,” he said. “But you just started to crawl when there’s a long way to go to walk and run.”
Organizers of major sporting events that draw visitors to the city, such as the US Open tennis tournament and the New York City Marathon, applauded the mayor’s pledge, while warning they needed more details.
Upper Manhattan City Councilor Ydanis Rodriguez, who sponsored a bill to help young people play sports in underserved communities, said he looked forward to their full return.
Many of New York’s major cultural institutions will stick with their limited reopening until more tourists return. For museums to come back to life fully, institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art will need to increase demand.
On a busy weekend day in summers past, the Met saw perhaps 25,000 visitors pass through its doors, which is only half of its actual capacity. But the museum averages around 4,000 visitors a day, rising to around 9,000 in the last few weekend days.
Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History, said that while Mr de Blasio’s announcement was a much-needed signal of optimism, it would not lead to immediate change on the ground.
“What this tells us,” said Ms Futter, “are we going to be as ready to act as quickly as possible.”
The city’s financial fortunes are tied to the return of its workforce, especially commuters who once moved from homes to offices and spent their wages in a vast ecosystem of businesses along the way.
Mr de Blasio hopes to see the offices reopen completely soon and the city has called on employees at its municipal office to start returning on Monday. But the private sector has set its own timetable for reopening, even as office capacity restrictions have eased.
With uncertainty over the virus lingering, many major media and tech companies have delayed reopening until the fall. Several financial organizations – including Citigroup, Bank of America and Neuberger Berman, which collectively represent hundreds of thousands of workers – have said they will not change their plans based on the mayor’s comments.
“Is July the right date?” It surprised some of us, ”said Brian Kingston, Managing Director of the Brookfield Real Estate Group, one of New York’s largest office owners. “I think most of us were waiting until September.”
Mr de Blasio linked his July 1 target to the city’s progress in vaccinating its residents and fighting the spread of the virus. As of Thursday, 53% of adults had received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to city data, and 37% had been fully immunized.
After months of consistently high case numbers in a second wave of the virus, the city has started to turn a corner, especially as the weather has warmed and drawn residents outside. Public health officials and epidemiologists expect vaccinations to continue to reduce new cases over the next two months.
Still, they acknowledged that the virus is likely to remain a threat, at least to some extent. Dr Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said the city should step up efforts to vaccinate unvaccinated people to reduce the risk of reopening.
The mayor set the goal last Friday in a meeting with senior officials, where they decided that announcing a date would help New Yorkers feel more confident about the city’s takeover.
On Thursday, the mayor lacked details on security measures that could remain in place this summer.
Those decisions would likely be subject to input from Mr Cuomo, with whom Mr de Blasio has frequently argued over pandemic regulations. The mayor said he had not spoken to Mr Cuomo about his plans to reopen.
At a press conference, Mr. Cuomo mocked Mr. de Blasio’s comments, pointing out that the state was in the driver’s seat. He said he was “reluctant to screen” on a reopening date, saying it would be “irresponsible”.
Despite this, the governor, who recently decided to roll back the restrictions, said he too hoped a wider reopening was in sight, perhaps earlier than Mr de Blasio’s goal.
“I think if we do what we need to do, we can be reopened sooner,” Cuomo said.
The uncertain timeline – and the question of who would ultimately decide to follow it – has left some greet the news with cautious optimism.
“This is great news and very welcome for New York, but we need all the details on what the full reopening means,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, an industry group for restaurants and bars.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union, which represents workers at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Zara in New York City, warned that in exuberance to revitalize the city, employees stores must not let down their guards.
“It is not up to elected officials to choose arbitrary dates,” said Appelbaum. “We would all like to say that the pandemic is behind us. But we have to wait for scientists to tell us that.
Reporting was contributed by Priya Krishna, Daniel E. Slotnik, Amanda rosa, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Niraj Chokshi, Michael corkery, Kate kelly, Steve lohr, David W. Chen, Gillian R. Brassil and Mihir Zaveri.