City that Never Sleeps, Falling Asleep

November 20, 2020

The Big Apple is known throughout the world as the city that never sleeps. Until now, it seemed there was nothing that could shut it down. As people flee, unemployment rises, small businesses close, and crime increases, it becomes more uncertain whether or not the city can be sustained. Is NYC finally falling asleep?

Of all other US cities, around 277 people are moving out of NYC daily. As the New York Times reported, just one moving company alone, FlatRate Moving, has experienced a rough 50% increase, up 230% from 2019. There’s no doubt that the pandemic has contributed to what is being described as an ‘exodus’; but with remote work becoming the norm, along with parents’ fear of schools remaining closed, it no longer makes sense to live within a 2×4 apartment at what it would cost to mortgage a home— now, more than ever, New Yorkers are searching for space.

The urgency of getting out has been reflected in the real estate market, where bid prices are exceeding what sellers are asking. This exodus amounts to growing concern over the NYC budget: as vice president of the Citizens Budget Commission expressed, while some of the wealthiest individuals and families leave, “To lose them would really represent a blow to the budget.”

Of course, there are skeptics. Jerry Seinfeld in a New York Times op-ed fought back against any notion that NYC might be ‘dead’, writing that the city will “sure as hell be back.” Mayor Bill DiBlasio expressed a similar sentiment, “If you don’t think New York City is coming back, then you don’t know New York City.”

While it may be true, as Diblasio said, that in the 70s many more have fled NYC, approximately 1 million, 70% of residents today leaving the city long-distance are only replaced by a 30% intake, according to Bloomberg. This poses a long-term threat to NYC that neither people like Seinfeld nor Diblasio could understand. New York City isn’t just losing its wealthy; it’s losing its middle-class backbone.

As of July 2020, according to NY labor statistics, around 646,000 jobs have been lost across all private sectors. Once prosperous small businesses have permanently shut down, like Caribbean restaurant Glady’s and The Bank Street Bookstore. As the NYT reported, one-third of small businesses may have permanently closed resulting in 520,000 jobs lost.

The beginning of the end for these businesses began back in March, when Governor Cuomo issued an order to shut down all “non-essential” businesses. In an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, which accelerated anyway until June, Cuomo may have permanently closed a third of small businesses. At the end of June, fearing a second wave of infections, Cuomo issued another wave of threats at restaurant owners violating social distancing rules, putting further strain on businesses already struggling to stay afloat.

As though unemployment and business closure on the rise weren’t enough to disenfranchise NYC residents from staying, crime in NYC has increased with shootings up almost 170%, and robberies and burglaries up 4% and 22%, respectively.

Now, amid national unrest, NYC is hardly a safe home for business owners, investors, and parents. While residents flee in the hundreds, rent remains high, businesses close with unemployment following, and crime continues to rise, the once bustling and bright city appears to be shutting its exhausted eyes.

We have yet to see for how long.

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