By Hadassa Kalatizadeh
The Covid-19 pandemic seems to stubbornly refuse to release its grip on New York City.
Positive cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, claiming more lives daily. Livelihoods are also still at stake. Tourism and visitors across New York are only about half what they were when the pandemic began close to 11-months ago. Unemployment in the Bronx, the poorest of the five boroughs, is now close to 16 percent. Businesses are ailing, with about a third of NYC’s 230,000 neighborhood businesses reporting that they might not be able to hold out till the vaccination becomes widely available.
As reported by Crain’s NY, despite the vaccine’s rollout, last week, the city reported a record number of new Covid-19 cases, even exceeding April highs. Although the Covid-19 immunization is now being offered to an expanded populace, the actual distribution continues to be slow. “It is really going to be tough still in the coming months,” said Tim Tompkins, former head of the Times Square Alliance.
The outlook for NYC’s economic recovery is becoming more difficult, with New Yorkers fleeing the scene. Those who lost their jobs, and who have trouble affording the Big Apple’s high cost of living are leaving. The upper class, who are now working remotely are also leaving for greener and warmer pastures. Businesses too are relocating, and taking their tax revenue with them. This month, Virtu Financial Inc. joined the list of finance firms which announced plans to move workers to Florida. New York City is feeling it in record-high vacancy rates in commercial and residential real estate. The exodus is leaving City Hall in a financial deficit, desperate for federal aid, as its revenue from property taxes and income taxes wanes.
In December, the New York State Comptroller’s office cautioned that 15 percent of landlords worry they may not be able to pay their property taxes due in January. More than 50 percent of low-income New Yorkers said they are already behind in their rent or mortgage payments, or will fall behind in a few months. A recent survey revealed that apartment tenants owed a total of $1 billion in unpaid rent. The state has extended the moratorium on evictions yet again, leading some tenants to owe as much as 11-months of back rent.
Hope for recovery lies in the vaccination, which can potentially allow businesses and employees to return to their offices by the spring or summer. It could also help open the door for tourism. There is also confidence that the incoming Biden administration will provide additional federal rescue funds.