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A year of state of emergency corona: How the lockdown changed New York

One year of state of emergency corona
How the lockdown changed New York

When New York went into lockdown almost overnight on March 20, 2020, the metropolis became the “city that sleeps for the first time”. The past Corona year was full of suffering and pain and a lot has changed. A lot for the better.

In March 2020, almost no New Yorker could have imagined that the historical exit restrictions in the world metropolis would result in a whole year of emergency. Everyone would have to stay at home from now on because of Covid-19, said Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 20, 2020. “These are the most drastic measures we could take.”

At that time, the tickers of the US news channels still indicated that a total of 196 people in the US had died of Covid-19. With more than half a million corona deaths in the United States, New York will go down in history last year. There has been a lot of suffering and pain, a lot has changed – but not all for the worse. An overview.

The gap between rich and poor


The number of corona cases exploded, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

(Photo: dpa)

“Corona affects everyone equally,” was the saying at the beginning of the pandemic in New York, or: “We’re all in it together.” It quickly became clear that this was not entirely true: many wealthy New Yorkers – including from Manhattan – left the city at least temporarily and settled in the country or on the beach – rented or owned, in any case with more space to keep your distance.

Meanwhile, the number of infections has exploded in areas like Queens, the Bronx or Brooklyn with lower average incomes, where a majority of people are also mostly ignorant and cannot work from home. The pandemic seemed to widen the gap between rich and poor while at the same time making the differences open. But the willingness to help was and remains huge. In addition, rents have fallen somewhat – and hope has risen that disclosing the problems could lead to changes in the future.

Home office culture

Even if life – and at least partly tourism – comes back to New York bit by bit in 2021, many companies and employees expect to work from home for a long time to come. Many city dwellers like the home office and their employers in the towers of Manhattan have noticed that it works without open-plan office control. More flexible work could also become the new standard in the commuter metropolis of New York. Some think further: Companies could save with smaller offices, employees would have the opportunity to work from the surrounding area – or elsewhere.

Outdoor dining and pedestrian areas


Eating outside is booming: Here people dine in transparent capsules in front of a restaurant.

(Photo: dpa)

New Yorkers got a taste for outdoor dining. Many streets in Manhattan or Brooklyn have been lined with (heated) wooden outdoor terraces for months. Sometimes they are brightly painted or decorated with flowers and – as long as no snowstorm sweeps the city – they are well attended. For some residents, the new street flair with restricted-traffic zones is even reminiscent of street restaurants in Europe – and it could stay: “I want us to adopt this model and make it part of the life of New York City for years and generations,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.


In addition to traditional restaurants, another gastronomy branch developed in New York during the pandemic. Many cooks and bakers relocated to the Internet, in so-called “ghost kitchens”. They do not have a shop, but cook or bake either at home or in a special kitchen and then deliver the food or have it picked up. Many were able to secure their livelihood in this way. Some even became gastronomic stars, such as the 27-year-old Kimberly Camara, whose donuts, shaped by her Filipino roots, are regularly sold out via Instagram within minutes.

Culture’s comeback


Queuing with mask and distance: visitors wait in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

(Photo: dpa)

The famous New York cultural scene has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. According to studies, up to two thirds of all jobs have been lost – at least temporarily. The museums were closed for months, the Broadway theaters will probably reopen in autumn at the earliest, the Metropolitan Opera not until 2022. But after a black year there are now the first signs of hope: the cinemas have recently been allowed to reopen with restrictions, and the first theaters from April . Museums are already announcing new major exhibitions for the summer, and there should also be a large cultural program in the open air – and some of that could remain.

The dear bike

New York – a bike city? Despite the more than 2000 kilometers of mostly green lanes for cyclists, not really. But here too the pandemic has caused a rethink. Bicycle sellers cannot keep up with the replenishment and the bike-sharing offer is booming because tens of thousands no longer want to take the subway. This is why the more than 50,000 bicycle parking spaces in public spaces are becoming scarce at times. The big city has promised to invest more in the infrastructure, because the bicycle should keep its place in New York in the future.

Park on the Hudson

In the pandemic, space and nature were in demand and New Yorkers rediscovered a love for their many parks – whether small or large, whether Central Park, Prospect Park or Hudson River Park. Now they are all waiting eagerly for a green new addition: “Little Island”, a park built on stilts in the Hudson River and financed with millions of dollars by media mogul Barry Diller, is due to open “this spring”.

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