In the Face of a deep crisis, New York called to reinvent itself

Face à une crise profonde, New York appelée à se réinventer

Removals in series, unemployment, crime on the rise: the pandemic has plunged New York city into a multifaceted crisis, is worrisome for some, but others see it as an opportunity for this town, symbol of the dynamism to reinvent themselves, only better.

“We are going through may be one of the moments in the most painful, the most outstanding of our history, (…) a time of profound social upheaval,” said Friday of its mayor, Bill de Blasio.

With more than 23 000 people dead, the economic capital of the us is, to this day, the metropolis in western the most severely hit by the coronavirus.

Despite a dramatic drop in the number of cases since may, the déconfinement remains limited, due to the fear of a resumption of the epidemic that rages in the United States.

Tourism to the stop, towers of offices almost deserted, many stores closed, unemployment at 20% of the active population: a four-month Covid-19 have transformed this city of 8.5 million people, synonymous with crowds and consumerism.

If schools hope to reopen in September, the city provides only three days of class per week maximum, preventing many parents of rework normally.

And crime, in steady decline since the mid-90’s, just starting to increase again: the latest police statistics count 634 shootings and 203 murders since January, an increase of respectively 60% and 23% compared to the same period of 2019.

Some New Yorkers are gone, leaving thousands of empty apartments: for the first time in 10 years, rents in Manhattan have fallen slightly in the 2nd quarter (-0,9%), according to the real estate website StreetEasy.

“It was worse”

It is “the perfect combination of bad news,” said Kenneth Jackson, a historian specialist of New York at Columbia university.

For this teacher, who has left Manhattan for the campaign with the pandemic, the situation evokes the dark period of the 70s and 80s, when New York, in financial ruin, was undermined by an endemic crime, and a massive exodus to the suburbs safer.

But like many New Yorkers, he refuses to dramatize.

New York “has experienced epidemics worse than this,” he says, recalling the annual epidemics of cholera in the Nineteenth century, or the attacks of September 11, 2001, when some “predicted that people would no longer like to work in the towers”.

But the era is no longer with the abandonment of the central cities as well as in the years 70: the escape of the middle classes, predominantly white, was then racism, now declining, at least among young people, as demonstrated by the recent protests #BlackLivesMatter, ” he said.

The trend is to “the renaissance of the cities”, to the improved quality of life. They alone satisfy our needs of”social animal”, in quest of meetings, entertainment and professional opportunities, according to him.

Kyle Scott, 30, who works in real estate online, confirm. He and his wife, a pediatrician, had left New York two years ago for a pretty suburb, before you become disillusioned. “We have more space, a better family life”, but life is “too quiet”, he said.

Today the parents of a baby of seven months, they intend to remain in a city that “reinvents itself as always”. And hope that a future decline in property prices will allow them to buy their first apartment.


Eva Kassen-Noor, urban planner at the university of the State of Michigan, think that New York will “adapt to the realities of the epidemic”. It is hoped that this metropolis, which aims to be a pioneer in terms of environment, will take advantage of this crisis to redistribute a part of the urban space in favour of pedestrians and cyclists.

A few changes, the environmental activists believed to be impracticable so far, are already visible: the number of cyclists has exploded with the pandemic. More than 160 kilometres of roads have been, or will soon be, closed to cars.

Andrew, sales executive forties, sees in the multiplication of the terraces of the restaurants “a picture of optimism,” is the nearly 9 000 terraces have opened in a few weeks, since the town council has simplified the formalities, in order to compensate for the closure of the rooms.

And Scott Ellard, owner of a famous jazz club in Greenwich Village, is currently working to make its pedestrian street, with the hope of reopening in the outdoors after four months of judgment.

“We did our best, nobody wants to close,” he said. “I would hate to lose this club is full of history just because of a damn virus.”

Kenneth Jackson was convinced that the city will bounce back and that he will return soon in her apartment on the Upper East Side. “Not later than the summer of 2021,” he predicts, “there will be clear signs that the city is in the process of healing”.

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