Sometimes, it takes the total absence of something to see how important it is. Right now, Gotham has its tall buildings, landmarks, parks, theaters, subways. What’s missing is its most important resource: people. No one would choose to learn the lesson in this way, but the coronavirus has highlighted how critical the dense city is — it’s the most efficient way ever devised to bring people together for fun and profit.
Every industry across the city is suffering from the absence of human beings. Broadway. The Met opera. Hotels. Even Central Park’s horse carriages. For a while, at least, Mayor Bill de Blasio will have gotten his wish — no familiar clip-clop of the horses — but it took an event already worse than the Great Depression by some measures to do it.
Restaurants, bars, stores, movies — all in the business of crowds of people. The absence of foot traffic kills street enterprise as well. The vendor who sells newspapers every weekday morning come rain, snow and extreme cold at the entrance to the C/E train in Midtown was out every day last week — but said Friday that he can’t keep it up. No one is taking the train, so no one is walking by his chair.
The people who collect cans out of Central Park’s trash bins to redeem the deposits for a living? You can’t do it when there’s no trash in the trash bin.
Even panhandlers: Many of the people who sit outside Manhattan storefronts hoping passersby will drop money in their boxes have vanished.
The novel coronavirus initially harms city workers who interact with the public — and the impact will be huge. Just look at last year’s employment figures.
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