New York City could be headed for another downward spiral, when our status as a true world city will be challenged.
We've been through these periods before, times when people thought New York was unlivable and ungovernable. Too unsafe and too expensive. A place where you couldn't raise a family, where the various tradeoffs we had to make in order to live in the city that never sleeps just weren't worth it.
Coronavirus could be the thing that pushes us over that edge again.
Those who could afford to leave the city fled early in the pandemic, heading to upstate towns where COVID-19 didn't hit as hard, or to their summer homes in the Hamptons or the Poconos. Some of them may never come back.
You know who else may never return? Business owners and workers who've grown accustomed to working from home.
Business owners can see how much money they can save if they downsize or do away with physical offices. Add to that the hassles of ensuring that workplaces are set up for social distancing, as well as having to do regular temperature checks or other screenings of employees. Who needs the added headaches and expenses?
Meanwhile, some workers have discovered they actually like working from home, and they may be more productive when the elimination of commute times and the myriad time-wasting distractions of office life are factored in.
On top of that, how many people are going to want to crowd onto packed buses and trains in order to get to work, especially once flu season kicks in in a couple of months? The first person who coughs or sneezes is going to find themselves tossed to the side of the road.
Uncertainty is everywhere you look. How will the city and state fill multibillion-dollar budget gaps? Homeowners and business owners can already feel the tax target on their backs. Another incentive to leave the big, bad city behind.
And let's face it: Mayor Bill de Blasio had already been dropping in stature before the pandemic started. New Yorkers had wearied of his do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do style, his frequent trips out of town, his detachment from the day-to-day city grind, and the delusion of grandeur that led to his pathetic run for the presidency.
His act has only grown worse during coronavirus, with de Blasio constantly big-footed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on big decisions and this week fumbling over when the city will go into Phase 2 of re-opening.
The massive George Floyd protests we've seen here, some of which turned violent, have also rattled New Yorkers. Increasing calls to defund and curb the enforcement duties of the NYPD strike many as the worst way to maintain New York's status as the safest big city in America.
The slope we started down when we stopped enforcing quality-of-life crimes and started turning criminals back out onto the streets without bail is getting more slippery by the day.
And violent crime is indeed rearing its ugly head. Murders and shootings are up over the last month compared to last year, as are burglary and automobile grand larceny. Other crime categories are down, but it's a spike that bears watching.
There's an upside to all this. Rents are already dropping, and the more people and businesses leave, the lower rents will go. The city could become a little more affordable.
And, yes, there will always be people willing to take a risk. In every crisis there are opportunities. Remember how people said nobody would ever want to live or work in Lower Manhattan after 9/11? They couldn't have been more wrong.
We could be coming to that point again. But how low will New York City have to sink before it bounces back again?
Originally published by the Staten Island Advance, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.