Living as I do on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, next to the projects behind the Metropolitan Opera, I wanted to temper some of the sentiments expressed by the estimable Kyle Smith and VDH on the decline of New York.
To me, the Upper West Side is not quite as bad as it seems to Kyle. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it, but I don’t sense a “palpable” fear when going out to eat on Amsterdam or Columbus Ave.—and the outdoor dining is actually quite nice, even in the heat and humidity. Nor is there fear among the sunbathers at Sheep Meadow on Central Park’s west side, or in the parks along the Hudson.
New York is not dead. Go to Greenwich Village on a weekend, and the streets are filled with people at outdoor cafes and grabbing a drink along with their Cuomo chips. Many of the city’s restaurants, thank goodness, are surviving.
Neither has the city returned entirely to the dysfunction of the late ’60s and ’70s. During the looting and riots in late May it really did seem like a good idea to bring in federal troops to restore order, but the rioting died down relatively quickly, and there was no need for a federal response on the level of L.A.’s Rodney King riots. Seeing stores and restaurants with plywood on their windows was a shock, but that plywood has come down in most places and been repurposed for barriers for outdoor dining. There is currently nothing close to the persistent and violent Antifa presence that exists in Portland. At most, Black Lives Matter protesters will get on bicycles and ride around Manhattan in groups; annoying and stupid, but nothing New York’s finest can’t handle.
None of this is intended to discount the suffering New Yorkers experienced at the height of the pandemic, including the 23,500 who died and the additional tens of thousands who fell ill. The eerie emptiness of midtown and downtown Manhattan is staggering for anyone to behold. And of course, it would be better for the NYPD if they could focus on rising murders in certain precincts rather than chaperoning BLM protesters.
One day, however, the coronavirus mitigation efforts will end. Whether New York will fully recover is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, I feel compelled to report that, in my day-to-day experience, the city is not yet in the midst of the apocalypse.