Near the start of the pandemic and the associated stay-at-home orders, images of vacant New York City streets flooded news broadcasts and social media, solidifying the tangible impact of these uncertain times. As more individuals worldwide gain access to COVID-19 vaccinations and the global economic stutters back to life, the lights of NYC are flickering on once more, beckoning tourists and locals alike to return.
However, the pandemic’s impact cannot be ignored, and what we recognize as the “new normal” may change how we see the Big Apple. From the recovery of the local economy to the slow but steady growth of the real estate industry, New York City’s path beyond the pandemic may not be clear, but it is promising. Even with the uncertainty surrounding a post-pandemic New York, change can be productive, and while the pandemic presented new challenges, the future of a post-pandemic NYC looks bright.
The Return of Business and a Renewed Economy
With more businesses opening up, mask mandates lifting, and vaccination numbers rising with each passing day, the return of business to NYC suggests a promising path toward a strong renewed economy. The guarantee of tourists and locals returning to the city has contributed to a rise in business, spreading from property brokers to restaurant owners and more.
Adjusting to pandemic-related restrictions proved to be a productive challenge for many businesses, especially those in the food industry; many restaurants were able to establish outdoor seating areas to promote safe social distancing standards while maintaining business, and these features look like they are here to stay, changing the atmosphere of the city at least for the summer.
The Revival of Broadway and a Surge of Tourism
For many, Broadway is a symbol of New York City, and when the theater went dark last year, it posed a grim message, suggesting surrender or defeat. However, it is believed that Broadway, as well as Radio City Music Hall, will finally reopen later this year, presenting an opportunity for hope, unity, and relief. In order to survive beyond the pandemic, however, Broadway will need to fill its seats, limiting the potential for social distancing within the theater and necessitating other safety measures in exchange. Still, the return of Broadway has caused excitement and anticipation among New York residents, hopeful tourists, and theatre lovers alike, and its imminent revival will play a crucial role in revitalizing the city’s tourism industry.
One of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic has been that of hospitality; with travel restrictions and the shuttering of main attractions, hotels have suffered immensely over the last year and a half. Many hotel owners were forced to close some of their buildings or severely restrict occupancy limits, but as an increase of tourism looms on the horizon, the role of hotels will be a critical one. During the pandemic, hotel owners and staff have worked to make changes to better benefit the health, safety, and comfort of employees and guests alike, and NYC tourists will encounter these changes when they book their stays. The changes made are likely to stay beyond the pandemic, as well, forever altering the standards of hospitality. Ultimately, hotel owners hope to demonstrate to guests that they are safe and valued when staying with them, and they hope that this message helps revitalize the hospitality industry through consistent action that proves their point.
The health of the tourism industry is largely dependent on the recovery of local business and the lifting of international travel restrictions, but for now, efforts to promote higher standards of cleanliness and comfort are set to attract tourists as they trickle back into the city.
The Rebound of Commercial and Residential Real Estate
Early on in the pandemic, many NYC residents chose to leave the city in favor of being closer to family or securing more affordable homes or apartments. As the economy continues to recover in the gradual wake of the pandemic, apartment and luxury home sales have increased significantly, at times surpassing pre-COVID levels, suggesting a promising return of residents and tourists alike.
Since the first quarter, for example, apartments listed at the $5 million or higher price point have witnessed an 85% increase in closings, marking an impressive positive upswing in business for the real estate industry. Increased vaccination and the widespread reopening of businesses has improved consumer confidence; coupled with the impending promise of New York tax changes as well as discussions surrounding raised taxes on the wealthy, the positive shifts in society and the economy have contributed to a renewed culture of spending, especially in NYC real estate markets.
The commercial real estate sector is expected to have the most sluggish recovery due to a high number of workers remaining remote for the foreseeable future. Prior to the pandemic, multi-use buildings had increased in popularity to improve income streams for building owners, reduce the risk of financial loss when tenants leave, and make better use of facilities that may otherwise be vacant at times. This trend will likely continue as companies determine if renting entire spaces is valuable to their work and their workforces.
Similarly, it is entirely possible that spaces that were previously used as office or co-working spaces may shift their function; repurposing commercial spaces to satisfy the renewed demand for entertainment, food, and nightlife may be a strong likelihood as landlords seek innovative tenants to fill their buildings. Instead of housing corporate offices, some spaces may instead host party seekers and up to 150,000 nightlife workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
While the future of New York City may be in flux, the potential for revitalization and success is immense. The city has been forever changed by the pandemic, but as a cornerstone of American culture and a symbol of prosperity and excitement, NYC is far from dead. Consider this a rebirth. What the future holds for NYC may look unlike anything we’ve seen before, but we can be certain that the city will recover and thrive again.