It’s the week before Christmas, traditionally the best week of the year to be in New York City. This is the week when tourists by the thousands flock to town, hundreds of restaurants are full and festive, the theater does peak business, the symphony and opera and ballet put on their most popular shows, concert venues are fully booked, hotel rooms are impossible to find, stores are packed, and beautiful Christmas lights are everywhere.
Not this year. Don’t even think about coming here right now. Almost all of the best things are closed, by order of our political masters. The term “ghost town” is a fair description. Here’s a small roundup:
- Restaurants. After a few months of graciously allowing restaurants to have outdoor dining plus indoor at 25% capacity, last week — just as fall was about to turn into full winter — Governor Cuomo ordered all restaurants in New York City completely closed for indoor dining until further notice. That’s right, all indoor dining at restaurants is closed in New York City. Outdoor? This is December! For most of the last week, the temperature has been well below 32F (0C); today it finally got back to a little above 40F (5C). In my neighborhood, normally the best restaurant area of the City, nearly all of the restaurants have given up. A handful have built elaborate “outdoor” structures where a few hardy patrons in parkas huddle beneath highly inadequate heat lamps. The evidence that indoor dining at restaurants is a significant source of spread of the coronavirus is non-existent.
- Broadway theater. All of it is completely closed. Through May 2021!
- Symphony, opera, ballet, Lincoln Center. Closed, closed and more closed. Lincoln Center is bravely talking about restarting shows some time in “Spring 2021,” but they don’t give any specific date. Carnegie Hall’s most recent proposed reopening date is April 5, 2021. Watch for that to get pushed back again, and then yet again.
- Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Yes, it is there. You can even go to see it in person — provided that you are willing to put up with advance registration, a scheduled time, mask-wearing, social distancing, a five-minute time limit for viewing, etc., etc., etc. Or you can just watch their virtual live cam, safely from your home in Peoria — which is what they strongly recommend. After all, you wouldn’t want to get too near an actual live human being this year.
- Concerts. Everything is canceled as far as I can find, mostly without any announced rescheduling dates at all. Madison Square Garden, which also runs Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater, says “We are working diligently to reschedule as many of these events as possible for dates in the future.” When in the future? No word.
- Hotels. I can’t find statistics for the most recent weeks, but according to this report from October, some 200 of New York’s 700 hotels have closed entirely, and the remainder had overall occupancy rates of well under 40%. I’m surprised that it is that high. Typical for this time of year would be 90% or higher. The good news is that prices have plummeted.
- Streets. The usual festive throngs are nowhere to be seen. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I don’t think so.
- Subways. Still running! And at close to full schedule, if you can believe that. However, the authorities have done their best to scare away as many riders as possible, leaving the trains almost empty even at peak hours. On my line, trains that used to run irregularly, due to the difficulties of dealing with the crush of customers, now come every four minutes like clockwork. Word is that the MTA is about to get several billion in new “stimulus” funds from the latest Congressional bill, to keep the empty trains going. Thanks, flyover people! Here is a picture of the subway car I came home in this evening — with one other lonely passenger down at the other end. In normal times, this would be standing room only.
Meanwhile our politicians proceed as if the infinite gusher of money will flow forever to fund the progressive program of perfecting the world. Allison Schrager in the City Journal has a collection of new and onerous labor regulation measures going into effect even as other government orders stemming from the virus are already crippling small businesses. Schrager calls her list “Another Stake in the Heart of New York’s Small Businesses.”
[D]on’t underestimate the capacity [of New York’s politicians] to make a bad situation much worse. The same week that Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to shut down New York City for business [because of the virus], Albany increased the minimum wage across the rest of the state (New York City’s minimum wage is already $15 an hour), City Hall made it harder to fire fast-food workers, and the New York appellate division upheld a decision that Uber drivers could not be hired as contractors—they must get all the benefits of regular employees.
Up in the state legislature, the Democrats have just increased their majority in the state Senate. All the buzz is about a new “millionaire’s tax” of several additional percent for those with annual income exceeding $1 million. And in New York City, Mayor de Blasio on December 18 held a news conference where he blurted out these words:
“I’d like to say very bluntly our mission is to redistribute wealth,” the mayor said. “A lot of people bristle at that phrase. That is, in fact, the phrase we need to use.”
The purpose of the “redistribution of wealth” is supposedly to fix the City’s schools. Those schools currently spend about $28,000 per year per student on K-12 education, which is well more than double the national average. As usual, de Blasio takes no responsibility for the failure of New York City schools to achieve even near-average results for almost triple the cost elsewhere in the country, and just demands more and more and yet more money.
They are doing their very best to kill off our city.
Francis Menton, Manhattan Contrarian