They walk a bit too slowly, crowd Times Square and gobble up street vendors’ hot dogs. No, not pigeons: tourists.
Before the pandemic, in 2018, the city welcomed a record 65 million tourists from around the world. Those visitors spent $44 billion — money that was crucial to keeping hotels, restaurants, bars, stores, theaters and museums afloat.
Now, New York is mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1970s, and the return of swarms of visitors looks distant as the coronavirus surges in the United States.
Here’s how three tourist destinations are suffering.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is struggling to pay its bills.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is pleading for help.
Tourists and nearby office workers typically fill the neo-Gothic structure in Midtown: Up to 15,000 people used to celebrate Mass at the Roman Catholic church on a typical Sunday, and each year it drew more than five million visitors from outside the city.
Now, with travel discouraged and social-distancing rules in place, the pews are largely empty.
The cathedral is facing a budget shortfall of $4 million, which is about a quarter of its annual income. Like many parishes, St. Patrick’s relies on donations collected at Mass to keep the lights on and staff members paid. Fund-raising events, which are often gatherings like dinners, aren’t a safe alternative.
“The options are to beg, which is what I have been doing since March 15,” said Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, the rector of the cathedral.
Baseball is back, but Bronx merchants can’t pay their rent.
On a usual game day in the South Bronx, Yankee Stadium attracts about 40,000 baseball fans, many of them out-of-towners. The season will finally start on Thursday, but Major League Baseball is barring spectators to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
That means the merchants and vendors around the stadium — part of the country’s poorest congressional district — have lost their main source of income: the fans who flood the bars and souvenir shops.
“We’ve kind of locked in this year as a loss,” Mike Rendino, who manages Stan’s Sports Bar, directly across from the stadium, told my colleague Patrick McGeehan.
Nancy De La Rosa took over her father’s restaurant Molino Rojo, a block east of the stadium, four years ago. Last fall, she and her husband installed a small stage and a bar, and spent $4,000 for a liquor license.
“We definitely will not be able to survive too long without the games,” she said.
So, what’s a baseball game without spectators? In Queens last weekend, the Mets filled seats at Citi Field with thousands of cardboard cutouts of fans. Some people submitted a selfie for their cutout; others sent photos of their dogs in Mets gear.
Broadway’s lights are staying dark.
Broadway won’t reopen until next year at the soonest, and the Broadway League, the theater industry’s national trade association, announced last month that tickets for shows up to Jan. 3 could be refunded or exchanged.
Shows have been closed since March 12, making this the longest stretch of time without jazz hands in Broadway’s history. There were 31 shows running when the shutdown started, and producers of at least three shows, including Disney’s “Frozen,” have since said they would not reopen.
“The industry is seen as one of the most difficult to reopen because Broadway shows are often populated by tourists and seniors, two groups who seem likely to return to Times Square more slowly than others,” my colleague Julia Jacobs wrote.
The close quarters onstage, backstage and in the audience are also hurdles to social distancing.
Last year, theater attendance boomed. In May 2019, the Broadway League said its previous season had grossed $1.8 billion.
[Read more about the hope that Broadway shows will be able to reopen on a rolling basis next year.]
From The Times
Want more news? Check out our full coverage.
The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.
What we’re reading
The Police Department cut its homeless outreach and traffic congestion units to focus on gun violence. [New York Post]
Two people floating down the East River in an inflatable swan had to be rescued by the Fire Department after they got caught in a current. [Gothamist]
Despite receiving loans, some city restaurants are only weeks away from closing. [The City]
And finally: How is the pandemic changing life in New York?
New York City just entered Phase 4 of its reopening, months after it became an early epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States. Now, New Yorkers are adjusting to a new reality while bracing for a possible second wave.
To help us all understand the recent events and what the future might look like, we’re aiming to expand our Your Lead series to New York Today, where we’ll answer your questions about the effects of the pandemic on daily life.
We’re curious about everything — what do you want to know about the economy, health care, the environment, the arts, dating, traveling and more? How are you experiencing life during the pandemic, and how can we help you make sense of those changes?
Using this form, tell us what topics you want us to dig into and why you want to know. We may answer some of your questions in future newsletters and stories.
It’s Tuesday — ask questions.
Metropolitan Diary: Surf Avenue squeeze
I loved going to Coney Island with my girlfriends in the 1940s, when the beach would be completely covered in blankets and bodies.
Once, when we were getting ready to leave, I couldn’t find my shoes. They had disappeared. The blankets were constantly shifting on the sand, and my shoes must have gotten buried somewhere near where we first sat down.
My three girlfriends huddled around me to hide my bare feet as we left. Walking back to the subway, we searched up and down Surf Avenue desperately trying to find a store that sold shoes, but there were none.
Finally, a woman in one store offered me an old pair of dancing slippers. They were too small for my feet, but one of my friends was able to squeeze into them. Another friend squeezed into that girl’s shoes, leaving me with a pair that I could just barely squeeze into.
We traveled back to the Lower East Side with our aching feet squeezed into shoes that barely fit us. But thanks to an old pair of dancing shoes, no one had to go barefoot.
— Florence Nissel
We’re experimenting with the format of New York Today. What would you like to see more (or less) of? Post a comment or email us: [email protected].