New York City continues to suffer from a lack of foot traffic that did not return after the sweeping pandemic lockdowns of 2020. A new study by the University of Toronto highlighted the difficulties the nation’s largest city faces in recovery.
The normal midday sight of office workers pouring out onto the streets of Lower Manhattan has not returned in full force. The study determined that pedestrian traffic is off a staggering 33% since the economic devastation of 2020.
This means the Big Apple’s full recovery is still in the future.
NYC's downtown recovery post-COVID ranked among worst in US: study https://t.co/upqNsuTKMx
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) November 7, 2023
New York’s recovery rate stands as one of the lowest in the country as measured by Lower Manhattan and Midtown. The 66% recovery rate placed the city 54th out of 66 metropolitan areas studied.
The research utilized cellphone presence in the downtown area to measure the amount of people filling the streets — and thus area businesses.
Only one American city, Las Vegas, currently has more downtown foot traffic than at the onset of the pandemic.
One of the primary issues facing NYC’s businesses is the phenomenon of remote work. Grocery store executive and radio host John Catsimatidis told the New York Post that the return of in-person office workers is key to the city’s economic health.
He said, “I’m very concerned about New York City. Right now, Manhattan has one nail in the coffin.” Catsimatidis added that the current plan to charge “congestion pricing” for drivers to enter the business district would constitute “two nails in the coffin.”
And then there’s violent crime. He lamented that no longer do you see people walking the streets of Manhattan after dark.
Cities with notoriously high crime rates not surprisingly rank high on the list of those with less foot traffic downtown. Chicago, Seattle and Minneapolis each have only 61% or less of the pedestrian volume as they enjoyed pre-pandemic.
One Democrat, obviously unaware of the value of Manhattan real estate, suggested new downtown housing is key to restoring pedestrians to the business district.
City Councilman Keith Powers, who represents Times Square and parts of Midtown, called on the city to “incentivize more housing and create a 24/7 neighborhood. He said this would bring people back to Midtown, though how anyone would afford rent was left unexplained.