NEW YORK (AP) – From Macy’s store “Miracle on 34th Street” to the World Trade Center, New York office towers, Monday reached a key point in an effort to recover from the country’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak.
For the first time in three months, New Yorkers can eat out, but only at outdoor tables. Shoppers can browse the city’s destination stores again. Shaggy heads can get haircuts. Trapped children can finally climb climbing gardens instead of apartment walls. Office workers can return to their desks, although many have not yet.
For example, Larry Silverstein couldn’t wait.
The 89-year-old developer of the World Trade Center went to work at his office there on Monday, along with up to a third of the employees of Silverstein Properties. The company is making a shaky schedule so employees can keep their distance and wear masks in the 7 World Trade Center lobby. Footprints indicate where to stand in elevators, now limited to about a quarter of their usual capacity.
For Silverstein, returning to office life and personal teamwork brings “a joy, a fulfillment, such a sense of ability to function.” He does not address arguments that the pandemic does not bode well for office work or New York City.
“I went through 9/11. I remember people telling me that we would never be able to get people to return to Lower Manhattan, ”said Silverstein, who rented the twin towers six weeks before the 2001 terror attacks destroyed them. “Never bet against New York, because New York is always coming back, bigger and better than ever before.”
But some New Yorkers are concerned.
Alex Michaels may return to a job in retail soon. He agrees that it is important to revive the economy, but he is concerned about possible exposure to coronavirus by working with the public, even with new security measures.
“Something has to be given. I understand, “said Michaels, 30, but it can be” paid a high price. “
Eve Gonzalez, a food industry employee whose job has not yet resumed, finds it too early to ease the restrictions.
“I would like to go out, but people’s health is more important,” said 27-year-old Gonzalez.
The virus is responsible for more than 22,000 deaths in New York City. The death toll has been in single and low double digits in recent days. Infections have fallen sharply from a peak in early April, but according to city data, between 200 and 400 people have tested positive for the virus every day for the past two weeks.
The city estimates that 150,000 to 300,000 additional workers will return to construction, retail, wholesale and manufacturing Monday, two weeks after the reopening begins.
Monday marks only the second of four stages of reopening, but Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “the biggest step forward in the fight against the corona virus crisis,” especially for a restaurant industry he called “so much the identity of New York City.” The Democrat mayor said he planned to eat out on Monday with his wife Chirlane McCray.
After three months of struggling to make ends meet on takeout and delivery, Melba Wilson is raving about introducing appropriately spaced sidewalk tables outside Melba’s, her Harlem restaurant.
“This is definitely the infusion we so badly needed. … It was very dark, ” and not just financially, said Wilson, president of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, an industry group. “We’re talking about being physically distant, which is important, but being socially active is also important.”
Retailers are also hoping for a boost once customers can wander the aisles and try on clothes, with new virus protection measures.
Makeup testing is temporarily prohibited in Macy’s famous flagship store. Clothes left in fitting rooms will no longer remain on the rack for 24 hours. Employees will undergo temperature controls. Shoppers who wear masks find plastic dividers at checkouts.
“We want both customers and colleagues to feel comfortable and feel that their safety and health is our top priority,” said Division Vice President Kathy Hilt.
Saks Fifth Avenue plans to reopen on Wednesday, including 100 new hand sanitizer stations and escalator railings equipped with ultraviolet disinfection.
Offices with shutters can also open again on Monday, with various new rules. However, some of the city’s largest employers will continue to work remotely for the most part.
Only about 5% of Citi’s 13,300 New York City employees are expected to return to the bank’s office on July 1. JPMorgan Chase has not yet set a date for return to its New York offices; Wells Fargo’s timeframe is July 31 or later. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer is extending telecommuting at least to the hitherto undetermined date for the city’s next reopening phase.
With arrangements made to work from home and employees concerned about offices, public transportation, and childcare, many white-collar workers are moving “cautiously and safely,” said Bhushan Sethi, a PwC partner specializing in workplace strategies. The consulting and accounting firm plans to reopen its own offices in New York in September.
While New York reopens, store employee William Rodgers calculates his next steps.
The past three months have not been easy, but “many of us have been given time to reflect on our own lives,” said Rodgers, 29. “That’s a blessing.”
AP Retail writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed.
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