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‘Maybe We Can Be Friends’: New Yorkers Re-emerge in a Changed City

Even as many left the city for the Fourth of July weekend, pockets of activity provided a glimpse of post-pandemic life.

This Fourth of July, Iyabo Boyd did two things that she said would have been unthinkable a year ago. She went to a barbecue in a stranger’s yard, and she met new people.

Reading on a blanket in Franz Sigel Park in the South Bronx on Monday, Ms. Boyd, 36, said she had kept mostly to her pod during the pandemic. Finally, over the weekend, that changed. “Getting to know people again was really lovely,” Ms. Boyd said. “It was like, ‘Hey, maybe we can be friends.’”

In Times Square, Ryan Bowen, 28, was making his second pandemic-era visit from Tampa. Last October, he said, he and his girlfriend found little to do because everything was shut down. Now there were restaurants, fireworks, the tram to Roosevelt Island — not exactly a return to old times, but a distinct step in that direction.

“It feels great to be out,” he said.

It was once possible to envisage the city coming back entirely. Now, whatever lies next for New York feels more like a giant collective improvisation, a city taking shape on the fly. The holiday weekend was a time to rediscover what New York was, and glimpse what it might become.

For many, the three-day weekend came as an occasion to do things they had not done for more than a year. Tourists arrived, while New Yorkers themselves crammed into airports, highways and sought-after getaway spots. Some parks were empty and street parking was plentiful. But for those who stayed and gathered, nothing beat the sheer cathartic joy of being able to hug friends or elders again.

People enjoyed the International African Arts Festival at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn on Sunday. 
Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

For some, the holiday was an opportunity to leave home. Close to 50 million Americans were expected to travel in the first five days of July, the second-highest Fourth of July volume on record, according to AAA Northeast. Air travel has climbed back to 90 percent of prepandemic levels.

The city, once the epicenter of the pandemic, with thousands of new cases daily, last week saw a daily average of 193 new cases and only three deaths per day. The Delta variant, which has spread through much of the country, accounted for 17 percent of the new cases.

But the city is not the same. The pandemic killed 33,000 New Yorkers, and some question whether the city could ever truly recover. In the South Bronx, Daniel Derico, 43, a photographer, said despite the “big change” of seeing fewer masks, he does not feel like New York will ever return to the way it was.

“For instance, getting into an elevator with 10 or 15 people, I don’t think people are ever going to do that again without thinking about it,” he said. “And I think the second we forget and get too comfortable with that pre-Covid normal, it’ll be a wake-up all over again.”

So much remained in flux: Those new dogs, new cars, new jury-rigged outdoor restaurants, new inches around the middle — how much is permanent, how much destined to go the way of double-masking and “unmute yourself”?

Offices are still deciding how and where people will work. The city’s fiscal hole — and what it means for your commute, your park, your child’s school — seems to change daily. The next mayor is still unnamed. Is it time to ride the subways — every day? Return to church, synagogue, mosque? Is crime heading back to the bad old days? A year after the confluence of Covid-19 and the protests following the murder of George Floyd, the city is a changed and changing place, with scars and fears and hopes all competing for primacy.

Crime has remained a concern — for New Yorkers, but especially for people looking at the city from afar, wondering whether it is safe to visit.

Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

Year to date, a wave of gun violence is still making the city uneasy. The number of shooting victims in the city has increased by more than 30 percent compared to the same time period last year, from 670 to 885 as of Sunday — the highest since 2002, though well below the highs of the 1990s. In Times Square, a recently-commissioned U.S. Marine was shot by a stray bullet last month.

But after last year’s Independence Day weekend, which started one of the bloodiest 12-month stretches in New York City in nearly a decade, this year’s holiday was somewhat more peaceful. In all, 26 people were shot this July 2 to 4, compared with 30 last year.

Signs of an awakening city were easy to find. In Carroll Gardens on Monday, the sidewalk outside Dolce Brooklyn, a tiny homemade-gelato shop, felt like a pop-up party.

“People in Brooklyn really want to get out,” Kristina Frantz, the shop’s owner, said, expressing relief that the business had survived and even thrived through the pandemic. “People are feeling like the pandemic is on the other side. We’ve watched this occur day by day.”

Anna Watts for The New York Times

Business is way up from a year ago, Ms. Frantz said — but it was also up last year, as people from the neighborhood, stuck close to home, flocked in. “Gelato is a comfort food,” Ms. Frantz said. “People want to treat themselves a little bit.”

In Branch Brook Park in Newark on Monday, Michael Casares and Gabriella DiGenova spoke wistfully about the feeling of community that had grown strained over the last year.

The couple, both 24, started dating during the pandemic, but they said that among the people they knew in their New Jersey towns, many were not comfortable socializing yet.

The previous night, setting off fireworks in front of Mr. Casares’s home in Belleville, they said people stayed on their own lawns, watching, keeping their distance instead of coming together.

“Nobody talked to each other,” he said. “People aren’t as social as they used to be.”

In an uncharacteristically empty Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, two friends from Houston, Claire de Blanc, 23, and Mary Brodeur, 22, were enjoying the open space and the catharsis of finally traveling again, after such a dark year.

Both had contracted the virus, they said, and both were now fully vaccinated. Still, when they went bar hopping with friends over the weekend in Manhattan, they were pleasantly surprised at the number of people still wearing masks.

“Houston is a lot different,” Ms. de Blanc said. Back home, they had to chase down customers who refused to wear masks in their restaurant, even at the height of the pandemic’s wave in Texas. People in New York seemed to be more conscientious.

“People are just less,” she said, continuing, “Texas.”

David Manzano, 36, in the South Bronx, celebrated the holiday with a friends and family, indoors and unmasked. At one point, he said, he wanted to reflect on what he had done the year before, only he couldn’t. The pandemic had been such a blur he could not even remember the Fourth of July.

Still, he was not ready to say that New York was back to normal. But it was a good start.

Anne Barnard, Nate Schweber, Tracey Tully and Ali Watkins contributed reporting.

Author: John Leland
Read more here >>> NYT > Top Stories

Here’s How New Yorkers Feel About Ranked-Choice Voting

David Anziska, 42, a lawyer in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, said he wanted Ms. Garcia to win. But to increase the chances that she plays a major role in city government even if she loses, he chose Mr. Yang for his second slot because Mr. Yang has said that he would appoint her deputy mayor. (Mr. Anziska did this before the two candidates teamed up on Saturday.)

“She’s by far the most qualified. We need a mayor who knows how the city actually runs,” he said.

Still others went in with an “anyone-but-(insert name)” strategy. Louise Lauren, 29, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant and works in the solar power industry, chose Ms. Wiley first, then four other candidates, the name of her fifth choice escaping her moments later — but she knew who it was not.

“I wanted to make sure that someone I didn’t want, such as Yang, didn’t make it in the top five,” she said.

The system was not without its hiccups. During early voting, voters who accidentally marked more than one first choice were escorted to a desk where workers deleted that ballot and replaced it with a new one. In Staten Island, City Council candidate Kelvin Richards visited a polling place on Wednesday and heard confusion firsthand.

“I had a person who said she voted for me five times,” he said.

New ballots aside, the race is a reminder of how the election of a mayor is so much more deeply personal than, say, a governor, or even a president.

In Bedford-Stuyvesant, Mr. Beamon, a maintenance worker at the Princeton Club of New York, remembered the mayor from his childhood, John Lindsay, because “my mom and dad were crazy about him.”

Author: Michael Wilson
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

New Yorkers Vote for Mayor in Race Tinged With Acrimony and Uncertainty

When the New York City mayoral primary campaign began, the city was steeped in grave uncertainty about its future. Candidates laid out radically different visions for how they would guide a still-shuttered metropolis out of overlapping crises around public health, the economy and racial injustice.

But as voters head to the polls on Tuesday, New York and its mayoral race have changed. The city is well on its path to reopening even as new problems have surged to the fore. Now, a different kind of political uncertainty awaits.

No Democratic candidate is expected to reach the threshold needed to win outright under the city’s new ranked-choice voting system, and it may be weeks before a Democratic primary victor — who would become an overwhelming favorite to win the general election in November — is officially declared.

New Yorkers on Tuesday will also render judgments on other vital positions in primary races that will test the power of the left in the nation’s largest city. The city comptroller’s race, the Manhattan district attorney’s race and a slew of City Council primaries, among other contests, will offer imperfect but important windows into Democratic attitudes and engagement levels as the nation emerges from the pandemic in the post-Trump era.

But no results will be more carefully watched than the race to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio, a contest that has been defined by debates over public safety, the economy, political experience and personal ethics and that in its final weeks became intensely acrimonious.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president; Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner; Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mr. de Blasio; and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, were considered leading Democratic contenders, though the race remained fluid and strikingly contentious.

If no single candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote on the first tally, the eventual nominee will be determined by rounds of ranked-choice voting, through which New Yorkers could rank up to five candidates in order of preference.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will face either Fernando Mateo, a restaurateur, or Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, in the general election.

Shaun Donovan, a former federal housing secretary; Raymond J. McGuire, a former Citi executive; and Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, who all benefited from heavy spending on television on their behalf, were hoping to show unexpected strength through the ranking process. Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive, once appeared poised to be a left-wing standard-bearer, but her standing suffered amid internal campaign turmoil.

No issue dominated the race more than public safety, as poll after poll showed combating crime was the most important issue to New York Democrats.

Sparse public polling suggested that Mr. Adams, a former police captain who challenged misconduct from within the system — part of a complex career — attained credibility on that subject in the eyes of some voters, which will have been a crucial factor if he wins.

But Ms. Wiley repeatedly challenged Mr. Adams from the left on policing matters, expressing skepticism about adding more officers to patrol the subways and calling for greater investments in the social safety net and less in the Police Department budget. She emerged as a favorite of left-wing leaders and progressive voters.

Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia shared Mr. Adams’s criticisms of efforts to scale back police funding, and those three candidates also frequently addressed quality-of-life issues across the city.

But if the race was defined in part by clashes over policy and vision, it also had all the hallmarks of a bare-knuckled brawl. Mr. Adams faced intense criticism from opponents over transparency and ethics, tied to reports concerning his tax and real estate holding disclosures and fund-raising practices. And Mr. Yang stumbled amid growing scrutiny of his knowledge of municipal government as rivals sharply questioned his capacity to lead.

The ugliest stretch of the contest came in its last days, as Mr. Adams declared that Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia, who formed an apparent alliance, were seeking to prevent a Black candidate from winning. His allies went further, claiming without evidence that the actions of those candidates amounted to voter suppression.

By contrast, the comptroller’s race has flown below the radar. But it has attracted national left-wing engagement: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, among others, backed Councilman Brad Lander, helping coalesce left-wing energy in that contest, far earlier than in the mayor’s race.

The race remained unsettled heading into Primary Day, with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson; Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor who unsuccessfully challenged Ms. Ocasio-Cortez last year; and a slew of other Democratic candidates also competing for the role.

In the Manhattan district attorney’s race, the two leading candidates were believed to be Tali Farhadian Weinstein, who clerked for Merrick B. Garland, now the United States attorney general, and for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and worked as a federal prosecutor; and Alvin Bragg, who served as a federal prosecutor and as a chief deputy to the state attorney general. The race will not be decided by ranked-choice voting, and the winner may be called on Tuesday night.

The New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America stayed out of the mayor’s race altogether, but did emphasize a series of high-profile City Council races with the potential to remake the ideological balance of the Council.

For months, many New Yorkers tuned out the mayor’s race, distracted by the challenges of winter in a pandemic and burned out by the presidential election.

But the final stretch has been hard to miss, culminating in a frenzied five-borough battle over the direction of the city, with exchanges between candidates that turned acridly personal in the final weeks.

The race was also complicated by strategizing around ranked-choice voting. In one of the most unusual and closely watched dynamics of the final stretch, Mr. Yang encouraged his voters to support Ms. Garcia as their second choice on their ballots. Ms. Garcia insisted that she was not endorsing Mr. Yang even as they attended events together, jointly greeting voters and passing out shared campaign literature.

Some of Ms. Garcia’s allies privately acknowledged that the decision to appear with Mr. Yang could discomfit progressives who disdained him but were open to her. But they also saw opportunities to convert some voters who liked both Mr. Yang and Mr. Adams, and Ms. Garcia was not shy in discussing her motivation: She wanted Yang voters to rank her second.

Author: Katie Glueck
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

‘We’re Not Back to Normal,’ but New Yorkers Savor Reopening Weekend

“We’re not back to normal,” said Sedonia Croom, a longtime worker at Croom Boutique Salon & Spa, a family-run business in the Crotona area of the Bronx. The shop, she said, has no immediate plans to throw out its face covering or capacity guidelines.

“You still got to protect yourself and your clients,” Ms. Croom said. “You have no other choice.”

It is a reflection of a unique dynamic in the city: The first full weekend without most virus restrictions had arrived, and many calendars have grown crowded with weekend plans and after-work get-togethers. But, for the foreseeable future, New York’s prepandemic shape will remain out of reach.

In the Fordham area of the Bronx, Phu Vaa, 55, said his shop, Jimmy Nail Salon, would be keeping its plexiglass barriers to separate seats and temperature check for entering patrons, among other precautions. “He says everything’s good,” Mr. Vaa, the manager, said in reference to the governor. “I’m still checking, making sure.”

Some New Yorkers are opting for small gatherings and parties among close friends over bars and nightclubs. “It’s still scary,” said Angel Martinez, 41, who works at a barbershop in Crotona. “You’re not going to find me in a large crowd, I’ll tell you that.”

And though many vaccinated New Yorkers are no longer wearing masks in public, some say they are not rushing to remove them. “It’s not so simple,” said Ravi Manneru, who lives in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens.

Author: Troy Closson
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories