Why September 11 could be the roadmap for the COVID crisis?

Why September 11 could be the roadmap for the COVID crisis?

People walk past the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street on May 10, 2021 in New York City.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Every morning when I get downtown a little before 7 a.m., there’s a group of people who live in the neighborhood and walk their dogs past the New York Stock Exchange.

It’s nothing unusual now, but 20 years ago it was unheard of. Almost no one lived in the city. There was no place to live. The financial district was mainly made up of offices. About 60% of the space has been occupied by investment banking, real estate and insurance companies. Most of the other locations were either professional services or government offices.

Today, 64,000 people live in the city.

For Bill Rudin, co-chairman of Rudin Management Company, a rebirth after the 9/11 disaster is a miracle.

“It’s a complete change of mind, Energy City,” he told me. “You see kids going to school, residents walking through the park, it’s an incredibly positive legacy for the city and shows the resilience of New York City and how we’ve come back from a major trauma. “

Rudin described many of the changes of the past two decades: the federal government stepped in to help redevelop the city’s infrastructure with huge metro centers; Ferries that now connect Brooklyn, Staten Island, Hoboken and Jersey City; Private development is intensifying to redevelop the World Trade Center; Redevelopment of South Street Harbor.

More importantly, he notes, the downtown area is a new mix of industries. Many old Wall Street companies have now moved to Midtown, having been replaced by media and tech companies including Uber, Spotify, Conde Nast, Vox Media and ESPN.

Yet when the city’s business leaders come together to reflect on 9/11 and the rebirth of their community, you’ll hear the same fears that many businesses nationwide have: how COVID and the Delta version will change behavior. commuters and shopping. Uncertainty about this.

Jeweler traps, flourishes and gets trapped again

Jennifer Gandhi’s family has run Greenwich Jewelers in the shadow of the World Trade Center for 45 years.

Prior to September 11, the company was mostly made up of travelers who worked in financial services, insurance or real estate, and were a handful of locals.

“Before September 11, you had a vibrant, fast-paced shopping area, and an ecosystem of small businesses, dry cleaners, bars, restaurants,” he told me.

After the 9/11 business evaporated, “For five years, it was almost sorry. Banks, law firms and other financial services have been left out, ”she said.

The store was closed for 10 months and reopened in 2002. Then slowly the business came back but with a different mix.

“Once the reconstruction of the area started, we had families who came and we started to feel that the neighborhood was heading for revitalization,” Gandia said. “Before September 11, we had a very diverse neighborhood of people working in office buildings. Once it got more residential, it got richer, and we started selling high-end jewelry and weddings. Business oriented.

Family members of 9/11 victims pay tribute to loved ones on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2020 in New York, United States.

Typhoon Koskun | Getty Images

Over the next 15 years, the business continued to improve.

Then hit Kovid. It closed the store from March to June 2020. Owners look to online sales and social media for a living. “We had to figure out how to literally translate the in-store experience. We had to figure out how to talk online to a client looking for an alliance, ”she said.

The result: In 2020, in-store sales fell 43%, but online sales increased 203%.

It was the lifeline the store needed to survive. Today, he has 80,000 followers on Instagram.

try the running bar

A similar story holds true for Michael Keane, the owner of the O’Hara restaurant and pub in the shadow of the World Trade Center. Their clients have always been a mix of tourists, locals and people working in the neighborhood.

Like Greenwich Jewelers, the first years after 9/11 were tough, then reforms, then a decline and then a rebound after the financial crisis.

“Business was going well when they reopened the 9/11 memorial for the 10th anniversary,” he told me.

“It was a great race for nine years. Then Kovid struck.

They closed part of last year, then reopened a second time in February. The company gradually improved. It’s been a busy summer, but August was pretty slow.

“Some people have gone back to the office, but now it looks like a lot of them are staying at home,” he said.

The need to request a vaccination record is also a problem. “You have four people coming, one of them might not be vaccinated, so you’re not going to come here,” he said.

just try to survive

The ups and downs – from the 9/11 financial crisis to Hurricane Sandy to Covid – made the downtown community proud of its ability to survive, but it also lasted.

“We want to live in the neighborhood,” said Jennifer Gandhi, but then admitted that they were looking for new accommodation in the neighborhood. “Pedestrian traffic is still very light,” she said. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s the next iteration. We do not yet know the answer.

It’s the same with O’Hara’s Michael Keane: “I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here, he said.

Like everyone else, he wants to believe that the city will bounce back, like all the other disasters of the past 20 years.

But she is also very clear about the challenges facing her business: “With September 11, you knew things would change eventually. With COVID, you don’t know what’s going to happen. So he’s really a stranger.

fight covid pessimism

Bill Rudin has been around for a long time and has had many ups and downs in the real estate industry. He says that even in the dark days after September 11, there was pessimism around Kovid.

“After September 11, people were afraid to come back to the city,” he said. “People said we would never go back there. Check it out now. It will take time, but we are already seeing chords happening. The restaurants are full. Delta slowed down. [of recovery], but we have already seen an increase in rental activity.

What about the new hybrid work environment?

“Everything will change,” Rudin said. “For those who don’t want to go to work, some will find an apartment in lower Manhattan and want to walk to work. People will come with a new perspective. This is what allows our industries and our city to revitalize.

Jessica Lapin, president of the Downtown Alliance, also recommends looking beyond COVID.

“When you are dealing with New York, we are not talking about 20 years of history, we are talking about 400 years of history,” she told me, noting that centuries since then there have been many disasters in the city. and the city. .

“One thing we can take away from September 11 is that recovery takes time. With Covid, we hit the pause button with everyone, ”she said. “We’re not going to make a comeback overnight, but we’re definitely going to be back. You are crazy to bet against New York.

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