The 'new' New York: Is it how we imagined back in 2021?

Dan Krauth Image
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
What the new New York looks like
Expert predictions were about 75% correct on how the future of New York would look when asked back in 2021 as the city started to reopen. Dan Krauth has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City isn't the same since the pandemic started.

Back in 2021 when the city started to reopen, Eyewitness News spoke with the experts on what the future of the city would look like.

Economists predict a younger, poorer and more eclectic crowd. There will be changes in everything from restaurant dining, to entertainment, to residential and commercial real estate.

We checked back in now to see how far the city has come and how far it still needs to go. It turns out, the expert predictions were about 75% correct and other things, took city leaders by surprise.

"What I think we got right is the fact that New York City was going to begin bouncing back," said Economist Partha Deb of Hunter College. "Perhaps one thing I didn't expect was how hot the residential housing market would be."

Hundreds of thousands of families moved out of the city in the months after the lockdown started. Many of them didn't return, but they were replaced by new people looking for new opportunities.

Outdoor Dining

During the spring of 2021, the NYC Hospitality Alliance said outdoor dining was here to stay. It turns out, that's mostly true.

Outdoor dining structures popped up in the streets and sidewalks throughout the five boroughs. City leaders are still working on the details regarding a permanent outdoor dining plan, but it will go back to looking a lot like it did before the pandemic. While people will still be allowed to dine outside, most of the outdoor permanent structures most likely won't be a part of the new plan.

"Sidewalk cafes will go back to what they looked like pre-pandemic but more restaurants will be eligible to have them, particularly outside of Manhattan," Andrew Rigie said. "There will be less red tape, less bureaucracy."


Many Tourists who traveled to New York City for the holidays most likely experienced higher hotel prices. That's because more than 100 hotels shut down leading to 15,000 fewer hotel rooms due to pandemic closures. However, more openings are on the way.

"The city is expecting to add about another 11,000 hotel rooms over the next three years," said Tiffany Townsend of NYC & Company. "Development remains strong."


All the experts we spoke with agreed in 2021 the city wouldn't start to bounce back until Broadway reopened.

"Until Broadway is open, New York is not open," said Charlotte St. Martin, the president of The Broadway League. "Broadway stands for New York to most of the world."

St. Martin predicted Broadway shows would return by late summer or early fall. However unlike everywhere else, the seats had to be full, the theaters couldn't afford to have fewer people in the crowd social distancing.

"There is so much pent-up demand to get back, we think we'll build slowly and then get back better than ever," St. Martin said.

Martin was correct. The current season has brought in double the amount of tickets sales than last year, more than $1.3 billion. A number of new shows also opened.

Rent Reset

Economists said the city's experiencing a much needed "rent reset" in April of 2021. So many people left that rental prices dropped by about 15% citywide.

"Some people will move out and others will happily take their place," said economist Partha Deb of Hunter College.

Deb was right, but the rent reset he predicted didn't last as long as anticipated.

So many people moved back to New York City so quickly, along with a rise in interest rates, that rent prices rose to record highs. The average rental price in Manhattan is currently $5,100 a month.

Commercial Real Estate

One of the last industries that experts expected to recover back in 2021 was the commercial real estate market, with so many more people working from home. They were correct.

"A lot of people will want to come back to work but in terms of needing office space, we're just not going to be needing to expand and if anything most companies will probably shrink their footprint, their office footprint over the next few years," economist Barbara Denham said.

She said the typical office-space lease in the city is nine years, so there's time for businesses to figure out what to do with the space and for the market to recover.

Working from Home

"What I'm surprised by is the fact that work hasn't come back as quickly as I Imagined," Deb said. "I think we finally broke the 50% mark of people who go in and out of the office buildings every day."

City leaders are working to try and fill the office spaces once again, and also the streets with tourists.


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