NYC officials, businesses hoping for post-COVID pandemic summer of tourism

Saturday, May 28, 2022
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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With the unofficial start to summer at hand, officials and business owners across New York City are hoping for a post-pandemic revival that could kick off this Memorial Day holiday weekend.

While it looked normal Friday in Times Square, with costume characters, the Naked Cowboy and every other spectacle in between, the city is hoping to get back to the pre-pandemic days of low crime and high tourist traffic

Pedestrian traffic in Times Square is down 16.8% than the same time in 2019, and hotel occupancy in Times Square is lower than last year as well -- 80.1% as opposed to 86.7% in the second week of May in 2021.

There has been a big turnaround overall in Manhattan, however, with hotel occupancy at 78.9% when it was 61.1% during the same last year.

"We are seeing over 300,000 come through Time Square each day, with peaks of up to 340,000," said Joe Papa, with the Times Square Alliance. "That's getting back to our 2019 pre-pandemic levels."

The Alliance said they are coming in hot with new programming specifically designed to attract more tourists, like a DJ set on Tuesdays and live comedy on Wednesdays.

But crime and fear continue to be hinderances to restoring the Big Apple to its former glory.

"It was bad," business owner Danny Khan said. "People were coming in shoplifting. We couldn't do anything...But now things are getting better."

Mayor Eric Adams addressed the issue Thursday.

"Here's what we are doing," he said. "We rolled out our subway plan. We showed what we did around retail thefts, and what we want to continue to do."

Some business owners, though, said they have little confidence in the mayor's plan. Others still do.

"He's cleaning up, he's doing good," Khan said. "I think he's doing good."

As far as return to work goes, New York City offices could be half filled by September, the head of the Partnership for New York City said after a meeting with business leaders.

"There's some good news in terms of the efforts that the mayor and NYPD are making to fight gun violence and crime," Partnership for New York City President and CEO Kathryn Wylde said. "But at the same time, the mayor emphasized that there's a sense of lawlessness, disrespect for the law and for the police that's developed over the last couple years. And it's not going to go away without all of us working together to support efforts to bring down crime and work together to get our city feeling safe and secure."

She said business leaders were rattled by the fatal shooting of 48-year-old Daniel Enriquez on a Q train Sunday.

"Obviously, this week is a terrible week," MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said. "This week, I cannot say to any of New York City subway riders, don't feel afraid, because what happened is a terrifying nightmare."

The Partnership for New York City says 94% of workers are concerned for their safety, particularly on public transit, as they return to the office.

"We have to send a signal that this is a city of law and order," Adams said. "Not a city of unlawfulness and disorder."

New York City continues to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to office occupancy, and officials say making workers feel safe is the key to New York City's economic success.

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