Experts contribute ideas for NYC to revive from COVID-19 pandemic

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New York
Confetti is seen on Times Square after the New Year celebration, in New York, the United States, Jan. 1, 2021. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

Several experts in New York have tapped their wisdom and mulled ideas in efforts to help the largest city in the United States to recover from the 10-month-long COVID-19 and re-emerge from the economic and psychological impacts of the pandemic, New York Daily News reported on Sunday.

RECOVERY PLAN
An expert has called on NYC to set up a comprehensive plan, positively respond to economic crisis together with health emergency and help communities play a bigger role in the fight against the coronavirus, so that the city can recover from the pandemic better and stronger.

“The key to recovery from any disaster is to quickly unify around a recovery plan,” said Kathyrn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a non-profit organization that works with the city’s business leaders, government, labor and the civic sector to make a better New York. “We have not done that, in some ways because the disaster is ongoing. Part of that is a leadership problem. Part of that is the nature of the disaster,” she added.

Wylde has seen the city rebound before. From her front-row seat as president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, she watched the five boroughs recover from a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the superstorm Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc on the city in 2012. The city has responded admirably to the health emergency, but has left it largely up to others to respond to the economic crisis, which, in the long run, might not be so bad, according to Wylde.

“These groups are finding out that they basically have to figure out the solution themselves,” she explained. “Leaders are going to come together and turn their solutions into public policy.

I’ve been doing that anecdotally, connecting these grass roots initiatives. I think it’s going to become the new way to approach problem solving instead of calling 311 and waiting for a government agency to come and fix their problem.”

Wylde also said New Yorkers have become overly dependent on local government to solve their problems. “In the 70s the government was broke and had nothing to offer but to get out of the way,” Wylde said.

“Communities had to figure it out and solve their own problems. I really do think that same phenomenon is going to take place as a result of this experience.”

FLEXIBILITY, CASH GRANT
Another expert has called on the owners of the eateries and nightlife venues in NYC to have more flexibility, together with cash grant from government, in their efforts to make their businesses recover from the pandemic.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, it was challenging to operate a successful eatery or nightlife venue in NYC; innovation and creativity have kept a lot of places from closing their doors, and what they need now is flexibility, said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents nightclub and restaurant owners.

“So much more must be done to give these business owners a fighting chance of survival,” Rigie said. “It’s not enough to sing the praises of small business. We need concrete action.”

Among the ideas Rigie is putting on the menu is a cash grant to restaurants that would be drawn from the sales tax they generate.

The businesses would reinvest the money to help pay staff or the cost of retrofitting their restaurants to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. “It’s a quick way for local government to get cash into the pockets of business owners,” he said.

Rigie would also like to see some action to stop what he said is the exploitation of restaurants by third-party delivery apps like GrubHub and Uber Eats. Those companies should be transparent with the public about the fees, at least 20 percent to 30 percent for each order, that they are charging the restaurants.

He is also urging congressional lawmakers to get behind the RESTAURANTS Act, which would provide 120 billion U.S. dollars in relief through a grant program administered by the Treasury Department. “The biggest challenge for the restaurant industry is the rent,” Rigie said. “New York City will not recover unless our restaurants and nightlife are at the core of the recovery.”

SYNERGY, MODEL CHANGE
A third expert has urged NYC to tap more potential from remote learning and adeptly consider model changing in order to better survive the COVID-19 pandemic to re-emerge strong and resilient. Dennis Walcott, president of the Queens Public Library, underlined the need to make remote learning more inclusive by increasing access to computers and Wi-Fi in underserved communities.

Not only is that a necessary component to getting education back on track in the city, but it’s also a business opportunity for local entrepreneurial tech firms to cash in on, he said. “That’s exactly where the synergy comes in,” Walcott said.

“You have people who are totally knowledgeable in this area who can come in. That type of mentality creates opportunity for entrepreneurs. People have that entrepreneurial spirit inside of them.”

Walcott wore a lot of different hats before he became president of the Queens Public Library. He was the city’s schools chancellor, a deputy mayor, and president of the New York Urban League, jobs that inform his ideas about how to move the city forward. Walcott has another business philosophy: If the business model isn’t working, change the model. For a restaurant owner forced to close her kitchen, or an out-of-work chef looking to start out on his own, Walcott said the opportunity might come in the form of a food truck or cart.

“People can come up and get their local meals,” Walcott said. “You can have that throughout various neighborhoods. There’s always a need. I’ve always been surprised by the lack of service skills in the neighborhoods.”

Walcott also said that incentives must be created to tap into neighborhood potential. But, again, he said, it’s about the mindset, and changing the model.

“We have to start to pivot mentally in terms of what our potential is,” Walcott said. “The more businesses we have going in, the more tax revenue we can generate to make the city a richer place.” The goal should not be to get back to where the city was, and the goal should be to make the city even better, he said.

“I’m always the eternal optimist,” Walcott said. “We can’t let the city go down the drain. Even if people are leaving the city, there’s a whole wealth of people with talents to tap into.”

PANDEMIC UNABATED
NYC’s COVID-19 test positivity rate on a seven-day average reached 9.08 percent, compared with 9.39 percent one day earlier, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on Sunday. The rate was announced on Jan. 1 to top 9 percent, on Dec. 31 to top 8 percent and on Dec. 27 to top 7 percent. It topped 3 percent in late November, which was believed by the city government to signify the arrival of a second wave of the coronavirus, and has remained above the level ever since.

Meanwhile, the mayor said on Sunday that there were 213 new hospitalizations and 3,885 new cases of the coronavirus in the city, adding that “Double down on what works this week — avoid large gatherings, keep six feet apart and wear that mask.” On Saturday, de Blasio tweeted to promote 42 pictures posted by the Mayor’s Office under the title of “2020-NYC The Year In Photos,” at least 12 of which are about fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2020, our city faced some of the hardest, darkest, and most challenging moments in our history. But we also saw incredible moments of bravery, compassion, and hope. These are the Photos of the Year,” wrote the mayor.

“In 2020, New York City faced some of the most difficult moments in our history. We lost our loved ones, our livelihoods, and our way of life. But during the darkest of times, we also saw tremendous bravery, incredible compassion, and hope. These are the photos of the year,” the mayor’s office said in the preface of the collection.

As of Sunday afternoon, the coronavirus deaths added up to 25,244 and confirmed cases to 439,921 in NYC, according to The City, a project that tracks the spread of confirmed COVID-19 infections and fatalities in New York City, based on information provided by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the governor’s office, The COVID Tracking Project and the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

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