The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Lead To Greater Local Communities in NYC (and beyond)

What Will NYC Look Like After Coronavirus?

Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill used to say, “all politics is local.” The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted our interdependence while also shining a light on the importance of local governments, local leadership, and protecting our local communities. 

For instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conferences have been a must-watch for many across America. His relatable message has been consistent; New Yorkers (those in NYC), like other cities, have tackled so many challenges before by working together, so we must work together now. Now is the time not to be selfish, but instead to stay at home to prevent others from getting sick. Now is the time to do what we can to locate the necessary medical equipment to pass on to hospitals, to smile at and thank those on the front lines (medical professionals, food suppliers, police officers, firefighters, and other essential workers), and now is the time to reach into our pockets, if we can, to help those most vulnerable.

What we know from the events following September 11th: New Yorkers will band together during and after this pandemic to ensure our local businesses, schools, hospitals, and institutions come out stronger. Now is the time to start thinking about what our cities look like and how we can be part of making them better and more durable than before.

It’s mind-boggling to think, “what’s next?” when the future holds so much uncertainty. The world has changed. So has what we consider ‘normal’. There is going to be a “new normal,” with new ways of doing business, new ways of interacting with each other, and new ways of existing in our local environments that take into account lessons learned from this Coronavirus pandemic. 

Here are some trends we think will occur in NYC after the coronavirus pandemic: 

A Focus on Community

New York Pride will rise. With the slowing down of the New York economy, many small businesses are suffering, and many will close. New Yorkers will rally around small, local businesses that are fixtures in their communities. That includes local bars and restaurants, boutique stores, childcare facilities, local schools, medical facilities, and not-for-profits. We’ve seen it before, and are seeing it now: neighbors are rallying around favorite local spots and small businesses and working together to save them. New Yorkers from all walks of life are banding together to sew masks for hospitals following a shortage. People are social distancing and focusing on “remote connection.” 

What can you do? Many local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are offering delivery and takeout, with opportunities to tip extra generously to support the restaurant staff. If they can’t remain open in any capacity, some local spots have set up relief funds to save their staff’s salaries and, in many cases, their entire business. You can order a gift card for yourself and your loved ones. The same goes for non-food related local small businesses, like your favorite independent bookstore or boutique shop. Mental health and educational professionals have quickly transitioned to virtual interactions. 

Support isn’t just financial. You can check in on your family, friends, coworkers, past acquaintances you lost touch with, and anyone who may be having an especially hard time. You can write helpful content and share it with people who may benefit from reading it. We can start working together to problem solve — including what do our businesses and jobs look like now? Neighbors stepping up will not end after the pandemic reaches its apex. We see our communities coming together in the weeks and months and years after to rebuild together. 

Working Together

A silver-lining during the coronavirus pandemic is the reaffirmation that we all connected. A go-at-it-alone strategy or an us vs. them mentality is not going to work. Landlords must work with tenants. Customers must work with businesses. Governments officials must work with citizens. Over the coming weeks and months, we will see people coming together to problem solve and support each other in many ways, whether it’s financial, emotional, or physical. 

As tenant reps, we’ve already seen this coming together in the form of landlords working with tenants to come to mutually beneficial solutions. Turning a relationship that may have previously been transactional and depersonalized into one filled with human connection and collaboration has been a silver lining of this pandemic, and we expect this shift in mentality to continue beyond the confines of the Coronavirus. (note: if you are a tenant and thinking about what to do about paying your NYC commercial rent during the Coronavirus, read here). 

Innovation

New Yorkers have always been good at thinking outside the box. For many local businesses, innovation will be crucial over the coming months and years. Following the 2008 financial crisis, companies had to get creative. Businesses got creative with how they paid their rent, how they used technology to cut costs and transitioned into the gig economy, how they brought in other businesses into their companies (coffeeshops and breweries into co-working spaces, for instance), and how they allocated their marketing dollars to bring in new business. We expect to see the same. Companies and industries will take into account lessons learned from things like reliance on physical human presence and pivoting to mitigate future risk of business interruption.

We expect to see an increase in venture-backed startups that de-risk businesses in times of crisis or provide value to their communities in an innovative way. Startups that bring communities together and foster connections without physical presence will start popping up. Businesses will focus on “community centers.” 

Businesses Become the New Community Center

There is a common saying amongst retailers that everyone wants to be the next Apple and Starbucks because they have managed to create a community in their retail environments. Even in a time when we will continue to practice and promote social distancing, businesses will double down on creating community spaces – and not just retailers. Bringing communities together will be essential. 

We’ve seen this trend before this pandemic in the form of co-working spaces; We believe co-working spaces will continue to grow in a more niche, curated way. Instead of a free-for-all, we predict co-working spaces that specialize in tackling problems in local communities. Not-for-profits, social entrepreneurs, governments, and businesses will come together to foster innovation. Together, they will focus on building healthier and fairer local communities.

Will NYC Be Okay After Coronavirus? Yes, We Will. 

It is vital to put perspective on the challenges we are facing. Are we going to be okay? Yes. How do we know this? Because we have rebuilt and rebuilt more robust so many times before. Is it going to take time? Yes. How much time? Nobody knows. We do know patience, innovative and creative thinking, and remembering the importance of our local communities is essential to coming out of this better and stronger together. Will we be okay? Yes, we will. We know this because we have been here before. Together we will ensure it.