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COVID and the lockdowns have kneecapped the city economy. Gotham’s leaders need to move fast, and boldly, to reverse the damage, or risk a downward spiral.
As The Post’s special report this week lays out, nearly half the city’s small businesses remain closed; revenue among those open is down 60 percent. In lower Manhattan, office leasing plunged 70 percent last year. Meanwhile, abandoned commercial sites invite squatters, criminals, the mentally ill — accelerating neighborhood decline.
Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio created a “recovery czar,” tapping former School Construction Authority chief Lorraine Grillo for the post. Yet his “recovery” plan focuses heavily on racial “equity” instead of economic revival. All races will benefit if the city is allowed to bounce back.
That means his would-be successors need to offer answers, too. One, Ray McGuire, has offered a few — such as letting small businesses keep their sales-tax receipts and waiving fees for permit renewals.
Fact is, many key measures are no-brainers: Above all, speed up the journey to full reopening. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is letting city restaurants boost indoor dining to 35 percent Friday and movie theaters open at 25 percent on March 5, but it’s far too little, too late; many are verging on collapse now.
The city also needs to get real about regaining control of its streets and mass transit: i.e., reining in violent crime, homelessness, mental illness, druggies. It can also lift a huge weight off businesses by easing regulations and lowering taxes.
Longer term, the city needs to stop encouraging the creation of retail space: Even pre-pandemic, the rise in online shopping had emptied a ton of it. Better to support finding new uses for this real estate — and adjust tax bills to fit the new reality of reduced rental incomes for building owners.
New York’s entire political class needs to adjust to the new reality and stop looking to milk businesses large and small — and start finding ways to support them before Gotham becomes a permanent Ghost Town.