A recent survey conducted by the University of Toronto has revealed that foot traffic in New York City’s business districts, particularly in Midtown and Lower Manhattan, remains significantly low, down 33% from pre-COVID levels.
The study compared foot traffic data from March to mid-June in 2023 to the same period in 2019, indicating one of the slowest recovery rates in the country.
Lower Manhattan, encompassing the Wall Street financial district, and Midtown, featuring iconic sites like Times Square, were categorized as the city’s “downtown” districts for the study. Researchers utilized mobile phone presence to measure foot traffic, capturing visitors, shoppers, tourists, residents, and workers.
New York City’s 66% recovery rate ranked 54th out of 66 cities surveyed, highlighting the challenges the city faces in revitalizing its business and tourism sectors. Supermarket magnate and radio host John Catsimatidis expressed concerns about the city’s future, emphasizing the need for workers to return to the office. He criticized proposals like congestion pricing, which aims to discourage vehicles in certain zones, fearing it could further deter people from venturing out after dark.
Democratic city Councilman Keith Powers suggested the need for innovative solutions, such as creating more housing in the area, to offset the loss of office space and workers. He emphasized the importance of being forward-thinking and adapting to changes in the workplace to revitalize Midtown and surrounding areas.
The study pointed to the shift towards remote office work as a significant factor contributing to the decline in foot traffic in New York City’s business districts. While some cities, such as Las Vegas, experienced a resurgence in foot traffic, others like Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis struggled to recover pre-pandemic density in their central business districts.
The accuracy of the survey’s data was questioned by the Partnership for the City Of New York, a major business advocacy group. They cited more recent reports showing a stronger recovery in Manhattan’s key commerce and tourism districts. The Partnership’s CEO, Kathryn Wylde, highlighted promising indicators, including increased airport traffic and new businesses opening in areas like Times Square.
Despite the challenges, New York City remains resilient, with ongoing efforts to adapt and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city continues to explore strategies to bring life back to its bustling streets and iconic landmarks.
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