The streets of New York — and many major cities across the US — are hauntingly empty as the pandemic leaves most of the country on lockdown.
This chilling sign of the times brings to mind a big question: After the pandemic passes, will some people choose to leave big-city life behind?
That trend was already starting to emerge in parts of the country, even before coronavirus hit. Now the pandemic is changing the way we talk about city life. And some experts say it could change who opts to live in them.
“It’s hard to think about living in New York when we don’t have our existence and our careers there,” says Ashley Arcement, a dancer, singer and actor who headed to a friend’s house in Florida with her boyfriend, a pianist, after Broadway shut down in March.
Before this, we weren’t the kind of people who wanted to live outside the city and commute in … Now it’s like, will it ever be the same?” Arcement adds.
With Broadway closed, restaurants open only for takeout and many working from home — if they still have a job — the city that never sleeps is looking downright dormant.
But that wasn’t the case a few months ago, when coronavirus started to spread through America’s largest and densest city. New York quickly became the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, spurring stay-at-home orders from officials to keep contagion at bay.
“Why New York? Why are we seeing this level of infection? Well, why cities across the country?” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a news briefing last month.
“It’s about density. It’s about the number of people in a small geographic location allowing that virus to spread … Dense environments are its feeding grounds.”
On the other side of the country, Joel Kotkin says the situation is notably different.
In am opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times, Kotkin credited that city’s sprawling development with slowing the spread of coronavirus.
The executive director of the Houston-based Urban Reform Institute, Kotkin says that cities were already in trouble. And in the age of social distancing, he says, dense cities particularly have a lot going against them.