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Lockdowns, Riots, and Crime Drive People Away
New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s policies may very well portend the death of New York City. The mayor has implemented checkpoints to enforce mandatory quarantine for travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico. Law enforcement officials will be stopping cars and travelers entering the city, asking them to complete contact tracing forms. According to NBC’s Channel 4, “Refusal to submit the form can result in mandatory quarantine and a $2,000 fine, while failure to comply with the overall order can incur up to a $10,000 civil penalty.” It appears that the $10,000 fine, as well as the quarantine itself, is being used as punishment for refusing to release information which, until recently, was considered private.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has already expressed concern that the mayor has not explained how the data will be protected. Traveling to a city that requires a 14 day quarantine sounds very expensive, and New York is not known for its cheap hotels. Meanwhile, the mayor has said that indoor dining, gyms or malls, and Broadway shows, essentially the things that normally attract tourists, will remain closed at least through the end of August. After months of lockdown, many small businesses have said they have exhausted help from the government and, without knowing when they will be able to reopen, have decided to close for good. It is already estimated that one-third of New York’s small businesses will not be reopening.
Some small to medium-sized restaurants in New York were drawing $35,000 a week in revenue. This means that, after more than five months of lockdown, a small restaurant could have lost $700,000 in revenue. Fortune Magazine estimates that the lockdown is costing New York $173 million per day citywide, which would be about $24 Billion dollars so far. This number only includes lost revenue, not lost jobs. With one-third of small businesses closed permanently, this means that one-third of jobs in small business are gone. Nationwide, it is estimated that at least 2.9 million jobs have been permanently lost. It was already estimated in July that New York would end the year with 500,000 to 600,000 permanent job losses. Since 80% of the city’s bars, restaurants, and retailers are unable to pay rent, things can only get worse.
As of August, New York has had 564 coronavirus patients in ICU out of a population of nearly 20 million. There is widespread coronavirus testing. An average of 1% are testing positive and only a small percentage of those are becoming sick enough to become ICU patients. The decision to perpetuate this destructive lockdown appears not to be supported by the number of ICU patients or deaths, both of which are trending downwards.
Crime is Off the Charts
Under Mayor de Blasio, crime was already up in New York before the riots. The murder rate in 2019 was 7.8% higher than in 2018. Cuomo’s bail reform resulted in criminals being arrested, booked and released, many of whom committed subsequent offenses. Roughly 900 inmates were targeted for release under Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio’s city’s Supervised Release Program. Of the 2,500 prisoners released from the New York City Department of Correction Rikers Island facilities, 250 were rearrested for crimes committed after their release. As part of the coronavirus measures, over 1,400 prisoners were released during the pandemic alone.
Since the riots began, over 300 police cars have been damaged by rioters. Police are saying that de Blasio told them not to suppress the riots. Eyewitnesses claim the police stood by and allowed the riots and looting to happen. Most of those arrested were released the next day. Crime on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, one of the wealthiest areas of the city, is up 286% while other wealthy neighborhoods such as TriBeCa, SoHo and the West Village have also seen a dramatic increase in crime. Across the entire city, crime is up 177% and murders are up 20%.
New York has had more shootings so far in 2020 than it had for the entire year of 2019. In a single weekend in mid-July, 53 people were shot. There were 64 shootings during the Independence Day Weekend celebrations. Older New Yorkers who remember the high crime rates of the 1960s and 1970s fear seeing a return of those dark times when it was unsafe to ride the subway or walk through Central Park. Police officials have blamed the increased crime on New York’s cashless bail programs and Mayor de Blasio’s disbanding of several plainclothes police units.
Abandoning the City
The combination of higher taxes, higher cost of living, increased crime under DeBlasio and Cuomo, the lockdowns, and now the riots have sparked a massive “escape” from New York. New lease signings fell by 62.2% in May and it trends toward more people and businesses leaving New York as vacancies reach a many-year high. There is a glut of condos and luxury apartments for sale, the highest level in a decade. Some luxury developments are cutting prices by as much as 50% to attract buyers.
Leaving New York City immediately and relocating to a suburb generally necessitates the need to buy a home as there are less rentals in the suburbs. This means that many of the first people to leave are the wealthy, which will negatively impact the city’s tax base. By current estimates, New York City is poised to loose $300 million in tax revenue due to the number of affluent residents who are leaving. The top 1% of wealthy people in New York not only support the arts, which are a major attraction for the city, but they pay roughly 50% of the taxes.
Even after the looting declined in frequency, many New York businesses reported being afraid to reopen. If the police are unwilling to protect them, there is no guarantee that they will not become targets of violence again. Ongoing protests, as well as incidents of intimidation, violence and the use of fireworks as weapons, have caused many residents to feel uneasy.
Mayor De Blasio has said that responding to complaints about the fireworks will not be a police priority. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told residents if they had an issue with the fireworks they should handle it themselves, a suggestion that resulted in a woman being fatally shot. Before the shooting, the victim Shatavia Walls, called 911 and told them that someone had just fired a gun at her but missed. The police never responded. Three days later, she was shot and killed by the same gang on whom she had called the police. The death spiral continues with no foreseeable end.