This week, I took my 9-month old son and dog for a walk along Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, and went shopping at our local supermarket. These were eye-opening experiences in seeing the effects of this pandemic on our communities and in realizing the uncertainty that lies ahead.
Three of the businesses around the corner from our home that are permitted to be open and were last week, are now closed. Positano, one of our favorite restaurants, and Philadelphia Grille were not even open for deliveries and take out anymore. The deli nearby also had their gates down.
Further along, padlocks were on the gates of Fort Hamilton Triangle Park. At the Dunkin Donuts on 92nd Street, which usually has a full parking lot and is standing-room-only inside during the mid-afternoon, there was only one customer. There was also a young man begging for money that an employee had to ask to leave. At the shuttered car-wash next door, there were three homeless men sleeping where cars are usually vacuumed before going through.
These sights will only become more widespread as this nightmare continues. Not surprisingly, burglaries across the city have skyrocketed as people become more desperate for food and cash.
Will our local businesses be able to bounce back whenever all this ends? Will people’s growing desperation lead to more civil unrest with a short staffed NYPD due to the virus and a mayor emptying out our jails? These are legitimate questions.
We also must worry about our seniors — not only about their vulnerability to the deadly effects of the virus, but also their ability to sustain themselves.
They are justifiably afraid to go to the supermarket and must rely on calling in their food orders for delivery. However, as best as they try, supermarkets can’t keep up. As I shopped at our local one, the phones rang constantly and I saw employees furiously putting together these phone orders.
One employee told me they had 150 phone orders and there was a three day wait period. Unfortunately, this is the only way many seniors will get food. The wait time will probably only increase as stores become more short-staffed due to employees getting sick or just growing more afraid to come to work. Just like our doctors and nurses, first responders, sanitation workers, and non-profit institutions, those keeping stores functioning are playing an essential role for our city to survive during these times.
If any area can survive this and come out stronger, it is New York.
Bob Capano has worked for Brooklyn Republican and Democrat elected officials, and has been an adjunct Professor of Political Science for over 15 years. Follow him on Twitter @BobCapano.