Big Apple dreams interrupted by coronavirus crisis

New York, May 28 (efe-epa).- The dream of forging a life and career in New York City, the United States’ financial capital and a hub of world-class, round-the-clock entertainment, dining, sporting events and cultural life, is shared by millions of people worldwide.

And so being forced to – at least temporarily – leave all of that behind after getting a small taste of the Big Apple is an understandably bitter pill to swallow.

One of the many individuals who has had to abruptly shift course as a result of the coronavirus crisis is 25-year-old British immigrant Olivia Boren, who for two years had been sharing a two-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend Chris Dooly, a 29-year-old American, and another roommate in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side.

“I moved to New York about five years ago. I moved here originally to go to drama school, and then I decided to stay because New York was such an awesome city,” Olivia told Efe.

She said she found work in a marketing role at a technology company and met her “soon-to-be husband” at a performance of the Shakespearean play “Coriolanus” at a Manhattan theater.

But the couple now is filling up boxes and garbage bags in preparation for a move to upstate New York, where they will have to temporarily live with relatives.

In doing so, they are joining a growing exodus from a glamorous city that as of Thursday is now the only region of New York state still under lockdown.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that around 420,000 people, or roughly 5 percent of the Big Apple’s population, abandoned the city between March 1 and May 1, many of whom were wealthy workers who moved out of upscale apartments in the affluent Upper East Side, West Village, SoHo and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods.

In those ultra-elite blocks of the metropolis the residential population has decreased by 40 percent or more as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, the paper said, citing smartphone location data, though adding that some of those areas are home to students who left town when their colleges and universities closed due to the pandemic.

By contrast, a much smaller number of residents of blocks with median household incomes of $90,000 or less left the city during that same two-month period.

Authorities, meanwhile, have taken steps to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis in the city, where in April the number of unemployed people was up by 900,000 relative to the same month of 2019.

Most notably, evictions for non-payment of rent have been suspended state-wide until August and the number of food pantries has increased to provide meals to those hardest-hit by the crisis, particularly African-American and Hispanic communities.

Olivia said that before the coronavirus crisis struck she and her fiance had been able to make rent payments on their apartment on 9th Ave. and W 56th St. by sharing the place with a roommate.

But with her company struggling, Olivia said she decided to take up an offer of a one-time bonus and leave her position.

“Luckily Chris is able to work remotely so we’ve decided, very sadly and with a lot of difficulty in making this decision, that the best thing for us now is to leave the city and go upstate,” Olivia said, adding that after three months of quarantine they and their dog are eager to have “some time outside.”

She said she and her partner are looking forward to being with family after several weeks of being cooped up in an apartment but that they are having to navigate a lot of uncertainty due to the coronavirus.

“It’s strange not knowing if we’re going to be coming back to New York and what our life entails going forward. Before this we were planning to move into a new apartment and continue in New York with our jobs, and everything has changed now,” Olivia said.

“(Now) it depends on how things go with the virus, how seriously people are taking it, if we continue into the next phase or if there is another spike in cases, which we are aware is very likely, especially since so many states are opening around us.”

She also talked about the heightened concern of infection that goes hand-in-hand with living in a densely populated city.

“Being in Manhattan has been strange because there are so many people. Even when people are social distancing it’s been hard to not bump into someone on the street, and that’s disconcerting at this time.” EFE-EPA

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