When New York City first emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo were quick to react. Schools were shut down in March along with all businesses that were deemed nonessential. That move was an especially harsh blow to smaller operations, retailers, and restaurants alike, but it served its purpose because all summer long, while coronavirus cases soared on a national level, the situation in New York City finally appeared to be under control.
But things have taken a turn for the worse since late September, with coronavirus cases spiking in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. As such, public and private schools in nine "hotspot" zip codes will be shut down this week in an attempt to curb the spread of the outbreak.
That news alone isn't terrible for small businesses and the landlords who rent to them. But Mayor de Blasio did initially call to have all nonessential businesses shut down alongside schools in an effort to get those nine hotspots under control. And while Governor Cuomo has not yet imposed that decree, the possibility of that happening is strong given the current situation.
Will NYC businesses have to shutter again?
Coronavirus cases have been surging in certain parts of New Jersey, New York City's suburban neighbor, but so far, Governor Phil Murphy has stated repeatedly that he does not expect to have to shut down the state again like he did back in March. So why is New York City going to the extreme of closing schools and threatening to shut down businesses?
Part of it could have to do with space, or a lack thereof. Suburban businesses and restaurants have much more room to spread customers out safely than many of their urban counterparts, and given the packed nature of city life, quashing the outbreak is an important part of ensuring that things don't escalate in a dangerous way. Still, the fact that there's been talk of nonessential businesses shutting down has to be disconcerting not only for those business owners and their employees but for the landlords who rely on those businesses to pay rent on a regular basis. If shutdowns are implemented, landlords could really be left in the lurch.
Furthermore, shutting down schools in a number of New York City zip codes, even temporarily, means that more families will now have to scramble for child care. And some households will inevitably experience a drop in income, which, in turn, could result in less revenue for local businesses that rely on neighborhood patrons. Once again, the bottom line is the same: Nonessential businesses could be in for a major struggle, and the landlords who rent to them could be out an alarming amount of money.
Of course, the fact that New York City is taking action shouldn't come as a shock. Neither should a surge of COVID-19 cases, which many said would be inevitable once schools opened back up and more people came together indoors. But as the colder weather approaches, it's fair to assume that regional shutdowns will grow to become part of life again -- and that's something business owners and commercial landlords, not just in New York City but across the country, will need to prepare for.