Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:
When workers do not come into a city, a city can wither; and an examination of slow recovery of retail districts that are close to certain subway stations frequented by New York city commuters prove this. This is simply because the vast economic machinery of the city requires a constant influx of cash. Office workers, now toiling at home, used to provide that. There were lunch-break or after-work shopping sprees to nearby retailers, there were lunches at cafes and restaurants, there are the million other things that are consumed in the course of the day. Students and creatives may still be thronging to the city, but it is the absent army of white-collar office workers whose taxes and transactions keep the city running. The urban cycle of constant production relies on all the people who earn money while being away from home and then spend it to make themselves feel better, feel more successful, more like a somebody rather than a nobody. New York has been all about this equation.
No one could have imagined that New York City’s decline would be so sudden. One recent ray of light was the re-opening of Broadway last week. Emotional scenes were reported as the shows began, with actors given standing ovations when they first appeared on stage. But Broadway, like so many places, remains on edge: intermissions and autograph-seeking are curtailed, and proof of vaccination is often required.