Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan on the new atmosphere in New York City*. We’ve felt it, too.
A moment last Monday, just after noon, in Manhattan. It’s slightly overcast, not cold, a good day for walking. I’m in the 90s on Fifth heading south, enjoying the broad avenue, the trees, the wide cobblestone walkway that rings Central Park. Suddenly I realise: Something’s odd here. Something’s strange. It’s quiet. I can hear each car go by. The traffic’s not an indistinct roar. The sidewalks aren’t full, as they normally are. It’s like a holiday, but it’s not, it’s the middle of a business day in February. I thought back to two weeks before when a friend and I zoomed down Park Avenue at evening rush hour in what should have been bumper-to-bumper traffic.
This is New York five months into hard times.
One senses it, for the first time: a shift in energy. Something new has taken hold, a new air of peace, perhaps, or tentativeness. The old hustle and bustle, the wild and daily assertion of dynamism, is calmed.
And now Washington becomes the financial capital of the country, of the world. Oh, what a status shift. Oh, what a fact.
If you want to feel the bruise of what’s happened, pick a neighbourhood full of shops and go up and down the street. Here’s Second Avenue in the 80s. A jewelry and consignment store on 84th has a new sign on the window: “We Buy Gold.” Paul is at the counter, spraying the tarnish off a silver chain. How’s business? “No buyin’, no sellin’, no nothin’. It’s a joke. People scared. They’re in shock.” Nearby, an empty storefront, a bar that had been in business only 10 months. The sign on the window—you see it all over Manhattan now—says, “Retail Space Available.” Next door, in a small beauty salon, the owner says “We’re trying to survive.” In September business plummeted. It’s down “at least 30%,” she says. July and August had been surprisingly good; her clients didn’t go away on vacation. In the fall they were fired. “They lost the job, so they don’t need to cut and colour so much.”…
Read the rest of Peggy’s article at WSJ.com >
*We’ve taken the liberty of quoting this lengthy intro, which is actually not Peggy’s point, because it so wonderfully describes the situation in our home city. We thank Dow Jones in advance for allowing us to bring it to you. You can read more of Peggy’s stuff here.