At 54, Mr. Marcus is old enough to remember the city’s tough times, like the crack wars that led to thousands of murders a year. While it’s true that shootings and homicides have increased since 2018, they’re still a fraction of New York’s bad old days. In 2021, there were 488 homicides, down from 2,262 at their peak in 1990 after a decade near or above 2,000.
But what Mr. Marcus sees today worries him. “Things happened in the 90s, but not like this,” he said. “Now a lot of people are dying in different ways. You have the coronavirus, you have the shootings, you have the stabbings, you have people being pushed onto the train tracks. For the moment, I don’t have the impression that it will improve. And if so, it will take time.
In Corona, Queens, Amadou N’gom, 22, said his job as an Uber driver gave him a bird’s-eye view of the city’s uncertain state. “We’re in this rocking boat on the ocean,” he said. “We can make it work, but if another big tsunami comes it will hit us all.”
But he has faith: “New Yorkers will prevail in their persevering attitude.”
Not everyone seems so sure. In Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, next to a freezing lake near the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs – proud displays of urban power before the world – Eliza Xu, 50, stood and sighed. An out-of-work nail salon employee since the start of the pandemic, her dismay ranges from the cost of green onions in her grocery store to the unease that has erased the colors from her everyday life.
“No hope,” she said. “No parties, people don’t need to buy nice clothes, no makeup. Life is too boring, it’s tiring. We’re still not done, still in the pandemic. And then is came the death of the woman pushed in front of the train, who was an Asian American, a group singled out for hate crimes during the pandemic.”I’m scared because I’m Asian,” she said. don’t go out at night, we don’t take the metro, what can we do? No hope, just live.
In Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, Carson Gross, 37, acknowledges this unease and attributes much of it to the pandemic. “People have been locked up for so long that they’ve lost their social skills,” he said. “Little things, where you could just say ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’, could sometimes turn into a fight. It just feels like everyone is really nervous.
At Brooklyn’s McCarren Park, two friends, Beverly Bryan and Tatiana Tenreyro, said the past few weeks had tested their optimism.