Foot traffic in New York City’s business districts, critical to its revenue, is still down 33 percent from what it was prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns, one of the worst recovery rates in the U.S. according to a new study.
The study, conducted by the University of Toronto, analyzed the number of visitors—including day shoppers, tourists, workers, and residents—in the business districts of major cities across the United States and Canada. The researchers used a sample of “mobile device activity” to estimate unique foot traffic from March to June 2023 compared to that same period in 2019.
For New York, the study combined Lower Manhattan and Midtown; even with Wall Street and Times Square included, the city was still seen to be a third emptier than it was before the pandemic.
— New York Post (@nypost) November 6, 2023
The study showed a percentage greater than 100 percent if the foot traffic increased since 2019. The only city that saw this was Las Vegas, NV. Cities that reached into the 90s were El Paso, TX; San Jose, CA; Bakersfield, CA; Oklahoma City, OK; Miami, FL; Tucson, AZ, and Mississauga, ON.
Cities that did the worst, with percentages in the 50s and low 60s, were St Louis, MO; Louisville, KY; Minneapolis, MN; Seattle, WA; Columbus, OH; Portland, OR; Chicago, IL; Raleigh, NC; Houston, TX; and Cincinnati, OH.
Other cities that saw a decline of 33 percent like New York included Sacramento, CA; Detroit, MI; Albuquerque, NM; and Pittsburg, PA.
The New York Post spoke to John Catsimatidis, a billionaire businessman and CEO of a Manhattan-based supermarket chain.
“I’m very concerned about New York City,” he said. “Right now, Manhattan has one nail in the coffin. If you impose congestion pricing to enter the business district, you’ll put two nails in the coffin.”
He added: “You see nobody walking after dark.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Councilman Keith Powers blames the low traffic on a lack of affordable housing.
“We’ve made steady progress in getting people back to Midtown, but we need to be forward-thinking about the future and recognize changes to the work place,” he argued. “One of our strategies is rezoning Midtown South to incentivize more housing and create a 24/7 neighborhood.”