In 1948, E.B. White wrote that nobody should come to New York City to live unless he was willing to be lucky. For New York and other big U.S. cities to renew themselves after getting hollowed out by the pandemic, they will need an influx of people looking to try their luck. Success could radically change them, but failure could leave them badly hobbled.
When the pandemic first struck in early 2020, big American cities emptied, and the closer you got to a city’s center, whether you called it Midtown or Downtown or the Financial District, the emptier it looked. People with the option to work from home decamped for the suburbs and beyond, and even as Covid fears eased, many are coming into the city only intermittently, with Census Bureau figures showing nearly 70 million people working from home at least once a week, and big-city offices more empty than full.