The coronavirus pandemic turned the city that never sleeps into a ghost town for nearly two years. Now that things are slowly getting back to normal, New York City Mayor Eric Adams wants to revive tourism in his city. He wants visitors to be able to visit the Statue of Liberty, stroll through Times Square, enjoy a delicious soul food meal in Harlem and buy some weed.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the country. But it hit New York City especially hard. When the city shut down, the unemployment rate skyrocketed from the 3.7 percent pre-pandemic rate to more than 20 percent in May of 2020. The newly elected mayor is trying to bring the city back to life with a new economic plan that will create what he’s calling a “New New York.” “We will never be the same. COVID has changed the game. And we must be prepared to win in the game,” Adams said.
As people stayed inside their homes to keep safe, tourism fell significantly from 66.6 million visitors in 2019 to 22.3 million in 2020. And more than 25,000 businesses were forced to close their doors for good. But you can begin to see signs of life around the city. As death and case rates have dropped considerably, mask requirements have been lifted in the schools, and vaccine requirements are being removed from restaurants and fitness centers. Now Adams wants to give small businesses a boost, concentrating on industries including medical technology, video games and legal marijuana.
Adult recreational marijuana use became legal in the state in 2021. But details for how recreational sales will be rolled out in the state are still being ironed out. The expectation is that sales will begin later this year or early next year. But for Adams, the city can’t start selling fast enough.
The mayor’s office anticipates that the city’s recreational marijuana industry will generate $1.3 billion in sales and nearly 25,000 jobs. And Adams, who is a former NYPD police captain, wants to make sure that Black and brown people who were caught up in the war on drugs can get a piece of the pie. He wants to ensure that the first licenses to sell go to people who have prior marijuana convictions. Adams’ plan also includes legal assistance and help to apply for licenses and financing to get their businesses off the ground. “We unfairly targeted Black and brown communities during the marijuana, heavy-handed arrests that I fought against when I was a police officer,” the mayor said.
Adams’ revitalization plan also includes giving the city a facelift by replacing garbage and graffiti with clean streets, bike racks and plants. But isn’t the garbage and graffiti what brings people here in the first place? “We have to have a clean city, and every part of the city is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves,” Adams said. “When our streets are not clean, it sends the wrong message.”