(Bloomberg) – More than 230 chic pandemic women dressed in $ 1,500 skirts and $ 200 jeans picnicked in Central Park. The Titans dined at Amaranth, Fleming, and Sette Mezzo. And every afternoon, well-dressed children came out of their private schools.
Over the past two months, New Yorkers have returned from the Hamptons and sought to reclaim their city with familiar rituals, showing some of the ties that bind them together. In September, that was the promise. Joggers, strollers, doormen, begonias and then moms offered a sense of normalcy. There was even a new location of the beloved Butterfield Market to check out.
Their return has done little to stem the economic devastation caused by the virus. There are long lines at soup kitchens on the Upper East Side and blocks full of empty storefronts. Small businesses are closing. The apartments are empty and plans to return to work have been spewing out. And winter is coming, with schools finalizing plans from a distance. Some of those who have returned are already planning their exit. Seaman Schepps closed after 60 years on Park Avenue. A note on the door urged customers to call the Nantucket and Palm Beach locations.
Rachelle Hruska reopened her Lingua Franca store on Madison Avenue in September, selling embroidered cashmere. Returning from Montauk with her two boys to school, she called the alfresco dining “old New York, but fancier” and said if the city loses billionaires, she wouldn’t mind.
“Maybe we’ve gotten a bit too gentrified and we’re going back to a bit more funkness, which, to be honest, I would appreciate, especially raising kids,” Hruska said. “We have writer friends, they are looking for apartments for the first time. I am so happy. These are the people I want to live here.
Still, she recognized the losses. “What I miss is you don’t see that many businessmen on their phones,” she said.
In fact, more dads showed up for school pickups because they were working from home. According to a New York City Partnership survey of top Manhattan employers over the past two weeks, only 15% of office workers are expected to return by the end of the year. So far, 10% of Manhattan workers have returned, up from 8% in August.
The retail picture is bleak. While Hruska said sales at her original Bleecker Street store continued to rebound, her Madison Avenue outpost remained calm.
For some, the recovery window is already closing. The cold is there, the cases of Covid are on the rise.
“Last week was the big change,” said Aida Bicaj, who charges up to $ 2,000 for a facial at her spa on East 67th Street. “Everyone says, ‘I want to keep coming once a week, but I’m moving to Palm Beach.’ No one wants to be in New York because of the taxes. Who is going to eat outside in the cold?
The election is another snag. “I asked four or five people to cancel for next week saying, ‘I’m so scared of riots, whoever wins. “”
But its skill in rejuvenating the skin is sought after. “I get calls everyday, ‘I’ll do anything to get you to Palm Beach,'” she said.
Jennifer Gross, executive director of American Friends of Tel Aviv University, called a donor ahead of her birthday, finding her alone in her Upper East Side apartment.
“I could tell, she was just thirsty for community,” Gross said. “She is used to having a social and philanthropic life and that has been cut short. I said, “Let’s go to lunch, let’s sit outside.” She said yes almost before I finished saying it.
They met at Nectar on Madison Avenue on a hot September day. “She was beside herself. It was really great, ”Gross said. “Sitting in that corner, I thought, ‘I can imagine New York is getting away with it. “
A few weeks later, a much larger alfresco lunch in Central Park reunited Amanda Waldron, wife of Goldman Sachs president John Waldron, and Abigail Baratta, wife of Blackstone chief executive Joe Baratta. The occasion was a socially distanced picnic hosted by the Central Park Conservancy’s Women’s Committee, raising $ 300,000 for the upkeep of the park, with help from Nordstrom.
Guests sat on white chairs and tables set at Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace, and Conservatory Gardens, among others. At each location was a picnic basket filled with a grilled chicken, a ruby quinoa salad and a parfait in a jar with a lavender crumble, made by Duck. The music was provided by NYCNext, a new group that pays artists to perform, without notice, across town.
The mood was “vibrant,” said co-chair Karen May, who had a perch near a statue of a Polish king. “Several people have told me that this is their first time socializing with someone outside of their family.” Some of his friends had come from the Catskills and the Hamptons.
The park is a city resource that has become more essential during the pandemic, when people need an outdoor space to congregate. But it relies on private support for 80% of its annual budget. Yesim Philip, chair of the Conservancy’s women’s committee, said it was obvious to contribute at every level possible.
“If the park is healthy, the city is healthy,” said Philip. “We pay for the landscaping of our second homes. Why not pay for our beautiful backyard in town? “