NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — Friday night in Manhattan found restaurants packed in the NoMad neighborhood, diners socially-distant or behind plexiglass shields — the new normal many locals are still adjusting to.
Their city remains locked in a tough battle with COVID-19. Once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, New York’s infection rate is now among the lowest in the nation, but the recovery has been a struggle.
Thousands fled at the height of the pandemic and have yet to return. Many businesses have been left struggling to survive.
But a ghost town?
Those are the words President Donald Trump used to describe America’s most populous city during Thursday night’s presidential debate, and they’ve left a bad taste in the mouths of many New Yorkers.
NewsNation spoke to dozens on the streets of Manhattan Friday. Most had some pretty strong words for the president.
“It doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s talking about at all,” one West Village resident told us.
“We never liked him anyway,” said another.
“Take a look at New York and what’s happened to my wonderful city for so many years,” President Trump said during the debate in Nashville. “I loved it, it was vibrant. It’s dying. Everyone’s leaving New York.”
The president’s remarks, while unpopular in the city of his birth (he’s from Queens) are not without truth.
The latest data shows the average rent in Manhattan is at a low not seen in nearly a decade. It may not be a ghost town, but a recent report by real estate broker Douglas Elliman found nearly 16,000 available apartments, a 14-year record.
Around the tri-state, it’s a seller’s market outside New York City, as residents flee to Long Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Multiple offers and high closing prices have become the norm, says Hartford real estate agent Keri Watkins.
“My client’s one of 30 offers on a house. So we’ll wait and see if he gets that one or not,” Watkins said.
New Yorkers who choose to remain are confident the city will recover. Not always known for their reserve, many were blunt in their assessment of the president’s ‘ghost town’ comments on social media. That includes the city’s mayor, who tweeted Thursday night.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared on ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ after the debate, joking that “New York has a lower infection rate than the White House.”
President Trump officially changed his place of residence from New York to Florida last year. New Yorkers know it.
“I feel like this isn’t his town anymore, so he can’t call it his city,” said a woman glancing over at a park filled with parents and children. “It’s our city and we’re here and we’re doing well.”