Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio received a letter that no city official would hope to find in the mailbox.
The open letter, signed by more than 170 leaders of big businesses in the city, called on Mr. de Blasio to restore essential services, and to combat crime and other livability problems that the writers said had engulfed the city.
“There is widespread anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality-of-life issues that are contributing to deteriorating conditions in commercial districts and neighborhoods across the five boroughs,” the letter said. “We need to send a strong, consistent message that our employees, customers, clients and visitors will be coming back to a safe and healthy work environment.”
Here’s what you need to know, and what’s happened since the letter published:
Who signed, and why
Goldman Sachs. JetBlue. Warby Parker. Morgan Stanley.
Chief executives at those companies were among the striking array of businesses leaders who signed the letter. The leaders say they need Mr. de Blasio to help convince workers that it is safe to return to their offices. They also asked the mayor to address the quality-of-life problems, like crime and garbage-strewn streets and parks, that may have worsened since the start of the pandemic.
At about the same time the letter arrived, a consortium of local chambers of commerce and business groups around the city brought forth their own message of discontent, meaning that the mayor faced a vote of no confidence from the city’s business community writ large.
The mayor and big business
Mr. de Blasio, a progressive Democrat who has called for increasing taxes on the city’s high earners and prides himself on supporting the poor and working class, might seem an unlikely ally for some of the city’s most powerful business figures. But he responded to the letter by finding common cause with his critics instead of launching a salvo against an out-of-touch moneyed class.
“We need these leaders to join the fight to move the city forward,” Mr. de Blasio said on Twitter.
New York City faces potentially catastrophic budget shortfalls that could wreak havoc on services and transportation, so the mayor might be more amenable to business interests than usual, as my colleague Emma G. Fitzsimmons, the City Hall bureau chief, said on Monday.
“Instead of ranting about millionaires escaping to the Hamptons, the mayor took a conciliatory approach to the letter last week,” Ms. Fitzsimmons said, adding that “he realizes he does need their help as part of the recovery.”
It can’t be all that bad
The coronavirus pandemic has killed 23,750 New Yorkers, and the city has experienced a spike in shootings, problems with trash collection and a backlash from some neighborhoods after people were moved from homeless shelters into hotels to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
But life in the city is not entirely swathed in despair, and the sentiments in the letter from the executives may reflect perceptions, more than the reality, of disorder. Some business leaders privately said that they worried the letter could prove counterproductive because it made the city seem bleaker than it was.
“I think the letter hit a nerve with a lot of New Yorkers because some people are concerned about crime, homelessness and trash bins overflowing,” Ms. Fitzsimmons said. “But the city is also coming back to life in many ways, from outdoor dining to schools reopening.”
What happened next
On Monday, the Partnership for New York City, the group that sent last week’s letter to Mr. de Blasio, released another letter, this time addressed to President Trump. The letter called for Mr. Trump to approve essential funding for the city and state, especially for public transportation.
“New York’s downstate regional economy drives the entire state and, in many ways, it is the most important economic region in the country,” the letter said. “As private sector businesses have lost revenue and tens of thousands of jobs while struggling to keep their doors open, we need you to lead the federal effort in helping our state, and all 50 states, give these businesses an opportunity to once again thrive.”
Mr. de Blasio called the new letter “very helpful.”
From The Times
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The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.
What we’re reading
Fifty-five New York City school staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, one week before schools were set to reopen. [ABC7]
This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be more of a stationary balloon exhibition in Herald Square. [Daily News]
A $50 fine for not wearing a mask on the subway or bus went into effect on Monday. [Gothamist]
And finally: Condo buyers prefer the boroughs
Condo sales are down across New York, but that does not necessarily mean that would-be homeowners have forsaken the city.
Last week my colleague Stefanos Chen reported in the Real Estate section that more buyers were choosing condos in Brooklyn or Queens than in Manhattan, usually the more desirable — and expensive — place to buy. The buyers also tended to be younger, less wealthy and planned to use the condos as their primary residences.
“Those who have stayed, lured by near-record-low mortgage rates and an abundance of choices, are betting on the city’s long-term revival while they still have some leverage,” Mr. Chen wrote.
The change in purchasing habits may presage a shift in priorities among developers, from building luxury condos for the extravagantly rich to focusing on lower-priced buildings with more outdoor space and fewer amenities. The trend could be a sign of hope for first-time buyers who want to stick it out in the city.
So buying a home in New York City, while never easy, might be a little easier. For now.
It’s Tuesday — hold fast.
Metropolitan Diary: Surprising offer
My uncle worked in a dry-cleaning plant. The work was hard and dangerous, and it didn’t pay well.
To make extra money, he rented a small truck and collected clothes to clean. One day, I went with him. He stopped in a Brooklyn neighborhood, locked the truck and told me to come with him. There was a man he wanted me to meet.
We entered a house. Seated in the center of the living room was an older man who was surrounded and attended to by the women of the family.
My uncle introduced me.
The man looked at me.
“Sonny,” he said, smiling slowly, “would you like some wine?”
I was 9, and the question surprised but pleased me. Thinking of the only wine I had ever had, heavy, sweet Manischewitz, and then only at services and on holidays and only in small amounts, I happily said yes.
One of the women left the room and returned with a bottle wrapped in what looked like straw. She poured the wine into a brightly colored aluminum tumbler, circa the 1950s, and handed it to me.
I sipped. Wow! This was not Manischewitz. It was something else. I thought about stopping, but I had the feeling that would have been rude. I forced myself to finish. It was bitter — a Chianti, I suspect — and, truth to tell, it tasted better with each sip.
Finally, I put the empty tumbler down.
“How was it?” asked the man, smiling broadly now.
“It was good,” I said. “Thank you.”
A few minutes later, my uncle and I left the house. I walked beside him, at a slant.
— Jeffrey Eisenmesser
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