Last March, Covid-19 hit New York City disrupting every aspect of urban life and creating a health, economic, social, and housing crisis. New Yorkers’ needs were already significant before Covid-19. About 50 percent of all households had earnings way below the city’s median household income. Over 53 percent of all households were rent burdened which means that they were paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent. And, those with the lowest income were even spending more than 50 percent of their salary in rent. Furthermore, many low-income households were living in overcrowded homes, had underlying health conditions, and were already in need of social assistance. Thus, when the pandemic hit the city those already in need became particularly vulnerable.
Despite it has been widely acknowledged, with extensive coverage, that the virus has affected disproportionally low-income and immigrant New Yorkers, the damage it has caused to their communities and neighborhoods hasn’t been fully assessed. Unlike previous crises, this pandemic has interrupted all the ecologies in our city —health, food, housing, business, education, mobility —at once and revealed the malfunction of our economic, social, health, and political systems. Thus, massive resources, efforts, and time will be required to assess the local damage, develop recovery policies and programs, and distribute evenly resources for their implementation. Most importantly, the recovery efforts should not look back, like in previous crises. They should challenge the inequality that has characterized the development of cities and prioritize the needs, priorities, and visions of those who have been traditionally excluded in the production of the city by working closing with those communities.
Like in previous crises, trusted community-based organizations, active grassroots groups, and rotted community leaders have been vital in Covid-19 rapid response efforts. They have shifted their activities to adapt to the emerging needs of their community members but, as the impact of the pandemic unfolds, they are facing unprecedented challenges to undertake planned and strategic recovery efforts. New approaches, methodologies, and tools will be needed bringing together local stakeholders, assessing the impact, and finding innovative ways to built capacity to pursue long-term recovery plans.
Irtiza Ahmed Chaudhry
Mar Iglesias Salvador
Juliana Leite Neri
Emily Sandstrom Nonoo
Gabriela Rendón, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Community Development
Local Initiatives Support Corporation