At age 54, Mr. Marcus is old enough to remember hard times in the city, like the crack wars that led to thousands of murders a year. While it is true that shootings and homicides have increased since 2018, they remain a fraction of bad-old-days New York. In 2021, there were 488 homicides, compared with 2,262 at their peak in 1990 after a decade-long stretch near or above 2,000.
But what Mr. Marcus sees today worries him. “Things happened in the ’90s, but not like this,” he said. “Now a lot of people are dying a lot of different ways. You’ve got coronavirus, you’ve got the shootings, you’ve got the stabbings, you’ve got people being pushed onto train tracks. Right now, I don’t feel like it’s going to get better. And if it does, it’s going to take a while.”
In Corona, Queens, Amadou N’gom, 22, said his work as an Uber driver has given him a picture-window view of the uncertain state of the city. “We’re in this rocking boat on the ocean,” he said. “We can make it work, but if another big tsunami comes, it’s going to hit all of us.”
But he has faith: “New Yorkers will prevail in their persevering attitude.”
Not everyone seems so sure. In Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, beside a frigid Meadow Lake near the site of the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1964 — proud displays of urban might before the entire globe — Eliza Xu, 50, stood and sighed. A nail salon employee out of work since the pandemic began, her dismay runs from the cost of scallions in her grocery to the malaise that has washed the colors out of her daily life.
“No hope,” she said. “No parties, people don’t need to buy nice clothes, no makeup. Life is too boring, it’s tiring. We’re still not finished, still in the pandemic.” And then came the death of the woman pushed before the train, who was Asian American, a group singled out for hate crimes during the pandemic. “I’m afraid because I’m Asian,” she said. “We don’t go out at night, we don’t take the subway — what can we do? No hope, just living.”
In Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, Carson Gross, 37, recognizes that unease and blames much of it on the pandemic. “People have been locked down for so long that they’ve lost social skills,” he said. “Little things, where you could just say ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me,’ could turn into a fistfight sometimes. It just feels like everybody’s really on edge.”
At McCarren Park in Brooklyn, two friends, Beverly Bryan and Tatiana Tenreyro, said recent weeks have tested their optimism.