11 Numbers That Show How the Coronavirus Has Changed N.Y.C.
Unemployment has skyrocketed, but so has the size of the city’s volunteer pool and the number of people fostering animals. One month into the shutdown, the city is as complex as it ever was.
A postal worker in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan.Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
New York City has never looked so unlike itself. Deserted streets and vacant stores. Essential workers taking to lonely subways. Mandatory face coverings.
But beyond the changes we can see outright are other lifestyle shifts that reflect the struggles and needs that have emerged within the last month.
Unemployment, of course, is up, and the number is staggering. With the state’s shutdown extended until at least May 15, it is a desperate time for many.
But some of the data shows glimmers of hope. While hundreds of food banks were forced to close, the city’s volunteer pool vastly expanded. Air pollution is down. Applications to foster abandoned animals skyrocketed.
Our altered city, by the numbers, is just as complex as the one we remember.
Increase in unemployment claims
During the week of March 22, nearly 144,000 unemployment claims were made in New York City. That constituted a 2,637 percent increase from last year, when the same time frame yielded about 5,300 claims.
And there’s still many who have yet to file as the state’s system was overwhelmed.
Decrease in trash collection in Manhattan
March data from the city’s Department of Sanitation shows the amount of refuse collected from Manhattan residences shrank by nearly 7 percent compared to the borough average for that month over the last five years.
The decrease is most likely a reflection of New Yorkers who had the means to relocate.
Greenwich Village, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side, neighborhoods with some of the highest median incomes in the city, led the way with 11, 10 and 8 percent declines.
The rest of the city saw little change, although Staten Island logged the biggest increase, producing over 7 percent more refuse than usual.
Number of applications to Foster Dogs
Interest in fostering pets has surged in the city, as many New Yorkers find themselves looking for companionship and having more time at home to care for a pet.
Foster Dogs, a nonprofit that works with about 30 shelters and rescue organizations in the New York City area, fielded more than 3,000 applications for fostering in March. Traffic to its website increased 250 percent.
In comparison, Foster Dogs received an average of 140 applications a month in 2019.
“It was more interest than we’ve ever seen before,” said Sarah Brasky, who founded the organization.
In March, Muddy Paws Rescue, a New York nonprofit, received seven times the number of applications for dog fostering than it had just two months earlier.
Decrease in morning electricity usage
The dip began as workplaces and schools started closing, then accelerated through the rest of March.
By the end of the month, the city’s energy use was down by more than 10 percent, according to the New York Independent System Operator, the agency responsible for managing the state’s electric grid.
The change was most pronounced on weekday mornings, when usage would normally spike as people started their days and businesses opened. With nonessential workers ordered to stay home, it appeared that many were awakening later than usual.
Increase in complaints about loud televisions
New Yorkers’ patience with noisy neighbors has run thin, particularly when it comes to blaring televisions, which prompted a 42 percent increase in 311 complaints in March compared to last year, according to NYC Open Data.
Complaints of loud talking and music increased by 12 and 30 percent across the city.
Similarly, residential noise complaints, a broad category that’s also one of the most common, rose significantly in every borough, peaking with a 33 percent increase in Staten Island. New Yorkers are especially irritated with helicopter noise; grievances about helicopters have tripled across the city.
Decrease in subway ridership
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has struggled the last three years to improve a crumbling system, even as ridership numbers had been higher than ever. Last year, during one week in mid-April, 34 million swipes were recorded at M.T.A. stations.
That number was whittled down to just 2.5 million rides during the week ending April 11. The steepest declines were in Manhattan, while the Bronx, which has the highest poverty rate of any of the boroughs, saw ridership drop the least.Sign up to receive an email when we publish a new story about the coronavirus outbreak.Sign Up
The M.T.A., which oversees the subways, buses and two commuter rails, has suffered crew shortages as thousands fall sick. So far, the agency has reduced bus service and temporarily eliminated some subway lines. Already deep in debt and heavily reliant on revenue from fares, New York City’s transit faces a tough future.
Decrease in overall crime as the city shut down
March began with an uptick in major crimes, such as murder and burglary, but there was soon a sharp decline in overall crime in every borough.
From March 12 through March 31, murders decreased by 25 percent when compared with the same period last year, according to the Police Department. Complaints of rape and grand larceny both went down as well.
Reports of domestic violence fell nearly 15 percent. That drop, however, could mean victims have been less able to report abuse.
The virus has put a strain on the department: It must enforce the new restrictive rules while dealing with a diminished force. One out of every six New York City police officers is out sick or in quarantine.
Decrease in traffic at the busiest bridges and tunnels
On the first Monday in March, more than 850,000 vehicles traveled across the M.T.A.’s nine city crossings, including the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Three weeks later, that number had plummeted to about 351,000.
The less congested roads gave drivers a newfound sense of freedom. The city’s automated speed cameras issued nearly 25,000 speeding tickets in a single day at the end of March, double the number from the previous month, according to city data.
Still, the roads have appeared safer. Traffic accidents overall dropped nearly 60 percent, with just over 1,000 motor vehicle collisions reported during the last week in March, according to an analysis of police data by a nonprofit watchdog group.N.Y.’s Changed Streets: In One Spot, Traffic Speeds Are Up 288%Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronavirus
More people signed up to volunteer
Many New Yorkers volunteer each year, but March alone had an increase of almost three times the number of volunteer applications, with 6,500 compared with around 2,400 last year, based on data from New York Cares, an expansive volunteer network, which partnered with the city to coordinate coronavirus relief efforts.
The large spike in those eager to assist their communities was often directed toward food programs and social support for older adults, the primary areas of need across the city.
“There’s a huge surge in need for virtual volunteering, to have a friend or neighbor to talk to,” said Anusha Venkataraman, the city’s chief service officer.
New York Cares reported that its volunteers distributed more than 130,000 meals in March — 55,000 more than the previous month.
Of food banks have closed
Despite the increased interest in volunteering, the heightened danger from coronavirus to those over 65 years of age has forced some food bank sites to close, particularly those run by volunteers who are older and retired.
City Harvest and Food Bank for New York City, the two largest food charities in the city, have seen a reduction in the number of soup kitchens and pantries they serve. Nearly 40 percent of Food Bank’s 800 delivery sites have closed while City Harvest reported that one-third of the 284 sites it serves have closed.
Decrease in air pollution across the city
In a twist, the stay-at-home efforts have made it safer to breathe outside.
Air quality has vastly improved, with an average 25 percent decrease in pollution across the city, based on data by state environmental monitors of the levels of particulate matter, a pollutant tied to asthma and lung cancer.
Staten Island showed the most dramatic drop at 35 percent. The borough has long had a reputation for noxious skies from heavy traffic and ferries and barges in New York Harbor.
Reporting was contributed by Winnie Hu, Nikita Stewart, Lindsey Rogers Cook and Ashley Southall.
Corina Knoll is a narrative writer in the Metro section. @corinaknoll
Azi Paybarah writes the New York Today column. He was raised in Queens, educated in Albany and lives in Manhattan. He worked at The Queens Tribune, The New York Sun, Politico New York and elsewhere before joining The Times. Email him or follow him on Twitter. @Azi
Elaine Chen is an editor of digital storytelling. She joined The Times in 2017 from WNYC public radio. @elainejchenA version of this article appears in print on April 21, 2020, Section A, Page 11 of the New York edition with the headline: 11 Numbers That Paint a Picture Of a City Changed by the Pandemic. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe