Unlike other cities, New York City is in the final Phase 4 reopening but continues to update the regulations and openings based on the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Final Phase Regulations
Masks are required at any indoor establishments and strongly suggested outside of the house. Walking around the city, approximately 85% wear masks outside and 100% inside. Markers for social distancing and signs reminding you to wear a face-covering are everywhere: digital billboards, sidewalk art, and murals.
Non-essential New York residents are allowed back into work at a 50% capacity. Most NYC companies have declined, and data suggests that over 90% will continue a “work from home” schedule until 2021.
School Reopenings During the Final Phase
Schools have been given the green light to reopen in September during the final phase. Families have the option to switch to remote learning at any point. More than a quarter of public school children and their families have opted out so far.
Most colleges and universities will also open to some degree. Social distance regulations, a smaller on-campus housing capacity, and a model of hybrid learning will be the new norm this fall.
With limited options March through May, restaurants offered takeout and pop-up bars with cocktails to go. Tables were haphazardly set up on sidewalks when outdoor dining started in Phase 2. Since street dining was approved through October, restaurants are stepping it up a notch.
During the final phase, restaurants have transformed outdoor dining to real setups with street platforms, lights, and planting. Tables are spaced 6 feet apart and masks are required when not sitting at the table. Since bars, comedy clubs, and Broadway shows are out of the question, residents go out to eat!
Subway lines are all running, though remain closed overnight between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM for cleaning. Ridership numbers have most recently fallen to -75% below average. For those that do opt for the subway, train cars always have seats available and masks are required. In our experience, fellow commuters are always very respectful of space.
One method of transportation that has taken NYC by storm is biking. Citi Bike rentals continue to increase and bike purchases in the area are at an all-time high.
Public parks are all open and residents are definitely taking advantage of lawns and picnic tables. Some green spaces have specific social distance restrictions or markers. Recreational and play spaces are accessible, including tennis courts, basketball courts, dog parks, and children’s playgrounds. Central Park and the Hudson River Park next to the West Side Highway have both become havens for NYC residents.
Activities and Attractions
Low-risk outdoor activities and entertainment are allowed at 33 percent capacity. The High Line is available to the public with a free reservation. For an even higher perspective, Empire State Observatory, Top of the Rock, and One World Observatory are open. One Tribeca resident we spoke to said, “I have a new appreciation for New York. We dealt with the worst of it but at least we were all in it together. I didn’t know if things like this were going to be open. But being at the Freedom Tower and looking out into a city that made a comeback is pretty awesome!”
Governor’s Island is open to the public for “passive recreation.” A limited number of people are allowed on the ferry and the island per day. No indoor attractions are open. The ferries to Staten Island, Roosevelt Island, and the Statue of Liberty are also running.
During the final phase, kayaking and sailing are available at some docks with limited capacity. A few Hudson River boat tours are back in action too. Beaches are open with social distancing requirements in effect.
One of the biggest trends this summer is the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters. The Skyline Drive-In in Greenpoint and the Queens Drive-In in Flushing are two popular spots. Rumor has it that Yankee Stadium may transform into a drive-in eventually too.
Cultural Institutions During the Final Phase
Perfect for social distancing and getting some fresh air, the New York Botanical Garden, Wave Hill, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden are open and require an advanced reservation.
Museums are reopening during the final phase with limited capacity and strict measures in place. The MET, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Arts and Design, and the MoMa have all announced the dates their doors will open for the first time in 6 months.
The New York Public Library is operating a “grab and go” service. Residents can put a book on hold and then pick up at their nearest branch location.
Retail and Stores
Retail shops are open at a limited capacity but shopping malls are not. Masks are required in stores and most do not offer fitting rooms. Convenience and grocery stores are stocked and ready with more sanitizers and masks than you could ever need. One West Village pharmacy owner explained, “Our numbers are down but spirits are up. Locals still need their Advil, sunscreen, and bug spray during the summer. We’ll get through this and come back stronger.”
Dating during COVID
New York has one of the highest percentages of singles (38%) in the country. Studies show that dating apps are now used more frequently in the city, as there are fewer opportunities to meet singles out and about. Lots of New Yorkers have turned to socially distanced picnics as a first date option!
Not Open for Business
As of August 2020, indoor dining, shopping malls, movie theaters and broadway shows, fitness centers, and summer-fall events have been closed, canceled, or postponed. Though New York City residents will wait for news about what the future looks like, the city is serious about keeping case numbers low during the final phase. Once the epicenter of the country, locals all agree, they do not want a repeat.