NYC’s population bloom offers promising signs

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Break out the egg creams and the Brooklyn ale! The Big Apple’s population grew by a humongous 629,057 souls — or 7 percent — from 2010-April 2021, according to the US census. Weren’t we told time and again that people were leaving town by the zillions?

But even as we pop the corks, bear in mind the data’s sneaky April Fools’ factor. The count reflected New York City’s population only as of April 1, 2020, before an undetermined number of people left town as the pandemic took hold, though also before some others moved in.

But the 10-year growth to a total 8.8 million stories in the naked city is wonderful news despite the caveats. It makes mush out of claims that residents rich, poor and in-between were fleeing town.

New York-haters blamed the now-debunked mass exodus model on “rising crime” long before it actually rose, and on high taxes that were all too real then and now.

Chest-thumping Mayor de Blasio on Friday ridiculously attributed the population bump in part to his “prekindergarten programs.” Hardly.

What the numbers prove beyond debate is the city’s undiminished appeal even in down times. Bad mayors, bad laws, even 9/11 . . . New York City still looms large in the American landscape. If you can make it here . . . 

The latest residency rise came as no surprise to those of us who live here and get around a bit. How could we be shrinking when neighborhoods from the north Bronx to southern Queens sprouted new buildings that filled up as soon as they went on the market? And when streets and parks were so impassable that the temporary COVID-reduced density almost felt welcome?

Of course, we aren’t remotely out of the woods. The Delta strain gave the not-quite-banished virus a second wind that hopefully won’t last long.

Mayor de Blasio had attributed some of the population increase to prekindergarten programs.
Richard Drew/AP

Apartment sales and rentals rebounded after last year’s season of despair. But the commercial future grows darker the longer employees work from home. It’s a mortal threat to the office market and to the city’s revenue base if it goes on indefinitely.

Even a “hybrid” return will reduce companies’ space needs and leave landlords who pay the bulk of city and state taxes in a pickle. Meanwhile, store vacancies — which were soaring before anyone heard of COVID-19 — mushroom by the month.

But Gotham’s irrepressible life force surges on in ways great and small. Companies like Empire Health and Chubb are signing or negotiating huge new leases in Midtown. Meanwhile, multiplying Guyanese restaurants in Richmond Hill, Queens, affirm immigrant neighborhoods’ faith in the lit-up skyline’s promise.

A woman wearing a face mask and holding a dog rides the subway in New York City on Saturday, July 31, 2021.
NYC is still on the road to a full recovery, writes Steve Cuozzo.
Ted Shaffrey/AP

One day COVID will be contained or banished. Until then, our swelling population promises that, to borrow from Yogi Berra, we ain’t over till we’re over — and we ain’t over yet.

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