Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Times Square, New York City. July 7, 2020. Photo by Narkwor Kwabla

As New York City entered its third phase of reopening, much of Times Square remains a shadow of its former self, but its big screens continue to illuminate during the city’s worst times.

But gone are the exuberant tour ticket vendors persuading visitors to buy a double decker bus tour. Those jobs were lost as tourism is virtually non-existent. For the past seven years, Ademuyiwa Onitiri worked with TopView sightseeing tours selling tickets for their double decker sightseeing bus before the lockdown. 

‘‘There was one day I drove past Manhattan and I felt like oh my God, I miss Times Square,’’ said Onitiri.

 His last day in Times Square was in March, shortly after everything was shut down as coronavirus cases rose.

‘‘It’s not mostly about missing Times Square, but the income…as well, he said. “ I miss the activities .I miss the side attraction, the performances.”

Olayinka Oloruntimilehin is a colleague of Onitiri who also worked with TopView . She has been selling tour tickets since 2018 and laments that it’s a ‘different world for them’.

‘‘I had colleagues that applied for unemployment on the 17th (March) as soon as they put it on the (notice) board, no work no work,” she said.”  I thought it was going to be like the president was saying, ‘it’s a flu, it’s going to vanish.’ I believed that and then two weeks, one month, two months, three  months ( passed).’’

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Onitiri said he spoke to an average of 100 people daily.

“We are independent contractors,’’ he said. “Independent contractors meaning that we work on our own time and we are just paid commission on the sales that we made.’’

His average was selling about 20 tickets a day, he said. A 48-hour hop on and off pass cost  $89.

But with no tourists in sight, these two ticket vendors, both of Nigerian origin, have been out a job.

‘So basically, I have been looking for something else to do, like another job,’’ said Oloruntimilehin.

Onitiri said he had to apply for unemployment to make ends meet.

‘‘It’s just not very easy, especially when the bills are not going to wait, they keep coming,” he said.” I have been living on savings and even it’s depleted to almost  zero. So, seeking government assistance for now, which I have never done before, because I like to earn my living.’’

Top View will resume on July 20 and  is slashing prices up to 75%.

However, it’s unclear if there will be tourists by then with international flights still restricted and a 14- day mandatory quarantine in place for persons travelling to New York from other states with high corona infection rates.

In his briefing on Monday,  Gov. Andrew Cuomo said they have had new infection cases coming from other states. 

‘‘We are already seeing it,” he said. “We have had significant clusters with people if people came out of state. They came in, they attended a function, bang! The next day we have an increase in the infections. We’re doing so many testing and so many tracing that we can trace it back to patient zero and they are very often from out of state.’’

The tour ticket vendors believe people will be scared to come to the city.

‘‘Everybody hears about New York City and they are very afraid to come to the city because it was  the epicenter of the Covid-19,” Ontiri said. “So because of that people are scared to come.”

He said he has friends from other states who are wary of coming to the city.

‘‘ I have some folks, some friends that are living in other states had hitherto the ambition to come to the city to have fun,” he said.  “But right now everybody cancelled it and I’m sure it would be like that for some other people too. So, it’s not going to be business as usual for now.’’

 In 2019, 66.6 million visitors traveled to New York City for business and leisure trips according to NYC & Company’s annual report.   Eighty percent were domestic tourists while international visitors made up 20%.  They generated close to $70 billion in revenue. 

Oloruntimilehin said it will be impossible for an out of state visitor to manage the lengthy quarantine required in same cases and still have vacation time left  to enjoy the city’s available attractions.

“For me the basic things we do as ticket sellers we won’t be able to do it,’’ said Oloruntimilehin.


Tags


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Life returns to the East Village

Quincy Walter May 5, 2021

Reopening for Ramadan

Hassan Abbas May 4, 2021

And the band played on

Xavier Bartaburu May 2, 2021

Queens residents mourn at Covid vigil

Annie Burky May 2, 2021

Floating for Free: COVID and the Staten Island Ferry

Trish Rooney May 2, 2021

COVID-19 has left many Black and Hispanic landlords in serious debt

Norah Hogan April 24, 2021

Village East movie theater reopens to the public

Inga Parkel April 13, 2021

Chinese adoptions halted by COVID

Inga Parkel March 24, 2021

Remote is the new workplace normal

Courtney Guarino March 24, 2021

One year of COVID-19 in New York City

Michelle Diaz March 16, 2021

COVID long haulers deal with lingering symptoms and doubt

Kaity Assaf March 5, 2021

Pandemic Weddings

Chuyan Jiang March 2, 2021

Pandemic fatigue 101

Chuyan Jiang February 28, 2021

Yankee Stadium becomes COVID-19 vaccine site for Bronx residents only

Michelle Diaz February 24, 2021

The queer community rallies behind their sacred spaces closed because of COVID-19

Inga Parkel February 23, 2021

Street vendors struggle as New Yorkers and tourists stay home

Norah Hogan February 13, 2021

Keeping the faith in COVID-19

Courtney Guarino February 3, 2021

Little Italy’s restaurants need indoor dining to survive pandemic

Michelle Diaz February 2, 2021

Stray pets find homes and love during pandemic

Inga Parkel February 1, 2021

No Actors, But the Show Goes On

James Pothen December 5, 2020

New York City, a place of refuge 

Edith Rousselot December 4, 2020

Commuting in a pandemic world

Michelle Diaz December 3, 2020

Battling food insecurities during a pandemic

Courtney Guarino December 3, 2020

Adaptation

Justin McGown December 3, 2020

Honk!: Cars earn a special spot in 2020

Luana Harumi December 3, 2020

Working out looks very different during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang December 2, 2020

One kitchen’s transformation in the age of isolation

Isabel Beer December 2, 2020

Nursing homes are filled with sadness and loss during pandemic shut down

Inga Parkel December 1, 2020

The show goes on

Norah Hogan December 1, 2020

Loyal members help keep independent cinemas afloat

Courtney Guarino December 1, 2020

Musicians deal with the reality of no live shows as covid takes center stage

Paola Michelle Ortiz December 1, 2020

 Black Friday’s Aftermath

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi November 30, 2020

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020