The Bronx has suffered the greatest economic losses during the pandemic of all the boroughs, according to a new report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli Tuesday.
The pandemic stalled upward trends in population and economic growth over recent years in the Bronx, DiNapoli’s report said, adding the impacts have ranged from the borough having the highest unemployment rate in the city, peaking at 24.6% last May, to inadequate resources for the small businesses that make up the majority of the commercial activity in the borough.
“More than a year of sustained damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the Bronx, throwing it off its pre-pandemic course,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The borough has proven its resilience before, with its recent long period of renewal aided by government efforts to provide basic services and boost economic activity and quality of life in the borough. The road to recovery will take time, and it is crucial that the state and city ensure that the Bronx receives its fair share of assistance to address the serious damage it has sustained.”
A significant factor in the economic losses were the industries where Bronx residents were employed, with more than 70% of the borough’s residents working in “essential or face-to-face industries, the largest of which include 25.9% in health care and social assistance; 10.2% in retail trade; 9.6% in accommodation and food services; and 7.7% in transportation and warehousing,” DiNapoli said.
In particular, the hospitality industry’s closure meant the loss of 9,600 jobs in the Bronx, or 45.6% of all jobs in that sector, by the summer of 2020.
The concentration of Bronx residents working in those industries also meant they faced increased risk of contracting COVID-19, losing their jobs during the city’s shutdown, or were vulnerable to the subway service shutdown—DiNapoli’s report said Bronx residents are “far more dependent on the subway system than other New Yorkers,” with the level of ridership almost consistently “higher in the Bronx than in all other boroughs.”
The death toll of the pandemic was also disproportionately high in the borough, with 5,594 deaths from COVID-19 reported in the Bronx—the highest death rate in the city.
The pandemic also highlighted existing disparities—the borough’s median household income is also below the citywide median, at $41,400 compared to $69,400, and 27.3% of households in the Bronx experience poverty compared to the 16.4% citywide average. Areas that were hit the worst economically include West Farms, where the unemployment levels reached 26% at one point, according to Assembly Member Karines Reyes. Vaccination rates also remain lowest in the borough compared to the rest of the city, with 36% of Bronx residents fully vaccinated compared to 45% citywide.
Still, the borough is poised to recover if the city ensures that the Bronx gets its fair share of economic funding from the federal and state governments, DiNapoli said.
And new projects on the horizon like the four additional Metro-North stations the state plans to build, the renovation of Orchard Beach and other infrastructure and development projects, will pump funding back into the local economy, said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at a press conference Tuesday at the Gun Hill Brewing Company.
The borough will need the support of the whole city, Diaz said, and called on New Yorkers to come support Bronx businesses this summer. “Vote with your wallets, ladies and gentlemen, this is the time. Now’s not the time to give up,” Diaz said.