You can usually see the hand-painted tea kettles and colorful furniture and decor through the windows of the McKenzie Childs storefront on the corner of West Broadway and Spring Street in SoHo. But as of Tuesday evening, the glass was still masked by brown plywood with the word “Love” tagged on it in spray paint. The store boarded up its windows because others were doing the same before Election Day, according to manager Gary Rodriguez.
“At first we [weren’t] gonna do it. But then again, if you see other retailers do it, it almost like, put a fear [in you]. So that's what we did,” Rodriguez told Gothamist/WNYC, adding that they may not come down until later in the week, depending on what his neighbors do.
“You don't want to be the first one to take down your boards, but Chanel and Diesel already started taking theirs down,” Rodriguez said.
Election Day came and went. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory was met with widespread partying, but none of the property damage that business leaders, elected officials and the city’s police department were bracing for occurred. A Trump victory might have set off the kind of unrest seen in late May and early June, when an estimated 450 city storefronts were looted or vandalized, as the city was roiled by massive protests after the police killing of George Floyd.
One Patagonia employee named Sean, who declined to give his last name because he was not authorized to talk to the press, said Patagonia was one of the few stores in SoHo that didn’t put up plywood, and had instead used posters in the windows to obscure the merchandise. Still, he said, the whole neighborhood felt eerie.
“It just felt like fear-mongering to me and it added to heightened anxiety and whatever people were going through,” he said. “It made people not want to go out.”
Nearby, Yves St. Laurent was one of the first stores in the area to take its plywood down on Monday morning.
“There was great energy all weekend and there was no reason to keep them up,” said a manager there named Sara, who also refused to give her last name. “It feels great to have it down.”
K-Mart, Walgreens, Bed Bath & Beyond and Barnes and Nobles were all still boarded up as of Tuesday afternoon. Those retailers didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University, said the plywood storefronts add to a feeling of malaise.
“It signals to everyone that people expect something horrible to happen here, that we lack the confidence in civil society to think we'll be able to get through a difficult time,” he said, noting that the unease could continue in the coming weeks if President Donald Trump continues to deny the results of the election.
CUNY’s Graduate Center also remained boarded up, as did the New York Public Library’s annex across from its main branch on 40th Street. A spokesperson for NYPL explained that the library commissioned murals across the wood and they’re leaving the boards up through next Monday to showcase the artwork.
At his daily press briefing Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was up to individual businesses to decide when the boards come off.
“I think the worst is past, I think it’s time to move forward, I think that people in this city are ready to move forward,” de Blasio said. “We have a clear resounding, election result.”
Kathy Wylde, the President and CEO of Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit that advocates for major businesses and employers in the city, said many of their members were eager to move forward too, and had plans to remove boards in the next few days.
“Business is anxious to support the city's recovery and rebound,” she said. “Hopefully Manhattan will soon look alive again.”
On Tuesday evening, some of the businesses around Herald Square had removed boards, including Sunglass Hut and H+M, though others, including Macy’s, Santander Bank and Victoria Secret, were still boarded up.
“It’s kind of sad, that you walk down the street and everything's boarded up, that we have to live in a country like that,” said Ken Ours, 58, who was visiting from Richmond, Virginia, where stores have also boarded up their windows. “Hopefully it’ll heal now.”
Nathneial Segev, a 33-year-old mechanical engineer, who was sitting in the square, said he was disturbed to still see so many blocked off storefronts.
“It's not the New York City that I know of,” he said. “They are afraid of the people, they shouldn't [be], they shouldn't.”