STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Parts of New York City are opening up as COVID-19 numbers improve there. And that reopening includes the High Line, an elevated park that stretches across Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. It has ticketed entries starting today. And Camille Petersen reports on what that means for local businesses.
CAMILLE PETERSEN, BYLINE: The High Line used to be a train track. Now, it's a park with a paved walkway, benches, greenery and art exhibits. When you walk north on the High Line, you can see the Hudson River to your left and the neighborhood of Chelsea to your right. Chelsea streets are usually packed on a summer weeknight. That's not the case tonight.
EVON RODRIGUEZ: It feels like a Sunday evening.
PETERSEN: Quiet. Evon Rodriguez biked here from Brooklyn for a few reasons.
RODRIGUEZ: For the jerk chicken wings but also to be healthy, explore. You have very limited options now, but take advantage of it.
PETERSEN: His friend Michael Fenton told him they had to get chicken wings from a Jamaican spot in this New York City neighborhood. And Fenton thinks the High Line reopening will start drawing other adventurers like them back to Chelsea.
MICHAEL FENTON: It'll mean more business, so it'll likely help these folks do a lot better.
PETERSEN: Inside the Jamaican restaurant they ordered from, Kone Soumaila is handling takeout and pickup. Business has been slow for him and his neighbors. He says a doughnut shop next door tried to reopen but wasn't getting enough customers, so it ended up closing again.
PETERSEN: So I can see only me every day coming back.
PETERSEN: Soumaila says the High Line reopening will send a message. Chelsea is open.
KONE SOUMAILA: Because right now, people think everything is just closed here.
PETERSEN: Joanne Kwong also tried to reopen her business in Chelsea. She runs Pearl River Mart, a department store that sells Asian decor and art. She knows the neighborhood's traffic patterns well.
JOANNE KWONG: There's a large tourist population. There are a lot of employees, folks who may not return to an office ever again.
PETERSEN: When she tried to reopen, it didn't work out. Those usual sources of traffic and customers are gone because of the pandemic. But she's hopeful the High Line reopening will bring a new customer at Chelsea - the New Yorker with cabin fever.
KWONG: I think when people leave their homes now, if you're going to go to the trouble of putting on the mask, putting on the gloves, getting on the subway, I think you want to make a day of it. So if there's an attraction like the High Line, I think people want to spend a little bit of time there.
PETERSEN: They'll hang around, eat and shop, spend money in Chelsea. Jonathan Bowles directs the Center for an Urban Future, an economic think tank. He says surges in coronavirus cases across the country and the world mean tourists are not coming back anytime soon.
JONATHAN BOWLES: Ultimately, New Yorkers have got to pull together and actually take on some of that spending that previously was done by tourists.
PETERSEN: Local businesses are counting on that spillover spending from New Yorkers. Basically, come for the High Line, stay for the jerk chicken wings and Asian decor. For NPR News, I'm Camille Petersen in New York.
(SOUNDBITE OF CITY OF THE SUN'S "UNDER THE SAME SKY")
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