New York Is Reopening Sooner Rather Than Later

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Weather: Showers early, then gradually clearing, but the rain returns in the evening, with scattered thunderstorms. High in the upper 60s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until May 13 (Solemnity of the Ascension).

Restaurants and stores may soon look like more like their old (crowded) selves. New York, once the worst hot spot for the coronavirus in the nation, is set to reopen this month, sooner than expected.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he wanted New York City to fully reopen by July 1. On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has the authority to set reopening rules, announced a faster timetable: Stores, theaters, museums and restaurants will be allowed to run at almost full capacity on May 19 for the first time since March 2020, he said.

“Today is a milestone for New York State and a significant moment of transition,” Mr. Cuomo said.

But public health experts warned that the officials might be moving too quickly, given the slowing rates of vaccination among some age groups and the spread of more contagious variants.

[Accelerated plans to reopen the New York region are raising hopes and anxiety.]

Here’s what you need to know:

As of now, restaurants and bars must close by midnight, and indoor dining capacity for New York City restaurants is at 50 percent.

For months, as Covid-19 cases rose and fell, the state changed the rules on capacity, much to the frustration of restaurant and bar owners. Indoor dining was reopened in September, then banned a second time in December and reinstated in February, first at 25 percent capacity.

A lifting of capacity restrictions will not transform Manhattan’s business districts overnight. Many large employers plan to bring office workers back in the fall, and the hospitality industry does not expect tourism to return to prepandemic levels for years.

The return of 24-hour service comes after a year of overnight closures for crews to disinfect the subways.

In May 2020, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority first shut down service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Starting in February, the shutdown hours were reduced to 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

The pandemic left the city’s subway system in a financial crisis, which was eased by President Biden’s rescue plan. Today, ridership is about one third of its usual levels.

Masks are still required indoors. Businesses will still have to follow social-distancing guidelines for six feet of separation, but with some exceptions, Mr. Cuomo said. Businesses won’t have to abide by the six-foot rule if they require proof of full vaccination or negative coronavirus test results, and restaurants can skirt the rule by erecting barriers between tables.

Though theaters will be allowed to reopen, full-scale productions on Broadway will not return until September, the Broadway League said. Many museums plan to remain at 50 percent capacity for now.

The Times’s Jenny Gross writes:

The highly acclaimed Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park said on Monday that it would no longer serve meat or seafood when it reopens next month, becoming one of the most high-profile restaurants to switch to a plant-based menu because of environmental concerns.

Daniel Humm, the chef and an owner, said in a statement on the restaurant’s website, “It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant.”

Mr. Humm said that the coronavirus pandemic, which led to closure and layoffs, had forced the restaurant’s leaders to reimagine its future. “We have always operated with sensitivity to the impact we have on our surroundings,” he said, “but it was becoming ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways.”

[Read more about the chef’s move to a plant-based menu.]

Mr. Humm said that the kitchen had spent its days developing new dishes and meat and dairy alternatives, like plant-based milks, butters and creams, flavorful vegetable broths and stocks, and fermented foodstuffs.

Eleven Madison Park’s decision to reinvent its menu, reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal, is potentially a risk for the Michelin-starred restaurant, which was known for dishes like lavender honey-glazed duck, lobster and Hawaiian prawn roulade.

Eleven Madison Park was awarded four stars by The New York Times, three Michelin stars and the No. 1 spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017. The restaurant will continue to offer milk for coffee and tea, meaning it will not be entirely vegan, Mr. Humm said.

But the move comes as prominent restaurants and publications have shifted toward plant-based recipes, sometimes to critical applause.

“What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface,” he said. “All this has given us the confidence to reinvent what fine dining can be.”

It’s Tuesday — eat your vegetables.

Dear Diary:

I was shopping for groceries when I noticed an older woman who was picking through the cartons of cherry tomatoes, just as I happened to be doing.

“I’ve gotten burned by these before,” I said to her.

She opened one of the cartons, pulled out a tomato and popped it into her mouth.

“You just need to make sure they’re fresh,” she said.

“But those don’t look as good — they’re wrinkled,” I said, motioning to the pricier heirloom tomatoes. “Try these.”

“You know,” she said, popping another tomato in her mouth, “not everything with wrinkles looks bad.”

— Michael Rossano

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