I first pitched the idea of a podcast series about cities after COVID-19 in April, when the pandemic was widely viewed as an urban disease. That didn’t turn out to be true. Rural schools and suburban churches would transmit the novel coronavirus just as effectively as subways, elevators, and apartment hallways—perhaps even more so.
But months later, the pandemic’s potential to reorder American life seems no less profound. The white-collar offices, universities, arts institutions, restaurants, and amenities whose clustering defines 21st-century U.S. cities are under particular threat, and the fallout will be felt far beyond the high-end—in urban schools, in housing, in health care, and in the stretched budgets of so many cities. When some things start to fall apart, everything is at risk.
The crisis is deep, but as I hope this six-part series shows, so are the connections that hold cities together. People stay in cities to be near family, businesses work together to survive, and mutual aid groups support vulnerable neighbors. What happens next is built on what happened before, for good and bad. The city is not over—but it will not be the same.
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