The graffito was found everywhere long before the Corona crisis: it was sprayed on street lamps, planters, safety barriers and even on an excavator. "THE RiCH KiLLD NYC" - the rich killed New York.

Who is behind it is unclear. But many people shared this feeling: in the past decades, wealthy newcomers with their luxury apartments have displaced people who could no longer afford the expensive rents. Well-known stores had to give way to the branches of international chains, smoky Irish pubs disappeared in favor of Instagram-based in-bars.

"The rich killed New York" - the graffito's furious protest threatens to come true. © Heike Buchter / ZEIT ONLINE

On the southern edge of Central Park, which its creator Frederick Law Olmsted once designed as a "democratic expression of the utmost importance", a steep wall of residential towers now rises. New York's regular earners call it " Billionaires Row ", the street of billionaires. The 90-story One57 is so massive that it blocks the midday sun in the winter months and sinks the swinging playground behind it into a deep shadow.

The increasing transparency of the tax authorities in tax havens again in Switzerland had made New York's real estate market even more attractive. "New York's fanciest skyscrapers are the new numbered accounts," said New York Post once . " If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere, " Frank Sinatra had sung, but the last thing was: Whoever wanted to make it to the top in New York must have been successful elsewhere. The boom in ultra-luxury real estate has had a direct impact on the rest of the city's residents.

But as soon as Covid-19 had reached the city in March, the well-to-do fled. Between early March and early May, 420,000 New Yorkers, about five percent of the population, packed their bags - especially people from the zip code areas with the highest middle incomes, as the New York Times found: There, smartphones were used less and less waste was produced.

Accordingly, more than 40 percent of the residents left the classy Upper East Side, where bankers and hedge fund managers have their apartments. The West Village, where entertainment greats are at home, also emptied. What once attracted her - the many people from all over the world who live together in a confined space - is now causing her to panic.

An investment advisor admitted she was afraid of staying on such a densely populated island during an epidemic before saying goodbye indefinitely. An employee of an asset manager went to woody Vermont, "because of the children". He saw no reason to return, said an exchange trader who couldn't imagine life elsewhere until the Corona crisis.

The city lacks the means to combat need

Many of the refugees apparently see it similarly. While the real estate market in New York City has practically come to a standstill, prospective buyers in the green suburbs and the Hamptons, the gold coastline of the Atlantic, are two hours away by car. Villas with swimming pools are particularly popular.

Five to eight

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For those left behind, the ambulance sirens became the city's new soundtrack. The pictures of the refrigerated trucks in which corpses were stacked could be seen worldwide. 23,700 New Yorkers have died in connection with Covid-19. The number of new infections and the daily deaths may have decreased, the economic consequences have only just begun. 900,000 jobs have been destroyed since the beginning of March. One in four residents suffers from hunger.

As the need gets worse every day, the city lacks the means to fight it. The tax loss over the next two years will amount to more than $ 9 billion, Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted. The metro, which residents in the more affordable areas are particularly dependent on, is also at risk of running out of funds if $ 7.8 billion in federal funding is lacking.

Now the rich would be more necessary than ever, their taxes, their donations, and their mere presence would help. Once before, in the 1970s, New York experienced the aftermath of a similar exodus. The city has been plagued by poverty and crime for decades. The recovery did not begin until the late 1980s.

Not least thanks to Donald Trump, who brought shine and glitter to Fifth Avenue with the construction of his Trump Tower with the much reviled pink marble in the lobby. But the president, unpopular in his hometown anywhere else, moved his official residence to Palm Beach, Florida's rich island, last year. "THE RiCH KiLLD NYC" was intended as a criticism. Now it threatens to become a prophecy.