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How are New Yorkers coping with the city’s holiday return? Elbows, patience and no restaurants.

During the holidays, it takes Minnie Seo half an hour to plow through the masses of people between 40th and 46th streets in Times Square.

Kimi Norman, who lives a block from Rockefeller Center, sticks out her elbows and stares people down as she barrels through crosswalks.

Nick Sciacca, meanwhile, laughs at the notion of going to a museum or show at this time of year, now that the city has come roaring back after the pandemic.

“No, that’s for tourists,” he said, chuckling when asked whether he takes advantage of New York City’s marquee cultural offerings around the holidays. “I can do that anytime. No, that’s for tourists. I don’t do none of that.”

Gothamist recently interviewed dozens of New Yorkers from Central Park to SoHo, who said although the city has clearly recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also gotten louder, more congested and less civil.

Available data shows in many ways the Big Apple has nearly — but not fully — swung back to normal, suggesting the pandemic might have given New Yorkers rosy memories about what the city was previously like.

Hectic streets, yet lower subway ridership

Christine Pedi, who describes herself as half-blind, usually walks holding a white cane out in front of her. But people have taken to stepping on it amid the holiday swarms.

So now she taps her cane hard on the ground, “like in the old movies,” to fend off crowds around her.

“I broke one because I tapped it and tapped it because people have to have the audio to go with it,” she said while visiting SoHo. “They’re just not looking. Sometimes they’re staring at me, but they’re not paying attention.”

Pedi, an actress who’s lived in Hell’s Kitchen for 22 years, said she’s waiting until January before she ventures back into the Theater District, where the crowds have gotten “thicker and crazier” since the pandemic.

Recent data indicates those crowds have bounced back, just not entirely.

Pedestrian counts tracked by the Times Square Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to the area’s well-being, show a slight slump in November compared to 2022, and were three-quarters of 2019 levels.

Another measure — subway ridership — hit a post-pandemic high Dec. 14 with 4.1 million fares paid over the previous 30 days, according to the MTA. That was only 77% of pre-COVID ridership, although the MTA has said more than 13% of riders aren’t counted because of fare evasion.

Yet another measure, tolls on bridges and tunnels, in 2021 blew past pre-pandemic levels, and on Dec. 15 hit an all-time high of 1 million cars over the previous 30 days — even as many people continue to work remotely and commute into the city only part of the week.

Have New Yorkers forgotten what the crowds in Midtown and other popular locations really used to be like?

“I just think that it’s our protocols and our sense of understanding [that have changed],” said Pedi. “Is there no sense of understanding of how to take a walk? Maybe, maybe we don’t know how to take a walk anymore.”

‘I’m not trying to be a grinch’

While some New Yorkers interviewed spoke of retreating from the crowds in the city’s core to restaurants in farther-flung neighborhoods, others said their best strategy for coping was summoning a deep well of patience.

“At the end of the day, people are here to vacation,” Kimi Norman said. “They’re having a good time and I’m not trying to be a grinch.”

Some, like Allen Massano, recalled the depths of the pandemic, when the city was largely, eerily empty. Masano has lived in SoHo for 35 years and said he embraces the energy the holiday crowds bring.

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoy seeing a guy with his wife and children in tow, obviously from nowhere anywhere around here,” he said. “That’s managed to put this whole thing together and bring them here, it’s wonderful, it really is.”

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