The horse and carriage rides that have become symbolic of New York City's Central Park will return this weekend after shuttering for six months amid the pandemic.
The return of horse-drawn carriages to the upper Manhattan park signals a return to normalcy in the Big Apple, but it also underscores the significant plunge in tourism that previously financed much of the city.
New York City, which emerged as the country's virus epicenter, recorded an approximate 90 per cent drop in visitors between April and June - a reported $250million in tourism-related taxes.
The city briefly rejoiced this week when indoor dining was allowed, but a state report found that half of its restaurants could close in six months over a lack of diners and tourists.
New York City's quandary laid bare the discrepancies between business owners attempting to jump start the economy and a lack of consumers.
A handful of horse-drawn carriages will return to New York City's Central Park this weekend to officially reopen business
But Frank Riccobono, owner of NYC Horse Carriage Rides, told DailyMail.com that the companies opening on Saturday understand the stakes.
'We're taking a big chance with what we're doing and don't know what we're walking into between the travel ban and COVID-19,' Riccobono, a veteran of 16 years, said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's travel ban was first implemented earlier this summer when COVID-19 cases in New York City decreased and other states saw their numbers skyrocket.
Residents from more than 30 states are still required to quarantine when they enter the city, where 249,000 people were infected and 23,800 died.
NYC Horse Carriage Rides, a long time staple in the New York City community, held their grand debut on Thursday evening.
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'We're trying to bring back happiness to New York City...making up for lost special occasions,' Frank told DailyMail.com
Colm McKeever, a carriage driver for 31 years, shared a similar sentiment with New York Daily News.
'The lights are going to come back on in New York City, and we are going to be a part of it,' McKeever told NYDN on Thursday.
'This is a great moment of hope. There’s a symbolism to seeing a horse-drawn carriage going down the street. It’s really exciting for the city, I think, for all of New York.'
Riccobono told DailyMail.com that only a handful of carriages or so will return for business on Saturday, with many of them focused on public health guidelines.
His carriages have been outfitted with hand sanitizers and masks. Many business owners will require cleanings in-between rides.
NYDN reported that Mobile Health Inc., a testing company in New York City, will administer rapid results COVID-19 tests before operations begin.
This weekend will be the first time horse carriages will return since March, when the pandemic shuttered industries from all sectors and the typically buzzing city fell silent.
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Many owners transported their horses to out-of-state farms for six months, including Riccobono, who kept his at a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
But their return comes just in time for the holiday season, specifically Christmas.
'With everything else canceled — the Rockettes, Broadway, no Macy’s Parade, no Times Square ball drop