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COVID-19 has hit businesses and tourism hard. But when New York said it would close a famous ice rink, Serena Sabet fought back — and won.

This is the first of five articles by students at The Hewitt School in New York City about how COVID-19 has affected that city and the United States. You can read all of the stories here.

For more than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned people’s lives upside down and squeezed many businesses and tourist attractions.

In New York City, the number of small businesses that were open at the end of March was one half the number in January 2020, according to economic data compiled by Harvard University, Brown University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For those that remain open, revenue has dropped by some 60%.

Recently I became interested in how the virus and lockdown have affected major landmarks in New York City, including Wollman Rink, a skating rink in Central Park that is popular with tourists and city residents.

Earlier this year, following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, the city canceled its contract with The Trump Organization, which had operated the rink for more than 30 years.

A skater, Sabet made sure New York kept the ice rink open.

My curiosity grew when I learned that there were plans for the rink to be shut down.

I spoke with Serena Sabet, who is in her last year at a Manhattan independent high school, after she posted on social media a petition, which she had drafted along with two friends, urging authorities to keep the rink open.

Sabet had been skating at the rink most of her life. She only learned that the rink was set to shut down two days before its scheduled closure.

Ultimately, the city decided to retain the Trump Organization as the rinks’ operator for the duration of 2020-21 skating season, and it stayed open.

In an interview, I asked Sabet how she helped persuade city authorities to keep the rink open. She said she had stood at the rink for hours, passing out a QR code with a link to the petition that people all over the world signed. Her hard work and dedication paid off when she and other fans of the rink were able to keep the iconic landmark open to the public.

Three questions to consider:

  1. Why did New York City cancel its contract with The Trump Organization to operate Wollman Rink?
  2. To what extent has the COVID-19 pandemic affected businesses and tourism in your country?
  3. How do you think countries can prepare for the next pandemic, to make sure businesses are not hit as hard as they have been during COVID-19?
Alistair Lyon author news decoder-150x150

Pénélope Flouret is in her second year of high school at The Hewitt School in New York City. She works on the school’s newspaper and enjoys reading and creative writing during her free time. One of her favorite subjects is History, where she is currently delving into social justice. 

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