Hello everyone, I’m Michelle Young, the founder of Untapped New York. It’s been more than a month since New York City has gone on pause. I have personally been sheltering at home with my daughter and husband since March 12th. The first few weeks were confusing. I did not know if I was going to cut it as my daughter’s day care provider, even if it was just for half a day at a time (my husband does the mornings). Did we buy the right food? Was I supposed to buy excessive amounts of toilet paper? The car I had borrowed from my parents just before the pandemic broke down — rats had literally moved into the front hood, ate through the wires and left their poop all over. I guess this is what happens when alternate side parking is suspended. It was all so New York City that had it not been a pandemic, it would have been a funny anecdote. Last week, I messed up my husband’s haircut horribly (he’s forgiven me but shaved it all off).
From a business perspective, it was equally unpredictable. I was releasing statements on what we were doing with our in-person experiences frequently because the news was changing so fast and the pandemic was increasing at a pace nobody seemed to have been prepared for. We worked fast and got ahead of the situation. We released our first statement on March 9th and a week later on March 16th, we cancelled our tours and have not reopened for in-person experiences since then. On March 24th, we announced our virtual tours and talks programming which have been more popular than even we imagined. And of course on March 30th, Governor Cuomo announced New York’s PAUSE order.
Our small business has taken a hit with the pause of all in-person experiences, yet we are keenly aware that so many people here in New York City, in America, and around the world are hurting too. No matter how you shake it, the pandemic is touching everybody in some way — often in profound, irreversible ways. So the question remained: how do we help, while also trying to survive the next months?
And so, we decided to offer our virtual experiences for free to new Insiders members for two months using code STAYHOME. So far, nearly 200 people have taken us up on that.
We also have just applied the coupon code to yearly plans, so you can get three months free in total effectively using the discount code. Even if you are already a member, you can get two months free if you upgrade plans. Your membership also includes access to our whole archive of videos of our virtual events, so you can catch up on the events you might have missed. In the events coming up, we have a talk on the past, present, and future of Penn Station, a tour of Riverside Park, a talk on the restoration of Fraunces Tavern, and much more! We’re adding events regularly and have partnered with organizations like The Museum of the City of New York, Village Preservation, Museum at Eldridge Street, and more to host virtual events. We have also produced a podcast series and are running virtual tours for Columbia University.
Our tour guide Jeremy Wilcox, giving a tour of Prospect Park on Zoom for our Insiders
We have many freelance tour guides and museum partners who are hurting too. We have asked attendees to the virtual events to donate directly to the guide or museum giving the experience (if they are able and willing) whether through Venmo, Paypal, or an online link.
This by no means replaces the pay our guides would receive giving tours through us — in normal times, we pay well above the industry standard to attract and retain the best guides. And we can’t sustain the same level of frequency we host events in normal times, where we run some of our most popular tours nearly 7 days a week, multiple times a day. But if you are a tour guide, museum, or non-profit and are up for giving a tour or a talk virtually, please contact us through the form below, or though email at [email protected].
We are also continuing to produce articles every day, mixing in important coronavirus-related news with our usual coverage on New York City’s secrets and hidden places.
In fact, even with fewer people writing, we have managed to increase the daily output of articles slightly. Let’s just say, I’m punching out content and running virtual events like a beast in the five hours a day I can work, with special thanks to this semester’s intern Noah Sheidlower from Columbia University, our Artist in Residence Aaron Asis who has been documenting the city, a couple other active writers and photographers, my team which consists of Justin Rivers (Chief Experience Officer), Augustin Pasquet (CEO), and our team of guides.
All this being said, the state of media in New York and around the country is precarious — we can tell you that advertising budgets globally have been significantly slashed in the pandemic, and that has a direct impact on the value of ads that are running on any website or print publication, along with any direct campaigns that might be forthcoming. Pre-pandemic in the media industry, it was already a losing financial battle in terms of making editorial content pay for itself. And as you have seen, getting the federal loans for small businesses has been punishingly hard for the majority of truly small businesses out there. Please support your favorite media outlets, whatever they may be, and of course, your favorite local businesses.
We are so grateful for the overflowing of orders for our autographed book Secret Brooklyn. It has been fun seeing where all these are going around the country and across the boroughs.
You can continue to get free shipping with code STAYHOME. And if you don’t want to become an Insider member for the virtual events but still want to support Untapped New York in this time, you can donate at this link.
Thank you all for being readers, members, and friendly faces on our virtual events! We look forward to seeing and hearing from you each time. Stay safe and see you on the flip side. We can’t wait to get back out in New York City, whenever that will be.