Jul 23, 2021

Axios AM

Happy Friday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,434 words ... 5½ minutes. Edited by Zachary Basu.

1 big thing: Big cities roar back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York, San Francisco and L.A. are coming back strong after the pandemic, solidifying their economic dominance for the future, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: As the pandemic emptied downtowns and normalized telework, experts speculated that it would loosen superstar coastal cities' grip on the economy.

🏡 Actually, home sales are at their highest level in over a decade in Manhattan. San Francisco's market remains hot, with homes consistently selling above asking price.

  • Yes, Americans moved during the pandemic. But the vast majority of those moves were within metro areas, so the economic might of the big cities remains relatively unchanged.
  • "The pandemic just stretched the bounds of metro areas," says Richard Florida, an urbanist at the University of Toronto.

🚚 Of the 1.4 million moves out of the New York metro area in 2020, just 37,000 of them were to the heartland or Mountain states, Brookings found in an analysis of Postal Service address change requests,

  • Of 1.1 million moves out of Los Angeles, just 72,000 were to the middle of the country. Of 500,000 out of the Bay Area, 27,000 were to the heartland.

🍽️ Restaurant traffic is roaring back in the top cities:

  • Bay Area restaurant traffic has jumped by 192% since the start of 2021, leading major cities, according to data from the marketing software and analytics firm Zenreach.
  • Also dominant are Los Angeles (161% increase), New York (132%), Chicago (131%) and Boston (123%).

⚠️ Two metrics tell a different story:

  1. Unemployment is high in superstar cities. About 13% of America's unemployed people are concentrated in New York, L.A. and Chicago, three cities that together only account for 4.6% of the nation's population. That's mostly due to the huge hit retail and food service jobs took in the big metros.
  2. Office vacancy rates are also high. Vacancy rates in previously busy business districts in New York and San Francisco have hit all-time highs of over 20% and are well above national averages.

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2. What it's like to hail an air taxi

The Brooklyn Bridge (center) and Manhattan Bridge (left), as seen from a Blade helicopter. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Axios transportation correspondent Joann Muller tried out Blade Urban Air Mobility's helicopter service from Manhattan to JFK Airport.

  • The trip — five minutes in the air, and 20 minutes total to the curb at her terminal — cost $195.
  • That compares to 1 hour, 13 minutes it would have taken midday in an Uber, which quoted a fare of $111 (or $142 for an Uber Black car).

Here's Joann's tale:

On the Blade app, I typed in what time I wanted to arrive at the airport, and the app scheduled my seat.

  • The Blade West lounge is in a trailer next to the Hudson River at 30th Street and 12th Avenue.
  • When it was time to board, the Blade staff escorted me and another passenger to the whirring chopper, where we buckled into our leather seats, put on headsets and took off.
  • We headed south over the Hudson, around the tip of Manhattan, and then flew over Brooklyn to Queens, where we landed at the Sheltair general aviation facility at JFK.
  • I was escorted off the helicopter to a waiting Cadillac Escalade, where the driver already had my flight information and took me straight to my terminal.

What's next: Electric flying taxis will soon zip over choked highways, ferrying you among a network of "vertiports" around the city.

3. Inside the opening ceremony

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

The Olympics opening ceremony (7 a.m. ET, live on NBC) feels more like a dress rehearsal than the real thing, Axios' Ina Fried writes from Tokyo.

  • At the stadium entrance, curious Japanese citizens peer through a metal fence to get a glimpse of those allowed inside. Members of the media peer out, equally curious, with many getting their closest look yet at the general public.

International media are barred from using public transit, visiting restaurants and shops, or even interviewing members of the public.

  • Japanese people not only can't go to Olympic events, but have been discouraged from public gatherings in general and urged to stay home and watch the Games on TV, much like the rest of the world.
Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Inside the stadium, reporters, photographers and broadcasters largely have the place to themselves, occupying spaces on the first and fourth floors.

  • Around 1,000 others are expected, including first lady Jill Biden.
  • The Olympic venues, many built at great expense, still bear signs for the spectators they were expected to house.
  • Most concession stands remain shuttered. A few offer Bento boxes and instant ramen.

Keep reading.

First lady Jill Biden meets Japan Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace today. Photo: Cabinet Secretariat via Reuters

Go deeper ... First lady Jill Biden in a "Dear Olympians" letter to Team USA: "Your journey to Tokyo likely started at a young age, the first time you picked up a ball or jumped in the water."

4. Olympics unite U.S.
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Data: Momentive. Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Americans, who split on nearly everything, will still rally around Team USA in the Summer Games that open today, an Axios/Momentive poll shows.

  • But we're sharply divided over whether athletes should use the Olympic stage to protest. Young adults are more likely than older adults to approve of protests, and less likely to feel pride in the U.S. flag, Axios World editor Dave Lawler writes.

The race for medals could take on a Cold War flavor, with a large number of Americans rooting against China.

  • "Even if Americans view the Olympics as a sports event above all else, they have undoubtedly internalized some of the geopolitical drama of recent years," said Laura Wronski of Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey).

We asked 5,169 U.S. adults what they expect to feel when they see the Stars and Stripes fluttering in Tokyo, whether it matters if the U.S. wins the most medals, and which countries they'll root for or against.

  • Americans are evenly split over social-justice protests. But there’s a vast partisan divide: 79% of Republicans disapprove while 77% of Democrats approve.
  • Black (72%) and Hispanic (59%) respondents were also far more likely to approve than white respondents (40%).

Nearly one in four Americans (23%) say they'll be rooting against athletes from China.

  • There's a pretty big partisan split: 34% of Republicans will be rooting against them, compared to 16% of Democrats.
  • Republicans are also far more likely than Democrats to root against athletes from Iran (34% vs. 14%), and somewhat more likely to root against Russian athletes (29% vs. 20%).

Americans are more likely to be cheering for neighbors and allies like Canada (39% for, 8% against), Mexico (30% for, 10% against), the U.K. (35% for, 8% against) and the hosts, Japan (27% for, 11% against).

5. Social powerhouses cash in as America reopens

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Snapchat and Twitter both reported record revenue growth for the second quarter yesterday, thanks to a booming ad market, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: High user growth also suggests that people will continue to rely on social media as the pandemic shifts daily habits.

Snapchat reported its highest revenue and user growth numbers since 2018. Twitter's revenue grew 74% year-over-year for the quarter, its highest year-over-year growth period in seven years.

  • Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said more than 200 million users now engage with augmented reality on the platform each day.

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6. 🗳️ 2024 watch: DeSantis raises heavily out of state

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Almost half of the money to re-elect Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is coming from outside the state, with more people donating from outside Florida than in, Selene San Felice writes in Axios Tampa Bay.

  • The Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC has more than $44.5 million on hand. 47% of the PAC's donations this year — $17 million of $36.7 million — came from 6,929 out-of-state donors.

Why it matters: It's gasoline on the fire of a possible presidential run.

7. New Mexico dispatch: America's Communion crisis

President Biden leaves St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington on June 19, the day after U.S. bishops challenged him over support for abortion rights. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A New Mexico Democrat denied Communion over his vote to advance abortion protections told Axios' Russell Contreras he won't be bullied, and looks forward to receiving Communion with President Biden one day.

  • Why it matters: The example set by State Sen. Joseph Cervantes comes as blue states move to protect abortion rights should the conservative Supreme Court overturn or erode Roe v. Wade.

Cervantes said other parishes and another diocese in New Mexico have offered to give him Communion, highlighting the split in the U.S.

  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops clarified last month there will be "no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians," following threats that Catholic public figures, including President Biden, could be denied Communion.

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8. 1 smile to go: What about me?

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

D'oh! Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) raised her hand yesterday when President Biden ran out of souvenir pens while signing the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021.

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