NEW YORK CITY – Lifestyles forced onto New Yorkers through restrictive coronavirus mandates are "not the way we're supposed to conduct public life in this country," a libertarian economist warned after seeing the Big Apple's lockdowns firsthand.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, New York City took dramatic action to curb the spread of COVID-19. In March 2020, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential businesses to close statewide and had shut down schools. More recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed the first-ever vaccine mandate on all private-sector workers in the city.
"Freedom is what made New York great, and now people just make fun of that," Brownstone Institute President Jeffrey Tucker, referring to public figures who have dismissed or mocked those who opposed vaccine mandates for reasons of personal freedom, told Fox News.
"People were just running through the streets trying to get out," he recalled. "Not because of the virus, but because of the fear lockdowns."
He made another trip months later and said it seemed "like a post-apocalyptic revival was happening." He noticed fewer masks, more open businesses and city-dwellers attempting a return to normalcy.
But more recently, Tucker traveled to New York in early December and was dismayed.
"Being back now since the mandates, it's a complete shock what's happened to the city," he said, noting his initial surprise when he was asked show proof of vaccination at a bar.
"You can't enter into any public building, any bar or restaurant, museum, library, anywhere without flashing the pass," Tucker told Fox News.
Tucker called the requirement, which de Blasio dubbed the "Key to NYC Pass", a "sadistic policy" that felt "degrading" and "un-American." Only a handful of U.S. cities require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter certain indoor businesses.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, New York City has implemented some of the most restrictive coronavirus-related mandates in the country. Earlier this month, de Blasio announced the vaccine mandate, which required all private-sector employees to be at least partially vaccinated by Dec. 27.
"Today [is] a historic day in New York City," he said Monday. "We’re implementing the strongest vaccine mandate in the country, all private-sector employers, today."
"This is what we need to do everywhere," the outgoing mayor added. "Every mayor, every governor, every CEO in America should do vaccine mandates now, because 2022 has to be the year we leave COVID behind."
New York is also one the few cities that requires children five and older to show proof of vaccination to enter many indoor establishments.
Tucker pointed out that the legislature didn't vote on any of these mandates.
"This is not the way we're supposed to conduct public life in this country," he told Fox News. "You've got a kind of extreme segregation that's developing there in the city … and somehow this is just lost on people, what's happening in New York."
"Right now, the crime situation is really a very volatile situation," Tucker said. "But what are the cops doing? They're going from bars to restaurants and enforcing, with very heavy fines, the vaccine passports."
The city has completed nearly 52,000 inspections since the policy started on Sept 13. So far, 31 businesses have been fined $1,000 for violations. Fines can reach as high as $5,000 if a business does not comply with the mandate.
And a video that recently went viral showed New York City police kicking a child and his family out of a restaurant for not having a vaccine card.
"We've lost our minds," Tucker told Fox News.
Omicron cases surged in New York, despite the restrictions and that nearly 81% of the city has received at least one vaccine shot. Amid the break out of the new variant, mask mandates were reinstated and restrictions were tightened.
At least 1,000 New York restaurants have closed since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Eater NY. Additionally, New York state's population declined by 319,020 or 1.6% between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"It's like this machine that's just devouring the city with ever more controls, ever more absurd levels of despotism," Tucker said of the expanding guidelines the political class and health officials have imposed.
"Freedom is the answer to all these problems, including the public health ones, including the virus," he continued. "So, if we're just going to pretend like we can't say that word, they've won. And indeed, it does seem like they have won."
Of the New Yorkers who remain, he said, "my worry is that there's a gradual attempt to sort of acquiesce to the new normal there."
"We have to really decide as a country and as a society what kind of world we want to live in," Tucker told Fox News. "And I don't think this is it."
Teny Sahakian is an Associate Producer/Writer for Fox News. Follow Teny on Twitter at @tenysahakian.