As can be expected, New Yorkers are a resilient bunch, and so with masks at hand, there were plenty of them jogging, walking, biking and skating who like myself are trying to figure out what is the new normal. I was able to walk the area taking photos of the main strip where the popular TKTS discount booth and red steps are now closed off with only the presence of a security guard. There were two street performers, a saxophone player whose melancholy music made the place a bit more eerie. The other was the infamous New York City “Trumpy, naked cowboy performer” in his white underwear and cowboy boots, hat, and guitar trying to make a buck showing off a rather nice physique.
In April 2020, after 30 days of being quarantined, I was no longer able to resist my curiosity to stroll though NYC’s main attractions to see for myself the desolation of such a powerful city. A 35-minute ride into the city’s main artery —Time Square, where huge colorful LEDs billboards reign and theater dominates, one can immediately see the desolation of a city known for its vibrancy and originality. It’s frightening to experience the power of a pesky contagion capable of bringing this city to its knees while harboring a sense of uncertainty of what to expect next.
So what exactly was happening in Time Square? Well, for one thing, parking on Broadway was no longer impossible. Gone are the street vendors and street performers, and much of the noise that comes with traffic congestion. The streets are deserted compounded by the enormity of vacant storefronts, of which many may never open again. The area’s homeless are still there, yet a bit more aggressive in accosting pedestrians with fewer empathetic folks willing or able to give. What hasn’t changed is the abundance of neon lights and digital billboards reminding you of the best theater entertainment in the world, with some of them now flashing the gospel of social distancing.
After a while, the need to use a bathroom became a challenge. I walked over to the Port Authority bus station to no avail and decided it may be time to go home when I spotted a CVS pharmacy that saved the day. I decided to drive up to the World Trade Center to experience that part of the city. Unlike Time Square, this area contains a more residential life, rebuilt since the 9/11 crisis. There were way more folks outside, going about their lives with their masks making the most of the weather while trying their best to do social distancing. The 9/11 Memorial was closed, and the water fountain shut off, yet you can still read from afar the names of those who perished as well as find an occasional flower left by a loved one. The irony of this is that today more New Yorkers have perished under this new invisible crisis than any other crisis in the US.
As the day was winding down close to 2:30 PM, it was time to head home, and take with me both my memories and photos of what will become the beginning of an all-mighty powerful city slowly coming back….leading the way for other US cities to do the same and do it right.