NYC, Pandemic Edition

This is the fifth and final installment in my Quarantine Chronicles Series. If you’ve missed any, there is still time to catch up!

Yesterday I covered what it was like to live ‘on pause’ in Brooklyn (the governor’s words, not mine) as we came down from the peak. Brooklyn was one thing, but Manhattan was a whole other level, so it gets its own post.

When the pandemic hit, something like 40,000 people fled the island to their summer homes and remote airbnbs. Add that to the removal of college students and tourists from the island, and the city felt totally changed. I had been seeing things on social media about how empty it was. Words like ‘post apocalyptic’ had been tossed around as click bate, so I had to see it for myself. Coincidentally, my first trip into Manhattan ended up being the day my friend was supposed to have her commencement, so we decided to turn it into a graduation photo shoot as well.

First we went to the Flat Iron District. There was one lane traffic on the tunnel into Manhattan and I didn’t have to slow down. I parked next to the Flat Iron Building without having to look for parking. I cannot emphasize enough HOW unusual that is. Especially for a weekend evening in May. Now, oddly enough, it was snowing that day, so our apparel does not match the season.

A very empty Madison Square Park.

From there we headed to Times Square. I found free parking, without circling, within a block. Times Square itself was blocked off so we wandered the streets and people congratulated Liebe on graduating.

On our drive home we drove through a neighborhood I’ve frequented, usually crammed by crowds and traffic. Passing it in a full speed drive gave me shivers. The emptiness made everything more accessible, but also served as a reminder that all was not right in the world.

The following week I hit Manhattan again, this time for a social distancing picnic in Central Park and a walk through lower Manhattan with a friend.

Central Park was full, in a very different way. Usually it is a transient place, with tourists and bike carriages crawling through. This time it was for locals. We all spread out on the lawns and picnicked for hours. Birthday parties. Reunions. A few live musicians. We savored it. It felt like the whole city woke up with nothing to do but go and sit on the lawn.

Following my picnic lunch I went to meet up with a friend from grad school. We roamed lower Manhattan and marveled at the emptiness, amused that all the people and statues have masks now.

The interior of the Oculus

I drove home across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m pretty sure views like this are historic. To live in a time when I need to set my cruise control to not get caught speeding on the cameras in NYC is something else.

What I learned from my Manhattan adventures:

  1. While post apocalyptic is an exaggerated term, Manhattan during this season was NOT normal.
  2. Since indoor dining is still not happening, it is very hard to find a public bathroom. Such a bother.
  3. The ‘new normal’ is already here. Newyorkers, like no where I’ve been this summer, have a mutual agreement of social etiquette. When to mask, how to greet, how close to sit on the train. There seems to be a shared idea of how that looks for this city. I don’t know how long masks and social distancing will be mandated, but I suspect it will be around here, in some form, for a long while.
  4. For this one season, the city was just for locals. I think it’s an important reminder that you should choose well where you live, because you need to be happy if you are stuck there.

We have reached the end of my Quarantine Chronicles Series. Thank you for joining me and making my week more productive. I hope something this week has inspired you- to travel more when you can, to remember the good trips you’ve had, or to be grateful for the ways your summer turned out better than you expected. I think so much of our struggle with COVID is a struggle with the realization that we aren’t in control. In response we often fight to maintain control of the few things that still feel within our grasps. It is very humbling to let go of our plans for the year, even the day, and trust that God is in control, as He promises. Tomorrow I get to break free from my apartment and see how my city has changed in the past 6 weeks. My prayer is that we walk in humility as we navigate this new normal together.


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