Return to New York City

There are surprises in pandemic NYC.

We booked a nice hotel down in the Financial District. The idea was that it might be safer so far downtown, without any crowds. We brought the dog. There’d be more mini parks, as well as the long length of Bowling Green’s lawns, for Berry to relieve herself.

We wanted to check in on a few people we knew. We wanted to approximate a summer getaway. We were curious. We were nostalgic.

It turns out we could have stayed most anywhere, given the dearth of tourists anywhere. Pretty much everyone is wearing a mask on the street. There’s parking everywhere. The outdoor seating restaurants have set up out into the street lends much of the city a festive European air.


Strange inconveniences pop up. Those mini-parks, churchyards, and green spaces that corporations were once forced to open for the public have been fenced off, with guards. The financial district is chock-a-block with NYPD officers. Those areas that seem younger and livelier also get more drunks as night falls. People start to forget their masks. Some even embrace.

The beaches on Staten Island were less crowded than we expected. The Chinatowns in Manhattan, Flushing and Sunset Park were spotty with people. Central Park was safely distanced as small pods clustered in the shade and dogs ran free. But there were no model boats being floated, and Alice had no kids climbing her. The fountains at the Unisphere were off.

Our president’s gilded palaces were surrounded by militarized protection. The BLM on the street in front of his namesake tower was one-lane only. Gawkers were kept to the other side of the block. City Hall Park was empty except for a few police reading their cell phones.

Yet it was a fun getaway. New York’s always had survival pride. Our son got a sense of how things fit together, between the boroughs and up and down Manhattan’s jigsaw puzzle of neighborhoods. My wife got to observe how I was talking like an old geezer, remembering how different things were back whenever.

The dog? She loved being with us at restaurants where she could smell food and watch a parade of other dogs. Loved the parks, the various smells, and jumping bed to bed in our hotel. Watched galumphing seals through a fence at the Central Park Zoo.

I’m ready for home again. But I’m also ready to visit other cities, albeit ones on our side of this new recovery divide. I think we’re inching towards better.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.