New York City in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The spectacle of New York without New Yorkers is the result of a communal pact. We know that life now depends on our withdrawal from the city. (Illustration by João Fazenda)

The New Yorker

The streets of New York City are so desolate now that you half expect tumbleweed to blow along the pavement where cars and cabs once clustered. There is barely a plane in the sky. You hear the wheeze of an empty bus rounding a corner, the flutter of pigeons on a fire escape, the wail of an ambulance. The sirens are unnervingly frequent. But even on these sunny, early-spring days there are few people in sight. For weeks, as the distancing rules of the pandemic took hold, a gifted saxophone player who stakes his corner outside a dress shop on Broadway every morning was still there, playing “My Favorite Things” and “All the Things You Are.” Now he is gone, too.

The spectacle of New York without New Yorkers is the result of a communal pact. We have absented ourselves from the schools and the playgrounds, the ballparks and the bars, the places where we work, because we know that life now depends on our withdrawal from life. The vacancy of our public spaces, though antithetical to the purpose of a great city, which is defined by the constancy and the poetry of its encounters, is needed for its preservation.

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