Photos: Revisiting Manhattan’s Pandemic Emptiness, One Year Later

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In Could 2020, Gothamist requested me to make the journey to Manhattan to {photograph} the streets within the midst of the COVID lockdown. “It’s historic,” my editor advised me. “This metropolis has by no means been on this state earlier than.” She was proper.

For the fortunate–the vaccinated and gainfully employed of New York Metropolis–this darkish time is probably going fading additional into reminiscence. The temper is getting brighter, and I can’t actually blame anybody for that, as a result of final Spring was a horrible, traumatizing time. The phrase “surreal” bought used rather a lot, however strolling round Manhattan with its abandoned streets and squares actually did really feel like a visit to some unusual and lethal dimension. I keep in mind the dread that got here together with strolling by means of lengthy empty stretches of Midtown understanding that the virus surge had already turned each native hospital into hell on earth.




"Thank you" graffiti, May 2020.

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“Thanks” graffiti, Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

On their most elementary stage, these footage are gloomy snapshots of a sometimes bustling metropolis with hardly anybody round. In case you confirmed them to somebody who had slept by means of all of 2020, they’d most likely be confused and unsettled by the vacancy. For me, the unpopulated footage remind me of the very human price of the pandemic. Each closed restaurant and retailer meant many roles misplaced. The graffiti thanking nurses meant healthcare staff had been coping with the unthinkable day-after-day. I hope, when New York Metropolis is lastly again, that we don’t simply take a look at the COVID lockdown as a time when every little thing was bizarre, however one when every little thing was improper–and that we make adjustments in order that such a tragedy by no means occurs once more.




Doyers Street in May 2020.

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Doyers Road in Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Doyers Road is often essentially the most photogenic nook in New York with its vibrant neon indicators, dense crowds, and sharp angles. I figured throughout a pandemic lockdown, it will be starkly empty and unhappy. I used to be proper.




Mosco Street, May 2020.

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Mosco Road, Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Mosco Road is one other one in every of Chinatown’s greatest locations to take footage. There’s often a crowd of individuals with dumplings or groceries in hand, and all the time just a few cooks sitting collectively and smoking. Now, these scenes are again, however in Could 2020 the block was abandoned.




Lobby of a Federal Building in Lower Manhattan, May 2020.

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Foyer of a federal constructing, Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

This image is of the foyer of a federal constructing, I believe in Decrease Manhattan. Seeing Trump and Pence’s shiny, smiling faces look out on a metropolis in lockdown whereas a lethal virus tore by means of poor, immigrant, and aged communities felt grimly applicable.




Eataly sign

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Empty Eataly, Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

It was a terrifying time for eating places. Seeing the enormous EATALY signal nonetheless turned on however solely a scattered pile of chairs stacked towards the window made me all of the extra nervous about whether or not the business would ever bounce again. And if it will, which eating places and staff can be left behind.




Workers in hazmat suits, May 2020.

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Staff in hazmat fits, Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Strolling round a wet, emptied-out Manhattan two months right into a lethal pandemic was already making me, in a phrase, edgy. However seeing a group of males in hazmat fits and gasoline masks file into the New York Inventory Change raised the day’s horror film issue to a different stage. This was my first time seeing that form of gear in individual, because the cleaners ready to disinfect the inventory market buying and selling flooring. Now that we all know how a lot wealth CEOs and billionaire traders have amassed throughout this worldwide recession, I suppose there’s a metaphor to all of it.




Empty Times Square, May 2020.

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Desolate Occasions Sq., Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Since final March, Occasions Sq. has been a form of visible bellwether for the state of town’s lockdown. In Could it was virtually empty. Each display screen featured vibrant adverts thanking important staff. And though virtually nobody was round to see these company messages of human resilience towards a public well being catastrophe, I can vouch that McDonald’s, LG, Coca-Cola, and Sunglass Hut had been placing out optimistic vibes in our most determined hour.




"Order online" sidewalk sign

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“Order on-line” sidewalk signal, Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

Though we now know that it’s extraordinarily unlikely you’ll catch COVID outdoor, Could 2020 was a very totally different time. The outdated adage “In case your footage aren’t ok, you’re not shut sufficient” went out the window as I did my greatest to stay away from different folks, even on open sidewalks like this one.




A nearly empty Grand Central, May 2020.

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An almost empty Grand Central, Could 2020.

Scott Heins / Gothamist

I actually by no means thought I might see Grand Central Terminal like this.

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