As NYC Awakens, Navigating A Strange New NormalHistorians in the News
tags: New York, urban history, COVID-19
New Yorkers, more than in any other place in America, have always accepted as given a cheek-by-jowl existence, treating the streets and subways and parks, their favorite restaurants and bars, the physical geography of the city all as extensions of their own personal space.
“New York City is a different style of life ... of density, of vitality, of 24/7, of no cultural agreement of when we should take a vacation or eat lunch,” says Kenneth T. Jackson, recently retired Columbia University history professor and editor of “The Encyclopedia of New York City.”
“It’s everybody’s second home,” he says. “You can come to New York and find your group. You can’t really say that anywhere else.”
But that was before these last couple of difficult months, when the city immortalized in song and scene as the never-ending hustle and flow of humanity was swapped out for the virus version, of staying near home and social distancing regulations.
The streets have started to wake up in recent weeks. And as recent days of thousands upon thousands of people turning out for anti-police brutality protests have shown, passion for this place, this community, runs deep.
But even that bit of New York spirit carries a risk of an increase in coronavirus cases, as does the mere act of re-opening in itself, as slow a process as that is. The threat of illness and death has abated — for now — thanks to our doing that most un-New York thing of staying away from each other.
The shadow it cast remains, though, as do rules of separation and distance that make the New York City of even three months ago a peripheral vision at best.
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