NYC’s endless pandemic summer is terrifying but unforgettable

New York City has begun its official reopening process after the coronavirus lockdown — but the boroughs’ businesses and souls have been stirring on separate schedules.

This is a moment worth remembering: The heavy weight of fear is lifting. The eerie silence which defined the first months of quarantine has been replaced by fireworks and the familiar summer soundtrack of ice cream trucks jingling, open hydrants splashing and car speakers blasting, then fading as the light turns green.

There is still a tension that wasn’t here before. When I walk down Broadway in Bushwick, everyone but dogs and children respect each other’s personal space in a definitely un-New York way. “Damn baby, you’re worth my whole stimulus check,” two men have now called at me, but neither attempted to get closer.

The virus continues to dictate the boundaries of acceptable fun, but New Yorkers have found plenty of ways to enjoy the heat while respecting our mortality — and without any clear directive from our authority figures. Even a NYC summer wiped clean of every party and parade still makes the rest of the world look like it’s in full-time lockdown.

Death is still in the air, but it’s tempered by the hope that our darkest days are behind us and an inability to keep processing so much tragedy. The crime rate, apparently, has gone through the roof, but the lingering sense of trepidation in NYC is clearly directed at possibly infected breath, not bullets.

Distancing remains easy enough — there are still no tourists, and hardly any commuters or college kids. While many have returned in recent weeks, more haven’t. Others are here but have hardly left their apartments in months.

For those of us going outside, trying to siphon a sense of normalcy from the season, it is clear that warm weather and fatigue have broken the levees of quarantine’s claustrophobic spell. The indoors feel unsafe, so we congregate at stoops, yards, roofs, parks, fire escapes and in the street. This makes all our plans beholden to the weather, which is not cooperating, and has recently been hot, sticky and full of sudden sun showers.

Brooklynites used to loudly complain when Macy’s held its 4th of July display in the Hudson instead of the East River; now fireworks are omnipresent. Open container is functionally “legal.”


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