One year ago, New York became the center of the COVID pandemic — and under lockdown, the city recognized essential workers with clapping, cheering, and the banging of pots and pans at 7pm each evening.
At Manhattan Plaza, actor Jeffrey Thompson was celebrating his 68th Birthday on March 21, 2020, when he decided to gather neighbors on the outdoor basketball court to “express our gratitude for people who are putting their lives at risk for us.” Tonight (Sunday), he celebrated his 69th birthday — and was praised for keeping the community clapping and banging every day in this past year.
“Thank you for paying tribute to those folks who are on the front lines. Those individuals who risk their lives, those people who put their family’s lives at risk to make certain that the rest of us are safe and secure during this pandemic,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman when presenting an official citation to Thompson. “I recognize that in Jeffrey Thompson we have a ‘Community Member Extraordinaire’. We have an outstanding citizen.”
Bob Nasbaum, one of the original Manhattan Plaza 7pm tribute crowd, said: “We’ve not missed a day in one year. When others around the city and the world quit, we kept coming out with our cowbells and maracas. We’ve all lost friends and neighbors and we remember them. This has been the worst year of our lives, but the five minutes a day that I come out here is truly the best five minutes of my day.”
The basketball court nestles between the two towers that make up Manhattan Plaza complex which takes up a city block between W42nd and W43rd Streets and 9/10th Avenue. The complex is the Hell’s Kitchen home to over 3,000 people, with around 75% of those being performing artists. Former residents have included Alicia Keys, Larry David, Christian Slater and Angela Lansbury.
Aleta Lafargue, President of Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association, said that she was proud of the residents who had displayed “unwavering dedication at a time of unprecedented challenges in our community”, while singling out the work of Thompson with a Proclamation.
“With a building full of performers, it’s expected that the 7pm performance will continue its run for a while longer. Many of our residents are now vaccinated — but they realize the show’s not over until the curtain finally comes down on COVID for all New Yorkers,” said Lafargue.