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On March 11, my son Joe arrived from the UK to NYC. We had plans to go on a trip to Mexico, but there were other forces that were getting in the way.
On the subway that day, the strangest thing that I noticed was two people reading books. Isn’t it freaky that they are reading without masks? Who knew…?
I picked Joe up from JFK, and by the time we’d dumped his bags and got to the bar, the world had changed.
We toasted that he’d managed to get to New York to see me before the travel ban, with a bottle (or two) of Corona.
The next day, Broadway closed. W42ST suspended printing of the magazine — and we launched a daily newsletter. Oh, and New York went on pause. We took a trip to Domus and got some supplies for lockdown gaming.
We met friends at ‘Ritas for a pre-lockdown cocktail. The last time that I got to sit at a bar.
And then the world really did change. Joe went home early to the UK — there was such a fear of a global lockdown. On the way to the airport, we drove by Film Forum downtown and saw this sign “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Great FDR quote, but was it so temporary?
The signs kept on coming. John Dempsey flooded his 9th Avenue bars with inspiration. First “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” via @ScottSobol
and Albert Einstein (via @the_stephaniesellers)
When I cycled around the neighborhood on Saturday, March 21, the lines had started to form — with the first signs of social distancing — at Whole Foods at Columbus Circle.
PPE was gloves or the occasional mask worn on a head or under a chin. Here’s Pete from Sacco Pizza on 9th Avenue.
Felix at American Home Hardware on 9th Avenue had started to work behind his shutters.
Clinton Community Garden was in full blossom and open (remember that!?).
Over at Lansdowne Road, before Pat Hughes handed the keys back to the landlord, he was blasting out (and sharing the lyrics) of “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley… “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be all right…”
The city came to a standstill. @nyornothing recorded rush hour traffic (or lack of it) on the West Side Highway.
Charlie Marshall converted his wood-fired oven to pizza making and fed our neighbors with great value (and delicious) gourmet pies. W42ST readers, Chris and Lora became regulars, on our recommendation.
Bored locals found ways to stay imaginative. @cuttingedgejo flew a kite from her apartment to pass the time.
By the end of March, spring had sprung in De Witt Clinton Park (photo @ceraorsarah)
And Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery had started to produce his $5 Community Loaf to feed the neighbors.
On March 30, the city was uplifted by the sight of USNS Comfort coming up the Hudson River to dock in Hell’s Kitchen (photo Chris Welty)
The city was in a serious mode and dealing with the crisis. This picture from Lynnette Blanche summed up that we were on alert!
Mornings were spent waiting for Governor Andrew Cuomo to share the numbers and update. It’s so easy to forget the tension of that time.
Then every night at 7pm we cheered (and banged pots and pans) to thank the essential workers. Local businesses, like Bird & Branch, found ways to say thanks with food and coffee.
Things were serious, and our neighbors sent messages to stay home… and our discovery of masks began. Thanks @paigeturner.
But there was still a humor…
We interviewed Hell’s Kitchen ER doctor Vino Palli from MiDoctor Urgent care. He gave recommendations and shared his frontline story.
The fight continued on the street. In early April, Pat Hughes boarded up Hellcat Annie’s with a defiant message. “F.U. VIRUS” and “WE WILL BE BACK!”
In mid-April we worked at raising spirits with video messages. Nobody did it better than editor, Ruth Walker.
In the last weeks of April, businesses started to open again, and Carolina and the crew at House of Brews exemplified the spirit of making the most of a difficult time.
And on the last day of April, USNS Comfort steamed away from the city. That was a relief.
We reported in May on how a sticker of Lady Liberty in Hell’s Kitchen had gone viral around the world. We interviewed artist RAD.
In mid-May, Ruth wrote about the possibility of a New York exodus. The story caught the imagination of those who love the city and it reached 1 million people on Facebook.
We started to talk to photographers who had recorded the changes in the city during the pandemic. Gary Hershorn gave us hope with his Manhattan rainbow.
At the end of May, the world changed again. The murder of George Floyd by police triggered protests and an opportunity for change. On Saturday, May 30, I witnessed on 51st and 9th Avenue locals gathering for “to-go” drinks and then on 47th and Broadway NYPD calling “unlawful assembly” on the first #blacklivestmatter protestors.
The city responded to this with a mixture of empathy (in Times Square) and boarding up.
The boarding up was not just in the fancy parts of town. The bodegas in Hell’s Kitchen joined in too (Photo Tom Fervoy).
Mid way through the pandemic, we featured the images of Hell’s Kitchen photojournalist, Jeenah Moon.
Early June, it was time to get back on the Subway. There was some trepidation.
We were sad when The Artist Co-op closed. W42ST’s work home for the last couple of years had gone. It was a creative hub and a source of diversity that had fed the progress of our business.
I cycled around New York in search of David Byrne’s bike racks. A road to nowhere, but an enjoyable discovery of art mixed with folly.
Around this time, we also started to bring our readers more news, including monitoring the press conferences of Mayor de Blasio.
Pride was subdued, but just as we thought it was passing by without spectacle, we got a rainbow. Thx Max Von Essen!
By early July, the innovation of local businesses had kicked in. Outdoor dining was coming. Here’s Jasper’s laying the foundations for their new normal.
And Hell’s Kitchen took on a European manner to welcome customers.
Big business struggled. Hudson Yards lost Neiman Marcus as its anchor retail tenant.
We reported on the “homeless issue” in Hell’s Kitchen from every point of view we could find. The most intriguing was from Sal Salomon, who had exited the shelter.
In the middle of August, we took a step back in time to discover Druids Bar through the sketchpad of artist Lee Romero and memories of bar owner Michael Younge.
Governor Cuomo went back to being a frustrating politician and the rules on how businesses could run and what they could do continue to confuse.
Throughout August we saw a wave of business closures. Jerry Melo from Friendly Jerrry’s Hot Dogs on 10th Avenue did a video farewell.
Then King Nyani, a 5,000lb gorilla, moved into the neighborhood. He brought joy (and selfie opportunities). Thanks to the crew at Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance and artists Gillie and Marc.
We survived the summer storms. Thanks, Katie Finzi for this dramatic capture.
Catie Savage, the Hell’s Kitchen Trash Queen, continues to gather resources and volunteers to tidy up the blocks at weekends.
The sunsets just got better on the Hudson River and some discovered the delights of SUP yoga.
At the start of September, we had the chance to bring some happiness to struggling local businesses as we finally awarded the W42ST Best of Awards. The screams of delight from Luisa at Domus were memorable.
And the surprise for Erol at Kahve was delightful.
We finish the 6 months of the pandemic back in print. W42ST has produced a small map with our Hell’s Kitchen HOT 100 places for food, drink, and shopping.
Wow… These 6 months have been quite a ride. How have yours been? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.