Skip to content

Community News

Apr 06, 2020

Photo Essay: New York City Empties Amid COVID-19

Kit BSA Essay Web Size 012

The owner of Cafe Reggio, an Italian cafe in the West Village, describes his business’ struggles in transitioning to take-out only. He remarked that he had only served "seven ninety's" worth of food that day. He then clarified that he meant $7.90, not $790.

All images courtesy Kit Castagne.

New York is a changed place in the wake of COVID-19

Preventative measures have altered the landscape of the city and upended the lives of its residents. Streets and landmarks used to tinned sardine crowds are emptied out by social distancing orders, while traffic has all but disappeared. Once bustling businesses are forced to adapt to new practices, or to shut down entirely, while essential service workers carry on at great personal risk. Those with homes have sheltered in them, while those without are left visibly on the streets.

In normal times, walking through Manhattan is a barrage of sensory stimulation. One’s eyes and ears constantly dart around, rarely settling in one place for long. Now among the eerie calm of empty streets, attention lingers on details that would otherwise be forgotten in the crowds.

The amount of space taken up by cars becomes apparent when one can walk freely in the road. People muttering to themselves and sitting on street corners stand out absent commuters and tourists to distract from them. When the sidewalks are empty, it becomes clear how much life in New York City requires the surrender of personal space.

Amongst the chaos and societal upheaval brought on by the Coronavirus, there has also emerged the chance to examine a fundamentally different view of dense urban life—a surreal glimpse at what happens when a city stays home.

View the full photo essay here.

All photos are courtesy Kit Castagne.