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Photo Essay: New York Empties Amid COVID-19

In New York City, photographer Kit Castagne captures the empty streets as COVID-19 takes it's toll on the city.

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A woman sits in the ridges of the usually bustling Oculus, a shopping mall located across from the temporarily closed World Trade Center memorial site.

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As seen from inside The Oculus, the same woman rests against her bags and blankets.

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A cyclist crosses an empty 10th Avenue in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Devoid of traffic, those few cyclists and pedestrians still outside often spill into the empty roadways, no longer confined to sidewalks and bike lanes.

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A homeless woman sits outside the closed down Nike store on 5th Avenue. With the usual crowds of shoppers, commuters and tourists gone, Manhattan’s homeless population has grown more visible than ever in the wake of COVID-19.

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Across the city, parks and public spaces are an escape for those confined to small apartments, but many remain closed due public health concerns.

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Only a select few of The Oculus shopping mall’s stores remain open. The usual throngs of shoppers have been reduced to a sparse few PATH train passengers and passers-by.

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Usually bumper to bumper with taxis, Grand Central Terminal’s Park Avenue bridge sits empty.

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In stark contrast to Grand Central’s routinely ceaseless crowds of tourists and commuters, the station is all but empty, while its shops, stalls, and restaurants all stand shuttered.

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With no tourists around to drive trade, a souvenir shop near Times Square closes down and boards up.

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A woman walks across the Oculus’ empty atrium.

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Chairs stacked in the window of Panchito’s, a Mexican restaurant in the West Village which had to close its doors in response to the city’s order banning dining in restaurants.

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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.

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A worker at a Midtown florist disinfects the company’s delivery van.

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The day before restaurants switched to take-out and delivery only, a couple sits down to eat at Little Italy Pizza in Midtown.

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Unable to seat customers, a worker in Manhattan’s Extra Virgin makes repairs to the upholstery of the restaurant's seating.

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Joan, a West Village resident sits outside her building waiting for her neighbor to help take her shopping. She said anywhere would be better than Manhattan during a pandemic, but that she is here now, and doesn't know where else she would go. She has relatives upstate, but the journey to them seems too arduous. She said she's been in New York a long time, and that New York is where she will stay.

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The owner of H&H Kim corporation stands outside her SoHo grocery store. Across manhattan, shopkeepers spend a great deal of time waiting in empty stores. Upon the eventual arrival of customers some show relief, glad to have the business. Others are clearly nervous about the risk of infection. Most show an anxious mix of the two.

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At a farmer’s market in Union Square, crowds still gather despite social distancing directives. Shoppers and workers alike do their best to carry on as normal, but with a tangible sense of fear and heightened nerves.

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A father teaches his children to ride their bikes at an unusually empty athletic court in the West Village.

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The standard life of a cyclist on the Brooklyn Bridge is crawling at a snail’s pace, dodging and weaving between tourists stood shoulder to shoulder. With foot traffic all but gone, cyclists travel the length of the bridge like a bicycle freeway.

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In a city of tiny apartments, the closing of gyms brings has left public spaces the only viable places for many to exercise.

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With no cars on the streets of SoHo, a father plays frisbee with his daughters in the middle of the cobblestone road.

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A woman sits in a sparsely populated Washington Square Park.

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A security worker sits behind protective glass at the D.E.A building in the now empty Meatpacking District.

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At the Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill, the line for entry stretches around the block with shoppers spaced at six foot intervals.

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Across from St. Vincent’s Hospital, delivery workers sort through the packages destined for the surrounding buildings.

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A delivery cyclist with his e-bike takes a break in the West Village.

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Prior to New York State’s moratorium on non-essential construction, a worker monitors a building site just south of Central Park.

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A homeless man rests on a bench in Times Square.

Kit Castagne is a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Brooklyn. Before relocating to New York, he called Boston home for seven years, where he documented the lives of independent musicians in the city’s underground music scene. When the early stages of the Coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of concerts and tours across the country, Kit shifted his attention to documenting the effects of the virus as it took hold in New York City. Kit’s work has been published in a number of outlets including Vogue and The New York Times.

All photos are courtesy Kit Castagne.