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A (Socially Distanced) Bike Ride Around Lower Manhattan

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 15, 2020 21:16

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We hear that more and more businesses and institutions are opening up in New York City, but my bike ride this morning showed me a too-quiet Manhattan.

I'm still not back at my part-time job, so my schedule is often flexible. This morning I decided, almost spur of the moment, to bike around Manhattan and see what's up. Would it be livelier today? Would more people be walking and scooting around, eating outside, toting shopping bags?

When I got on the B train with my bicycle, I wondered about which train station to get off. I knew I wanted a station with elevators (not all have them). Briefly, I thought of traveling to Central Park but then chose West Fourth Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village.

As I began my ride along Sixth Avenue, soon heading east, I noticed many businesses closed, some perhaps for good. I remember walking throughout "the Village" as a teen and young adult, admiring all the shops, clubs and eateries. Now it was so quiet, with wooden planks covering many windows, For Rent signs in several windows.

I biked over to Broadway, then turned right on Houston Street because I'd heard that there were some new and new-ish murals on some streets. I found a few, and even more on the Bowery. Many incorporated contemporary themes into their designs. 

I saw that a few small art galleries are now open, but the New Museum is still closed, even though a worker was washing the front windows.

Continuing onto Canal Street, the main artery in Chinatown, I finally saw a lot of people, businesses busy, vehicular and foot traffic swelling. I almost recognized "my" Manhattan.

I turned south on Lafayette Street and heard the unmistakable menacing sound of helicopters. What was going on? I biked further south and as I approached City Hall Park on Broadway, I saw metal barriers and lots of police officers. I asked one what was going on and he said "There's a protest." But that's become so common now, and I was wondering who and why and what cause was being promoted.

One way in which I did benefit by this protest was that no vehicles were running along a significant portion of Broadway, and no one stopped me from biking in the middle of the street. As with many other New Yorkers, biking or walking in the middle of the street is one of those silly treats we indulge in occasionally. I biked past a gospel choir singing on a flatbed truck, a few dozen motorcycles and a mix of signs. Apparently this was a Support the Police rally. There seemed to be about 100 or so people. 

I continued biking further south, where the Wall Street-Financial District was eerily quiet. I'm so used to seeing it teeming with people on weekdays, but few were around.

Soon I ended up at the Vietnam Veterans Plaza, one of the most moving monuments I've encountered. It includes soldiers' letters etched into glass, I reread many of the letters I've seen on previous visits. 

Soon my bike and I were on a train, reflecting on quiet Manhattan.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 15, 2020 21:16

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