It’s been quite a while since I’ve gone out riding on my bicycle. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we basically resolved to stay home as much as possible, like most people did, I imagine. After a few months, we managed to get an indoor stationary bicycle, but it just isn’t the same experience as going out and riding around other people.
Yesterday, I literally knocked the dust off of my bicycle, pulled the bike rack out of the trunk of our SUV, and went down to Central Park. My wife went with me, but she’s more of a jogger than a cyclist, and she wanted to go for a run. She’s got a few marathons under her belt, which is pretty cool, so she ran and I rode, and we met up later to get take out for dinner.
Riding around the park, I saw that there were people everywhere. It’s still not as crowded as it used to be, mostly I think because there aren’t as many tourists around. But, there were a lot of joggers, casual and serious cyclists, walkers, sunbathers, and sight seers.
When I was done with my ride, I spent some time by Bethesda Fountain. There was a woman giving an opera performance in the covered area below the roadway. By the fountain there was a public dance class. There were artists painting pictures of the scenery and some painting pictures of people for money.
It was really nice to see the city coming back to life again. Central Park was really depressing during the pandemic the few times we went because it was so empty. It felt dead. I didn’t even mind the smell of the horses as I rode around the southern loop of West Dr. and Center Dr.
You look at what Governor Cuomo is saying, and especially Mayor De Blasio, and you’d think that death is literally stalking the streets, as if it would be like this if you went outside:
But instead, it’s almost like nothing is going on at all. I think people are mostly not traveling out of their neighborhoods if they can, especially on the trains, but people are out on the streets in force, especially now that it’s the weekend.
Heading downtown yesterday to 86th Street, the train actually felt crowded for 1:30 PM. On the way home, the platform was mostly empty, but the uptown 4 was standing room only when it arrived. It definitely wasn’t as crowded as it normally is at 2:50 PM, but it was still shoulder-to-shoulder.
I think this says a lot about neighborhoods and socio-economics in New York City. People from the Bronx have to take the trains because most people from the Bronx don’t have jobs that they can do from home. You don’t see a lot of people getting on the train at 86th Street because most of the people that live in that area are able to stay home and/or work from home.
Proving the point, the train heading out of the Bronx this afternoon (Saturday) was almost empty.
86th Street and Central Park are are both packed, though. My wife couldn’t believe how many people are out. She said it looks like a regular weekend, as if nothing is going on.
You’d think most people would be at home or at least keeping their distance from each other, but they’re all bunched up in crowds.
I look at these people and think to myself, they’re out there huffing and puffing and blasting viruses into the air and then the next person is going to run through that. I read that coronavirus can hang around in the air for 3 hours, so if you’re running behind someone carrying the virus, you’re probably screwed, especially if there’s no breeze, but you won’t know it for about two weeks and in the meantime you’ll be infecting everyone you know and come in contact with.
Anyway, based on what Cuomo was saying today, everything except essential services will be shut down as of 8 PM Sunday night. I wonder if that means restaurants too? No more take-out? No more delivery? No more runs to the liquor store?
I wonder if that will push more people into panic buying at grocery stores today and tomorrow? And if more people will be congregating in parks afterwards?
A little history of Central Park…
Anyway, this situation with Central Park reminds me of when and why the park was originally built. In 1850, wealthy merchants and landowners argued that they needed somewhere to go for scenic carriage rides in the city. Another argument they presented to justify the expense of creating the park was that it would give working class people a healthy alternative to going to the saloons and hanging around in the streets.
Before Central Park was built, people just had nowhere to go besides their ratty tenements, the streets, or the bars. Battery Park didn’t exist at the time. Neither did the paths along the rivers. Those were all shipping docks and commercial areas, or simply didn’t exist because the land reclamation hadn’t been done yet.
Central Park probably didn’t work out that well for working class people back in the day because working class people wouldn’t have been able to afford the transit cost to get to there. Travel was harder and more expensive compared to wages at the time.
Everything is getting shut down
Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, people have nowhere to go because the “saloons” and other restaurants are closed so they’re finally gathering in Central Park and probably other parks across the city. After Sunday, even more businesses are going to be closed so that’s even more people with time on their hands and maybe heading to the park. I imagine it won’t be too much longer before Central Park is closed too.
We started out with gatherings limited to 500, then 50, then 10, and now you can’t even have a 5 person game of basketball according to Cuomo. De Blasio is calling for the military to be brought in. It looks like they’re pushing for martial law and De Blasio has been fighting to restrict people to their homes since last week.
I get that COVID-19 is serious, but it seems like the response they’re demanding is exaggerated. With about 45,000 tests done, New York City has found about 6,200 people that already have the virus. That doesn’t really tell us much about how rapidly the virus is spreading in the city because the testing is still trying to catch up to the actual number of people that are already infected. But let’s say there are 10,000 cases in New York City. That’s about 0.12% of the city’s population of ~8.4 million.
I suppose they’re trying to prevent New York from winding up like Italy, but if the bar is so low, I wonder what’s going to count in terms of successfully overcoming the current situation. What I mean is, how few people have to have the virus before we can all get back to our regular lives?
And, more importantly, how are the state and federal governments going to overcome the economic hurdle they’re creating?
De Blasio, Cuomo, and the Federal Government need to figure out what they’re going to do when this situation drags on for weeks and months. People really aren’t going to be able to pay their bills. Putting a moratorium on evictions/utility cutoffs/etc. doesn’t even help, because once the moratorium is up, the evictions and cutoffs will start. You can’t expect people to suddenly have money after 3 months of not working just because the virus is gone and you declare the moratorium to be over. This situation is going to turn into a disaster. And maybe even sooner than 3 months if people run out of money to buy food.
I’ve been trying to do a lot more exercise this year. Most of that has been cycling because it’s easy on the knees and that’s important when you’re trying to lose weight.
I’m going to put more emphasis on running this month. I have a 10-mile run coming up at the end of next month. I’ve never done one before. I probably should have put more time into training for it, but life gets in the way. It’s nice to go out jogging again.
My wife and I used to jog together all the time when we lived in Singapore. It’d be great if we could find a way to get back into the habit. We need to move, though. Where we live now makes it really inconvenient to just go out the door and run. We have to drive down to Central Park to make it work and that adds commute time to just working out.
It’s really hot today. We were going to do something fun, like go over the Brooklyn bridge, but with it being over 90, with the heat advisory and the air quality advisory, we decided to just stay at home. I dragged our portable air conditioner out of the back of the closet and set it up, to take the edge off the heat. Now we’re watching a True Detective Marathon to catch up to the second season. It seems pretty good, so far.
Last Sunday, the weather wasn’t that bad, so after we visited FAO Schwarz for the last time, we sat in Central Park for a while, by that little pond (called “The Pond”) in the southeast corner by the Central Park Zoo, and had a mini-picnic. It was nice. There were a lot of people out there hanging out, relaxing. Smooth breeze, a lot of chatter, the sun shining on the water as it set. It was nice, sitting there, doing nothing for a while. I read for a bit. I picked up this book called Ready Player One, about a future where the world is suffering an energy crisis and most people retreat to an online 3D virtual simulation called the OASIS. I’m liking it so far.
After we’d sat for a while and it was starting to get dark, we packed up to leave. We walked across to the west side and exited by 70th street afterwards to catch the train. It was a really great way to spend a late afternoon and evening.
I’m really glad that this is turning into one of those months where I get to mark a lot of things off my bucket list! I’ve been meaning to visit this location for years, ever since I saw a person get killed there in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. If I remember right, the person was dumped into the fountain and left floating.
We got to the Terrace by walking up the Mall.
The Bethesda Terrace and Fountain are awesome places to hang out. There were a ton of tourists there.
Just beyond, on The Lake (yes, that’s it’s name and it’s capitalized on the map), people were boating.
A little ways down the road towards the west, the slope leading down to the lake was covered by people soaking up the sun.
And bordering on The Lake at Wagner Cove, the NYPD Mounted Patrol was preparing to go on patrol:
After poking around in the Jewish museum for a few hours, my wife and I decided we should take advantage of the warm weather by walking across the park instead of taking the 96th Street bus. The park and the path around the reservoir in particular were packed with people jogging, walking, cycling and sitting out in the sun enjoying the fresh air. It feels like the winer has gone on forever. It feels like we haven’t stood at the edge of the reservoir taking photos for years, but I’m sure it was just last summer.
I feel sort of like a New Yorker now. I have a New York driver’s license. I’ve lived here for years. I just can’t get used to the cold weather, though. I’m glad the weather seems to be getting better. I can’t wait to start complaining about the heat in a few weeks!
90th Street Entrance to Central Park
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, from the East bank facing West.
Last Saturday wound up being one of those days that just turned out right. We got a late start because we both slept in, but once we got out the door we were rolling. We started our day off with a visit to Udon West, a great Japanese noodle shop on St. Mark’s Place (8th St) by Astor Place. If you haven’t been there, it’s worth the trip. Seriously.
Just before leaving the house, I’d decided on a whim that we should drop by the Met. We hadn’t been in months and we’d kept talking about going back to see more of the galleries. I kept it a secret from my wife. I just told her we were going out to have a little fun. She didn’t realize where we were going until we turned the corner at 86th street and the museum was in front of us.
She was a little hesitant to go in because she wanted to enjoy the sun, but once we were through the door she said she wanted to see “The New American Wing” of the museum. At first I was thinking, “meh…”, because really, how many Americans do you know that want to spend a few hours looking at American art? I tend to get excited about seeing art from other parts of the world, but for her, America is another part of the world and I was a little curious, so off we went.
We detoured a bit through some European galleries because the American galleries are in the back right corner, but once we got there, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the paintings looked oddly disproportionate considering the relative skill of European painters at the time, but a couple of the paintings and sculptures really caught my attention.
We wore ourselves out walking around in the museum but before heading back downtown I wanted to take my wife up to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The view was great and we resolved to make trips there to jog in the near future.
When we got back to the East Village, we capped our night off with dinner at Thai Terminal, which also has great food.
We meant to spend the day shopping and doing chores, but I’m glad we decided to kick that all to the curb and just have a good time for a change.
Yesterday my wife and I went to the Central Park Zoo. Going to the zoo is something of a tradition for me. Whenever I used to come to New York City to visit family, I’d always make it a point to go see the Central Park Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History. I have photos of me as a little kid and then again as a teenager in front of the blue whale in the AMNH. I also have a fond memory of the giant ant farm in the Central Park Zoo. It inspired me to get a smaller version and keep it on my desk at home.
While living in Asia with my wife, I learned to hate ants. They got into everything and there was no way to kill them all or keep them out. They even did night time raids on the pet’s food bowls, carrying whole pieces of cat food up the wall and out of the house through the ceiling. Still, that didn’t stop me from wanting to share the excitement of a giant ant farm, and the memory of me being there as a kid, with my wife when we went to the zoo yesterday.
Unfortunately, we were disappointed. All that was left of the amazing, huge colony were a few dead ants. I spoke to one of the people that works there and she said the colony’s queen had died and they were having trouble replacing her. She said it had something to do with the government making importation of a new queen difficult. She also said they no longer had an “ant person” and would need to hire someone.
The habitat isn’t completely abandoned. While peering this way and that, looking for ants, I realized I was staring at a bunch of hissing cockroaches. Disgusting things. I hope whatever issues the zoo is having get worked out soon, because I’d much rather see the ants. I wish I’d had an opportunity to get some good photos of that colony before it died out.
The trip to the zoo wasn’t all disappointment. I’ll post more tomorrow.
While walking through Central Park today on the path that parallels 59th Street, we ran into a wedding ceremony by the Duck Pond. Even though it’s winter and also the middle of the week, there was a surprising number of people in the park today.
As this wedding ceremony concluded and the bride and groom kissed, a few people that were watching from over the park wall, on the 59th Street sidewalk, cheered and whistled, which is why the bride looks so amused in the last photo.