Life during a Pandemic: As told by New Yorkers

26 July - 30 September 2021
  • Across the street from my New York apartment I notice all the lights are on. Every one of us, living our lives, one on top of the other. No longer able to hit the bars or take in a Broadway show. We were confined to our homes.

     

    Zoom Conference calls in our Pajamas, YouTube videos for exercise, 600 calls a day trying to get through to unemployment , panicking that our loved ones would contract Covid - 19.  

     

    The streets devoid of all noise except for the, once uncommon sounds, of birds singing or ambulance sirens.

     

    For some, business has never been so good. For others, the fear of being homeless was and still is a very real threat. 

     

    We all have our own story to tell, here are the voices of just a few that make up this city and how they have made it through to today.

  • JUAN TRUJILLO

    COFFEE VENDOR

    "I have to work more harder for a little more money, but it’s OK you know, I got no choice I have to work, I have to support my family, I have to pay my rent, I have to pay all my taxes, plus I have to support my child."

     

     
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  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Oh, before a year and a half, I think it wasn’t much better, well not like now after COVID-19 you know, everything is going down. I have to work more harder for a little more money, but it’s OK you know, I got no choice I have to work, I have to support my family, I have to pay my rent, I have to pay all my taxes, plus I have to support my child. My child right now is in college, in their first year.  I have to pay, you know not everything but I have to pay half, it’s hard for me but I can do."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I think right now it’s a little bit better, like maybe five more percent. If you see a little more people, is good for me, for everyone, everybody. For example, if you make today an extra $25, then every day its gonna be more. For five days it’s gonna be $125, so for me this is good. You know because it’s going to be like an extra $500 more and a month. 

     

    So, It’s a little bit better day by day. One day is good, one day is not but little by little, we can work! "

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "Right now, it’s very difficult to explain, it’s not like before! 

     

    For example I used to have a lot of customers they would buy big coffee’s, I still have all these customers, I appreciate them , but now they are buy small’s.  But its ok!"

  • CHARLIE COLLETTI

    FAMILY OWNED SHOEMAKER BUSINESS “ STANLEY’S COBBLER SHOP “

    "I’m just going to try to survive and pull through!"

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "I did OK except for a couple of members of my family got Covid, but we pulled through. 

     

    Business is not good anymore, I used to have 6 employees, now it’s just me and a part time gentleman that comes in to help me. I’m trying to do my best to keep it going. I’m maybe doing 30 – 40 percent of what I used to do.

     

    Hopefully the fall will bring better things, from what I’m hearing.

     

    I’m just going to try to survive and pull through!"

     

    I’ve been in this location for 20 years, but in the business for 30 years and have two other locations. Both closed right now as we don’t have enough business to pay the employees. 

     

    Back in the 80’s things were great, I’ll never forget those days, business was good, and I met a lot of people back then. The economy was good, and even though we had a couple of crashes it came back in the 90’s and the markets were doing great. Business was good back then!

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I think this made me a little stronger and a little wiser too. Your outlook on life changes after a pandemic like this. I thank God for what I have.

     

    My only goal is to hopefully get this business back on track somehow. If I could get it back to 50 – 60 percent of what I used to do then I’ll be happy.

     

    I’ll just continue to pay my bills and keep moving forward!"

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "I’ve seen customers that I have not seen in a year. I receive calls from people checking in on me to see how I’m doing and check on business.

     

    People care, some customers have mailed me shoes to repair. I’m hoping that continues and once people get back into the offices it will be ok.

     

    I think it will all come back!"

  • THE NAKED COWGIRL

    AKA SANDY KANE / STREET PERFORMER

    "We are still here keeping it sleazy! They say they cleaned Times Square; they say they cleaned New York up? You’ll never clean New York up!"

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "That’s a good question. Last year I did work in Times square because I didn’t have to wear a mask and I think Covid is a big Hoax! I never believed it, I still don’t, I think it’s just bullshit. I blame Donald Trump because ever since he became president things were full of hate, even though I used to like him.

     

    What got me through it? Well, I think it’s a hoax first of all, I think the masks are ridiculous, you can’t breathe, I like breathing. I think they are unhealthy!

     

    Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for lifting it up, and I hope we can go to food emporium and not wear a fucking mask. But they will probably say “You gotta wear a mask”.

     

    What brought me through it, well time heals. What hurt me was that I couldn’t take my dance classes, all my gyms closed. 

     

    I couldn’t go to LA, so I went to Miami instead, which I loved, I was sitting on the beach, and I was taking class.

  • What brought me through it, God, Jesus who I love! and Manhattan Plaza where I live, although all the people...

    What brought me through it, God, Jesus who I love! and Manhattan Plaza where I live, although all the people are big snobs. They still wear masks, and then they look at you. You’re in the elevator without a mask, and they look at you like “It’s so close in here”. There are a lot of snobs in Manhattan Plaza!

     

    I don’t want to deal with the people! I don’t care, I’m not wearing a fucking mask!"

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "You know today was a very special day Phil, because I read in the paper that Cuomo lifted everything. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, even though you killed 15,000 people in nursing homes, and you molested your women. Thank you for lifting it, but I think a lot of stores will still make you wear a mask.

     

    How am I moving forward? I’m happy I’m working! and God bless Times Square, God bless phil and his wonderful camera, and all the people in Times Square, and all the people in America coming to visit Times Square. I met some Australian people today, I miss the UK people like you Phil. I thank all the people from Florida, from Texas, from California visiting Times Square and supporting the crossroads of the world.

     

    And let me tell you, I worked last winter during the Covid Bullshit, and I made some money here, so God bless Times Square. I’ve worked here all my life, when things were tough, I came back here and showed my big titties and made a living and God bless times Square. 

     

    We are still here keeping it sleazy! They say they cleaned Times Square; they say they cleaned New York up? You’ll never clean New York up!"

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "I’m still making a living! I think I could say that a hundred times, that I’m still making money, and it really helps me to know that I still have a job in Times Square. A lot of my stuff closed, because Covid took away a lot of my gyms and dance classes. 

     

    I exercise on my own, I go over to Blink, God bless Blink! I miss all my teachers, my dance teachers that help me keep up, keep my tits up! And my ass cute. Your body is so important.

     

    Broadway will be back, the church will be back, you know. God is picking his spots! 

     

    Nobody is in the church; I’m not going to saying fucking church, but we are here in Time Square. So, all the straight people in church that put me down, they have no people yet. Shut the fuck up Sandy!

     

    God is here, I’ll just tell you one thing. Last year when it was so bad with Covid, the church came, and the pastor came and said to me “He’s here” the minute Jesus came it lifted. So, God bless you lord!"

  • SCOTT SAVORY

    REAL ESTATE BROKER @COMPASS

    "New York feels like the phoenix rising from the ashes but seems even better. It’s like New York 2.0,  and the first one was amazing before."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "I  think, personally for me, Covid was a nice reset and a reassessment of a lot of values and things that led to a better focus during this downtime.

     

    The time we spent at home for some people, they got lost in it, and didn’t utilize it well. And for others, they really assessed what is important and created some good routines, and for others some bad habits.

     

    For me it was a lot of bad habits that led to a rejection of things that I don’t want in my life, and that led to a better focus on work. Four months later once the market re-opened, I’ve seen business almost 4x.

     

    Having the bike was nice and family and friends, a little bit of travelling which I know there is a little bit of negative thoughts on, regarding people who were moving around during Covid, but I think that we all had to make really hard decisions based on things that we want.

  • In regards to real estate! I think during the middle of Covid, one lesson learned, was just how much pessimism...

    In regards to real estate!

     

    I think during the middle of Covid, one lesson learned, was just how much pessimism their was compared to optimism. We quickly not only saw the New York was bulletproof, but also, we figured out a way to make things work.

     

    People were thinking “What are we going to do after this thing passes, everything is going to shut down and New York is going to get crippled”, but as a real estate broker whether it’s up or down we are still going to do transactions. But we had no idea whether people were going to be buying. We didn’t expect to see the boom we saw in such a small period.

     

    What we are seeing now is a market that for some, still think is at its height. For brokers and for people that have really digested this market we know that this market is only going to keep growing and is going to run away from us.

     

    During Covid no one expected during the panic selling, things to drop as much as they did, but they didn’t really last long.

     

    When we think of 2008 and the financial collapse and what New York did, was it survived. 

  • Now when we think of Covid, New York City is correcting in some areas eight and ten percent, and in...

    Now when we think of Covid, New York City is correcting in some areas eight and ten percent, and in rare cases between the ten to twenty percent range and surviving that, this city for many is bulletproof and one of the safest investments you can make. 

     

    The city certainly seems to be coming back, business is pretty good and for the time being I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I think my faith and belief for this city is even stronger now!

     

    As a New Yorker for all those people that left the city, I feel like the jokes on them now. For the people that stayed and toughed it out, and saw this city become desolate and boarded up, we are now seeing it flourish again, which makes you feel pretty amazing!

     

    New York feels like the phoenix rising from the ashes but seems even better. It’s like New York 2.0,  and the first one was amazing before."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "I think people! 

     

    Everything we are seeing right now is just within the optimistic and bright minded driven people, and New York is full of them. So, any city to be in pre pandemic and post pandemic this is the one!

     

    We’ve survived an insane time, but even a year, year and a half later here we are in the middle of summer and New York feels golden!"

  • JANET VASQUEZ

    WAITRESS / SKYLIGHT DINER ON 34TH STREET


    "The money and everything is good, but you have your health and you survived it. Let’s just try to look on the bright side rather than the money side. Money ain’t everything!"

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "During the pandemic it was very difficult, both financially and mentally. It was hard because it just hit us out of nowhere. You do have your savings just for back up, but I got scared because I did not know how I was going to get through.

     

    Come March, we were all out of work. We had to tell our landlord just to give us a few months in advance to keep up with the rent, just so we could get through.

     

    Depression was a big factor; I live with my family, so we were all trying to deal with it. You see each other before work but now living all living together again, you just fight and argue but its good because you get to spend time together.

     

    It’s the first time you get to know your family a little further, and it makes you appreciate them more as lots of people did not survive the pandemic.

  • We survived it so why not try to bear with it! I started working at the diner in June or...

    We survived it so why not try to bear with it!

     

    I started working at the diner in June or July, we had just a few tables outside but it was very slow, customers were afraid to come in for fear of getting infected.

     

    The place was really empty! 

     

    Hardly any tips and definitely, not enough to survive on."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "It’s tough because a lot of places have been closing. Times Square is not the same, I’m amazed because it’s such a big tourist place and now it’s all quiet.

     

    Madison Square Garden, Jacob Javits center, they were now all quiet. We used to be busy because their were always the conventions like comic con. Now it’s been turned into where you go to get your vaccinations.

     

    As a New Yorker though, I can say, I’m Ok, I’m good!"

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "I think the vaccinations. I was worried about it at first, and pretty skeptical because it came out so fast, but I think it’s working for everyone.

     

    We are going to move forward little by little, it just takes a bit of patience, hope, faith and just try to take care of each other.

     

    The money will hopefully go back up, but we have been through a year of this and maybe we have two or three more years before its back to normal. 

     

    The money and everything is good, but you have your health and you survived it. Let’s just try to look on the bright side rather than the money side. Money ain’t everything!"

  • VINNY LUPI

    SENIOR PROJECT MANAGER OF FACILITIES FOR 9/11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM / ABM

    "What we are supporting here for the people and the visitors, is so important, that I love New York for that reason."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Early on in March we had to close the museum due to what was happening with the pandemic. As a result, we lost 50-60 percent of the organization who were either laid off or terminated. For the staff that directly report to me, we went from 50 to about 9 people. We are now back to about 30 which gives you the hope to move on, rebuild and come back to where we once were.

     

    The site is so meaningful for so many people, and just about anyone that visits here. From when we closed in March of 2020 till today, we still maintained it like it was open every day. It had to be taken care of meticulously, from the stone, the tree’s, the inside, to the pools. With the reduction in our budget, we were not able to run the pools as much, so it was a little bit more demanding for the engineers to keep it maintained.

     

    We did everything we could to have it ready to open as soon as we were given the opportunity."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I live outside of New York and was born and raised there, I love coming to the memorial plaza every day to work. I’m proud to be part of this and have a great team that works with me, from the top to the bottom.

     

    What we are supporting here for the people and the visitors, is so important, that I love New York for that reason."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "Working here at the 9/11 memorial and what we made of it, and how we are representing that tragic day. I think that, in itself, gives you hope.

     

    Even with the pandemic, we fell to our knees! we had to close for months but we are building it back. We are seeing visitors increase on a regular basis. 

     

    New York is coming back to life and its hopeful to know that it will be, what it once was!"

  • ERIN CHERRY

    EMMY AWARD WINNING ACTOR / ACTING COACH / PRODUCER / TALK SHOW HOST OF SUNDAYS WITH A CHERRY ON TOP

    "If theater shuts down, and this is all I have been doing since I was 7 years old, then what the hell am I going to do with my life!"

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "I didn’t know if I was going to have a job once the pandemic was over. When Broadway shut down, I knew we were going to be in this for the long haul.

     

    If theater shuts down, and this is all I have been doing since I was 7 years old, then what the hell am I going to do with my life!

     

    What got me through it, was my mum, my stepdad and all my family doing a lot of zoom calls and facetime. That was tough not being able to see them because everyone was under quarantine. My parents are all in Vegas and I’m here.

     

    Having my mum as my cheerleader helped, she has always known how to talk to me and that helped get me through it.

     

    I’m looking forward to things a starting back up, and restarting a career that I’m going to do my hardest to stay in.

  • Currently I’m on a show on amazon called After Forever, and we were unable to shoot our series during the...

    Currently I’m on a show on amazon called After Forever, and we were unable to shoot our series during the lockdown, but we did shoot a special episode. All the cast members were separated. We shot everything from our homes. The producers sent cameras to our homes, and people came by and set up the lights.

     

    The director and the producer directed us from a laptop, my home was turned into a set by moving couches and other furniture.

     

    We did it pandemic style!

     

    It was nice to be working, and to act, it came out really well, it’s called “Rileys Unforgettable School Project”. 

     

    It was a nice blessing, it’s all about love."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I don’t know if I have a future here!

     

    In a perfect world I would love to live back and forth. I would like to work in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York.

     

    One of the goals is to own property, and I don’t know if that means going back to Vegas, as I want to be close to my parents as they get older.

     

    One thing I’ve seen about the pandemic, which was a positive thing, and changed my thinking was, you don’t have to be in New York or LA to act and pursue your dream. The pandemic has shown that you could live in Ohio and send in a self tape, and still work in some way. Projects are shooting all over the place now. A lot of shooting in Atlanta and Texas.

     

    I see myself having a place in New York, but I can also see myself having a home outside of New York."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "The fact that we are coming out of this pandemic, and there is a light at the end of this tunnel!

     

    I also teach at the Maggie Flanigan studio, and it gives me hope that my students keep showing up, and that they still want to learn, and dive in. Days when I felt sad, I would get an email from one of my students thanking me for helping them. You just say wow! If they are feeling hopeful and know that their will still be jobs for them, then who am I to be depressed and feel that work is not going to be there.

     

    I’m a very spiritual person, so my church FCBC in Harlem which also shut down,  did a lot online. My pastor Michael Walrond really helped me get through the pandemic.

     

    There, were days when I would think this is hard, but spiritually this is great.

     

    I would zoom with my mum. One time we were filming over thanksgiving and her camera was a little off, all I could see was her shoulder. It was interesting watching my mum navigate technology.

     

    She has it together now!"

  • CORMAC DALY

    REVENUE MANAGER AT THE LOTTE NEW YORK PALACE HOTEL

    "In New York we have about 500 hotels of which over half closed, many of which will be closed permanently."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Unfortunately, the entire hospitality industry across the world got hit hard and in New York that was no different. In the middle of the pandemic, we were down to 5-10 percent occupancy levels in contrast to normal times when we are running over 90 percent.

     

    We took a big hit.  Unfortunately we had to lay off quite a lot of staff, now its recovering slowly but surely. Every month it is getting better. This year we are running at about 40 percent.

     

    The projections really don’t see us recovering until 2025. That would be on par with our 2019 levels.

     

    The tourism and hospitality industry has taken a massive hit, and many have lost their jobs. Some went into other industries and will never come back. 

     

    In New York we have about 500 hotels of which over half closed, many of which will be closed permanently.

     

    For me personally, I was fortunate enough that I kept my job during Covid. I was on a limited schedule, maybe 3 days a week at the start and as business demanded slowly it came back.

     

    It was difficult, but it was also an opportunity to reset and rethink how we work in the hospitality industry. Hotels in general are very set in their ways! Very old school.

     

    Covid gave us an opportunity to see how we could make some advances, reset, and just update everything."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I think during Covid, New York obviously took a huge hit and we were down in the dumps for a while, but it’s been amazing to see how people have come together.

     

    My experience in the hotel industry, was how all the employees all came together, and everyone was still smiling. We kept that good energy. That’s what gives me the most hope that New York will bounce back stronger than ever!

     

    New Yorkers are tough people and they won’t let this get the better of them!"

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "Staying positive and looking forward to the future that things will come round and improve for us here. 

     

    Looking forward and not behind!"

  • VASHTI DE VERTEUIL

    FASHION ACCESSORY DESIGNER / ASST TEACHING PROF AT PARSONS THE NEW SCHOOL FOR DESIGN

    "One thing people do when they move to New York, is try to take it. You must take it in little pieces at a time. That’s why they come here for 6 months and leave because they can’t handle it."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "From 1987 – 2016 I had my store on 9th Street in the East village. During this time, I’ve also been a teacher at Parsons where I teach Jewelry and fashion design.

     

    I also started teaching in the Diamond district right after having closed my store.

     

    The Pandemic effected my teaching. When we shut down in 2020, we did not have time to put things online, so I did not get to teach for summer and fall of 2020. I was on lockdown; it was just strange to not be able to go out or teach.

     

    All you are trying to do is protect yourself and not get sick. I would stay at home and go out maybe once a week to the supermarket. The streets were just strange as you did not see anyone on them. 

     

    I was lucky because I have a good social life talking to my friends in France, in the Caribbean, and all over the US and exchanging what was happening to us.

     

    It felt like you were caged in! Just protecting your health, it wears you down mentally.

     

    I found myself having to get up, do yoga, look at all my old work, architecture books, fashion design. Keeping my mind occupied really got me through. 

  • I was not going to let this thing get to me! However, you did not know if you were going...

    I was not going to let this thing get to me!

     

    However, you did not know if you were going to get through. The next day you could wake up and be sick even though I would double mask when I went out.

     

    I had to keep myself alert because you are not keeping your brain active. I understand why people would get depressed or drink. I said to myself the only business that made money during lockdown were liquor stores."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I’m a New Yorker! I like to go away in the winter to the Caribbean, but after 50 years living here, I call myself a New Yorker.

     

    When we had 9/11 in New York and people were leaving I said, “I’m going down with New York”.

     

    All my friends said you should leave New York, I told them, New York will bounce back!

     

    One thing people do when they move to New York, is try to take it. You must take it in little pieces at a time. That’s why they come here for 6 months and leave because they can’t handle it.

     

    I already see stores and restaurants are coming back, so I know it will come back.

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "The people who stayed in New York!  those who stick it out and say “This is my city and it’s going to come back and I’m hanging in with it.

     

    I walk this city. That was one of the biggest things I missed during the pandemic, not being able to walk around it. 

     

    I tell my students, when you don’t have ideas, just walk around the city and you will find inspiration from the people and the buildings. All the big designers used to come downtown just to see how people dressed.

     

    You can get inspiration as soon as you leave your door in the morning!"

  • SEAN KAVANNAGH -DOWSETT

    JOINT OWNER OF TEA AND SYMPATHY TEA SHOP AND A SALT AND BATTERY CHIP SHOP

    "It taught us that the essential workers are not the bankers, or the pop stars. It’s the people that deliver your food, drive your ambulances, and people that take care of people, I think that’s what we all need to do."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "We were really affected because we are a small community restaurant. Lockdown turned our lives upside down, we had to hit the stop button on everything.

     

    However, we were lucky, because we care about our neighbors and our crew who we’ve been working with us for some of whom, over 30 years. We were lucky to have both internal and both external support from the neighborhood. 

     

    Because there was no delivery, we had a bunch of pies we had made, we handed them out to people in the neighborhood that didn’t have food or were going to struggle.

     

    When we were shut down, we did a lot of what we could to help our staff members. We started a gofundme page, and were blown away with the outpouring of love we had received from some people that had nothing, but wanted to share what little they had, and some super wealthy people that were super generous. 

     

    My wife was in tears when a little old Irish lady who has been coming for years, walked up one Saturday and said, “I’ve got a little something for you” and gave my wife a check for $10,000. She said I love you guys and I know you look after your staff so do what you can to help people with this.

  • We were able to help not only our staff, but also people in the neighborhood. Providing them with food, help...

    We were able to help not only our staff, but also people in the neighborhood. Providing them with food, help them get to hospitals, pick up their meds and run errands for them.

     

    I’m a big believer in this being a test of community. When it first kicked in, and we were all wondering what the hell was going on, I actually said to my wife, this is a really hard thing. People are going to die, but I can’t help but think it’s going to separate the wheat from the chaff. I don’t mean from a death scale, but the little businesses that actually care about their neighborhoods, and that’s how we have been able to survive.

     

    That was illustrated during the Black Lives Matter protests, there were people coming into town and using the protests as an excuse to smash things up. On the first night, there were so many people rioting and smashing things up. I found out from cops I knew, and people that were in the marches, that our neighbors were actually standing in front of our stores telling the crowds not to smash them up, because they are mum and pop businesses. 

     

    We are blessed because of the outpouring of love we have received from our community for over 30 years. We are blessed and lucky, but I don’t think it’s about luck, I think it’s about what you genuinely put out there. If you try putting stuff out with the intention of getting something back, it’s not going to work for you."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "Hour to hour New York changes so much. We had a crazy weekend with Pride,  everyone said it was going to be a virtual parade this year. I think there was as many people as their ever was. 

     

    We are by our nature, herd creatures, and I think people just wanted to be out there. We are supposed to interact with other human beings, so I think a lot of people were feeling that.

     

    I think this year with what’s going on, I’ve seen such a great sense of community with Pride, than at any other time. Its emblematic of what’s going on. There are so many people in the neighborhood now, that stuck it out even though there are a lot of empty apartments."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "Humanity! It doesn’t rear its beautiful head to often, but I think people are getting back to the elements of society and caring about others around them. We’ve had that taken away from us for a year and a half now.

     

    A journalist friend of mine rang me up, and asked how it was going for me?  I replied, the thing that I’m finding so difficult, is that for some reason time is both managing to drag, and both fly by at the same time. You literally would be sat there saying its 11am on a Monday and will this day ever end? then bugger its Saturday.

     

    Time didn’t really begin to have any meaning. 

     

    I think if it’s handled right, it will be a good thing for humanity at large, and people get to see the importance of caring about one another.

     

    It taught us that the essential workers are not the bankers, or the pop stars. It’s the people that deliver your food,  drive your ambulances, and people that take care of people, I think that’s what we all need to do."

  • CORDERO TRISBEND

    BIKE MESSENGER / MODEL / SKATE COACH

    "As a New Yorker, the creepiest thing I’ve seen, is that, I’ve actually seen the City Sleep!" 

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "It effected in my job as a bike messenger. I had to switch from Pharmacy deliveries to food deliveries from April 2020 till today. Before that I was doing modeling, but the pandemic shut that down. I also teach children how to roller blade,  that also got shut down. 

     

    On the first day of lockdown, I was scheduled to teach kids to roller blade, but the school were testing the children for Covid. I was scared as I did not want to get Covid. My agent called and told me that the event was going  to be rescheduled.

     

    During the lockdown I was just trying to maintain myself, I had saved up some money, and was quarantining myself regularly just to make sure I wasn’t getting sick. 

     

     

     

  • Mentally I liked the idea that I had time to myself, it gave me hope and more mental clarity. I...

     

    Mentally I liked the idea that I had time to myself, it gave me hope and more mental clarity. I had less pressure to force myself out there every day. I did not have the same pressure as say someone who had to go to a hospital every day and work.

     

    The interesting thing about the messenger work, is that it feels like it perfectly correlates with the stock market. If certain businesses who regularly use courier services shut down and their production decreases, it stops the messenger work.

     

    And for those companies that were able to keep going, there was work for those couriers in that particular industry."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "As a New Yorker, the creepiest thing I’ve seen, is that, I’ve actually seen the City Sleep! 

     

    Now the City has woken up again, and once it wakes up it doesn’t stop moving. I just want to get back with the pace of things, and keep going!"

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "Knowing that right now I have the opportunity, to do the best I can, make a plan and go through with it!"

  • KAREN ZEBULON

    OWNER OF GUMBO CREATIVE SPACE STORE IN BROOKLYN

    "I attribute the success of the business now to a variety of things. People are now happy to go out  into a store, also, there has been a lot of growth in my neighborhood. Just in the last year we now have more buildings and more people."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Initially, it was frightening to know that I could go out of business! 

     

    But having that time at home to evaluate things, it gave me a different perspective on my life. I was working 7 days a week from very early in the morning till very late at night, it was just too much.

     

    It wasn’t a good way of living! So, I made a lot of changes. I got my website going which had been neglected and really enjoyed doing it.

     

    I used to do classes which I was now unable to do because of the pandemic and I decided, I did not want to go back to that morning till night routine.

     

    I changed my hours. I start late in the day, I take Mondays off, and perhaps eventually take Sundays off. I’m now enjoying myself more, and I’m enjoying my work.

  • Financially I’m doing well, my business is now thriving, I’m not so stressed, although I’m still worried about the future...

    Financially I’m doing well, my business is now thriving, I’m not so stressed, although I’m still worried about the future with Covid and the different variants.

     

    I attribute the success of the business now to a variety of things. People are now happy to go out  into a store, also there has been a lot of growth in my neighborhood. Just in the last year we now have more buildings and more people.

     

    The other thing, was that I moved my business three years ago. My rent is now not as much, I have an office, a basement, a lot of things I never had before.

     

    Had I not made that move I probably would not be in business today.

     

    I’ve been through a recession, hard times, and right now people can shop. I think they are not feeling the stress that they have had in the past."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "One thing that I thought of is having, is a place to get away and not be in this urban environment all the time. Originally, I’m from Maine, so I do miss the country. I think the fact that I downsized my time, has helped me realize, that maybe I must start doing a little bit more for myself.

     

    Eventually, I will want to do something else, this is kind of a second career for me anyway. This is another life, and perhaps their will be another one after this one."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "I always have hope! and that’s why I’m still here. I’ve always tried to see into the future, having my own visions of the future.

     

    I have grandchildren now, so I think about them and their futures. A lot of my priorities are there, more so for my family than myself. 

     

    If they are doing great then I’m happy!"

  • SEAN RINGGOLD

    ACTOR / PRODUCER

    "Nothing is perfect, things will definitely turn around. I’d rather be optimistic than be you know negative, but things are turning around, and I just hope that it will get back to the way it used to be with less hate and more love!"

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Wanting to be strong, and a healthier life for my family was the one thing that I knew I had to get through because I’m the head of the household.

     

    Unfortunately, I got covid with my son and my wife. My son has sickle cell anemia, and had to be hospitalized for a week. Myself and my wife had to take care of my daughter. 

     

    But we’re strong, and from New York, to the grace of God we got through it, and things are looking brighter, and we’re healthy.

     

    We’re just pushing through this thing. I’m just happy to see this city opening back up. People are smiling again. 

     

    Most importantly, I can see people smiles in their faces instead of just seeing a mask and not really know what’s going on. But things are definitely looking up."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "The City’s bouncing back!

     

    I’m really happy! there is a lot of production going on here in the city at the moment, even though most of my shooting in production that I’m doing for my show is out in LA. 

     

    But I don’t know, if the right opportunity takes me, I will leave the city to be honest with you, because with the crime being up, we need some new leadership in the city. I’m hoping that it happens very fast, because you see gun violence crime, hate crimes, a lot of people don’t want to be here at the moment. 

     

    But we’re going to be optimistic that things will hopefully turn around with a new mayor being put in place by the people."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "Another breath ! Another breath of life, even though we’re going through challenging times here in New York City and in the United States, we’re bouncing back from the last four years.

     

    But there are places that things are worse. So even with the blessings and luxuries that we do have, and I’m extremely grateful for what we do have here. 

     

    Nothing is perfect, things will definitely turn around. I’d rather be optimistic than be you know negative, but things are turning around, and I just hope that it will get back to the way it used to be with less hate and more love!"

  • MICHAEL TAN

    PERSONAL TRAINER

    "I was unable to work as a personal trainer cause gyms were closed, so thankfully my wife had kept her job, and she worked from home and essentially kept us alive until gyms re-opened."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "It was devastating. Initially when the lockdown was announced, I was actually pretty relieved. I was like OK! I’m going to have a three-week break, but it just kept on stretching on for months and months, and months on end, there was no end in sight. 

     

    I was unable to work as a personal trainer cause gyms were closed, so thankfully my wife had kept her job, and she worked from home, and essentially kept us alive until gyms re-opened."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "My heart is filled with joy! I’m seeing stores opening, and everyone’s getting vaccinated. Masks aren’t required indoors at most places, I’m super hopeful and very excited to be in the city."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "Gives me hope to see people again! especially when I walk my dog. During the pandemic, no one was petting him, he wanted to jump on them. 

     

    Now I’m back to having conversations with strangers, letting them pet my dog, just feels more human now."

  • OZZIE STEWART

    ACTRESS / PRINT/COMMERCIAL MODEL / CREATOR/HOST OF ON THE CALL PODCAST

    "I stopped counting at 21 friends lost when the 21st person was my cousin who passed away in Arizona."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Covid was a very shocking and traumatic experience, right from the very beginning when I got the news that my gym friend had passed away from covid. 

     

    The building I had just moved from, I lost 5 friends to Covid, and the building I moved to, I lost two friends as well as a couple of friends outside the building in the neighborhood. This all happened with a few months. 

     

    I stopped counting at 21 friends lost when the 21st person was my cousin who passed away in Arizona.

     

    At one point I was afraid to pick up my phone because I was afraid to learn of someone else passing.

     

    My business doing commercials and film work shut down for a couple of months and the silence of New York was eerie.  Not working, and not knowing what was going to happen with my life financially was another traumatic experience outside of Covid.

  • Cuomo kept us all on track, so I must give thanks for that. During this time I did my podcast...

    Cuomo kept us all on track, so I must give thanks for that. 

     

    During this time I did my podcast which kept me disciplined, it gave me focus and strength. 

     

    Once things started opening, I got a call for a TV Show, and some commercials. Learning self taping was a stress though, which I’m still not over. It did start to become fun once I got the hang of it, also learning how to do podcasts.

     

    My hopes this year, especially with the George Floyd thing is that this life in the US, becomes a better type of life because all eyes are on it. I thank the activists, the marches and the people who showed up to make change will push things forward.

     

    I also became a citizen this year. I wanted to be able to vote.  Being a resident did not allow me to do that. I wanted to be part of the system instead of just raging against the TV.

     

    With all that has happened, I’m glad that the institutions have really stood up. This experiment in the US has made me thankful for being here, and I’m thankful for the life it has given me.

     

    My wish right now is to support those suffering health wise, and I’m thankful for my health!"

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I’ve been here since December of 1976, and it’s taken me since then to become a citizen.

     

    There is still an energy in New York. I love the pace and energy of New York as well as the four seasons.

     

    I’m looking to push my podcast so the joy and living can come from that. And to help my friends, and just have fun in life!"

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "As a black person right now, the hope comes from the young people out there, that are standing up. Helping with the reforms that are necessary. 

     

    Hope comes from the connections with friends, because I have lost quite a few of them.

     

    Hope comes from a better world. Right now, things feel so dire across the world. Whether it’s climate, politics, or people against one another.

     

    Their are organizations out there that are helping people to come together and do better, and that gives me hope."

  • ROB HANN

    PHOTOGRAPHER / SOHO STREET VENDOR

    "The city is really alive again! business has been good, and as soon as the European tourists come back it will be great!"

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Well, I had to close. When the governor shut everything down, I had to stop. I wasn’t on the street, from I guess March or was it April/ May through till September,  this was when I felt I could maybe come out again. 

     

    Business was not great then, but I made a few sales, I just wanted to get out of the house.

     

    I did get out and shoot pictures, which was good. It’s good for the sanity. I also had some savings."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "The city certainly seems to be coming back. Business is pretty good, and for the time being I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "The city is really alive again! business has been good, and as soon as the European tourists come back it will be great!"

  • David

    New Yorker


    "I’ve been on the street since I was 12 years old, and I’m just starting to get myself together."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Negative, I don’t have it!  Oh my gosh, showing mad love up this piece. I’m living now in Times Square hotel now. 

     

    I’ve been on the street since I was 12 years old, and I’m just starting to get myself together. I went into the hotel in June."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "I feel selfish because you know why? I’m not back in New Jersey city, so I feel selfish that I’m over here in a good spot now."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "God!

     

    And I go to church every Sunday."

  • MIKE SAVIELLO

    CO - OWNER ASTOR PLACE HAIRSTYLIST / ARTIST

    "We went through 9/11, the financial breakdown, everything that happened in New York, even during the 1940’s to the 1960’s nothing affected us till this."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "Personally, it was upsetting when we closed. It was the first time Astor Place ever closed down for anything, we went through 9/11, the financial breakdown, everything that happened in New York, even during the 1940’s to the 1960’s nothing affected us till this. 

     

    Then word came that the city was closing. Barber shops had to close. We were closed March and we reopened on June 14th.  All those months went by, and really no one knew, they kept saying next month, then next month and still we were like, what’s going on here? 

     

    Myself, well my studio was here, and I always painted here. I have a lot of energy, now I’m having to paint at home, but it’s a whole different vibe. At Astor, you’re used to coming into the studio at lunch time, drink a little bit of wine and do a little painting. At home its different. 

    My wife’s a teacher, and my daughter left her home in Brooklyn, so they are both working at home on their computers. I just put my head down and started painting, its different, but man I did a lot of painting, I had a lot of fun. 

     

    So, for me the whole covid thing, it was a blessing in disguise, here at Astor its always go, go, go, you come in at 6.00am in the morning and work till 10.00 at night. You don’t get a break, it’s not like a regular job, you talk to people all day, and I miss that. I never got much time to spend at home, I would leave at 6.00am in the morning and be home by midnight. You never had any time to do anything.

     

    I really got to spend time with my daughter and my wife for a couple of months, after having worked for 38 years, never taking much time off. 

     

    It was fun, I couldn’t go nowhere, so you were forced to communicate with your wife and your daughter. She was going through her thing, she couldn’t go out on dates, as all her friends lived in Manhattan but now, they were all over the world. Her boss went to Brazil, and she could no longer meet her friends.

     

    We came back to work on June 14th and the first week was promising. The first couple of days were crazy, we had a list outside, we were like, Astor Place is back Yo!

  • But then a couple of weeks went by, and we were slow. Everyone came for a haircut that first week...

    But then a couple of weeks went by, and we were slow. Everyone came for a haircut that first week then you didn’t see them anymore. Then it got slower and slower, and then the schools didn’t open. Schools were closed, and all the businesses were closed. 

     

    Nobody was on the streets, not a single car coming down Broadway and all the trains were empty. The guys were coming to work from the Bronx saying, “their, was nobody on the trains”. We were just sitting here doing about 10 percent of our business, but that wasn’t going to make it.

     

    I was thinking maybe the owners were going to stick around and put some money into the place, maybe for another year. The owners decided they just didn’t want to do it anymore. They were bleeding cash and couldn’t afford to put all the money into the place,  and we have a lot of employees. 

     

    They announced, “we are going to close”. We were thinking that it was for a month or two. But they were closing for good."

     

    I’m thinking, what the hell am I going to do now? 

    All the barbers were freaking out, we had all started working around the same time, which was about 30 – 35 years ago. Back then, Astor Place went from 15 barbers to 30 then to 75, 

     

    The barbers started taking customers names, they were going to work from their homes but, who is going to go to the Bronx for a haircut, maybe a very loyal customer. A couple of barbers were looking for a new shop, but even the small ones were closing, their, were none to go to.

     

    Then I just put a thing in motion, in my head I was like, who is going to get this done in three weeks, just before thanksgiving, so I talked to a friend that I knew from Astor. We were friends because we went to Mets games together. 

     

    He had invited me to a game, and the next thing you knew we were sitting behind the dugout right behind home plate.  I’m realizing this is a New York guy.

     

    He asked, “do you think they will sell the place?”  I was sure they would not want to sell it.

     

    I called him and said “do you want to buy it? you don’t have to worry; I know the place and will run it. Let’s just get the finances down, talk to the landlord and put things together.

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "I have hope for this place, for New York it’s the loyalty of our customers, that was the main thing that kept us going.

     

    People started coming when we said we were going to close. It got busy cause people wanted to get their last haircut here. Customers were saying “I had my first hair cut here 30 years ago, and I just had to come back and have one last cut, I have so many good memories”.

     

    New customers started coming, just to show their support, because they heard that we were closing.

    What kept us going is the loyalty of the customers, it’s amazing how loyal people are to their barbers. It’s not like, any other business, people are crazy about their barbers. It’s like you are part barber, part psychologist, part storyteller."

     

     

  • Xue Yang Liu

    Cellist at Sonophonix , Private Teacher, Composer

    "As composer it was difficult to be inspired or create right away, when you are watching the world falling apart and people were dying. It took a little while to reflect and be creative again."

  • WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    WHAT IMPACT DID THE COVID - 19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON YOU ? AND WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH IT ?

    "In the beginning when it happened, it was a shock for all the musicians in terms of work. As a performer, we can play and put our sorrow or sadness and all the emotions into playing music for people. As a composer, it was difficult to be inspired or create right away. When you are watching the world falling apart and people were dying, It took a little while to reflect and be creative again.

     

    My concerts have all been cancelled but I’m grateful I can still teach.

     

    It’s been tough to see Lincoln Center, the Met, Carnegie Hall, and The New York Ballet all shut down.

     

    Some of the famous Broadway singers have had to take to baby sitting or side jobs just to pay rent and survive. 

  • For a lot of the freelance musicians, it’s been very hard for them. For music producers they have mostly been...

    For a lot of the freelance musicians, it’s been very hard for them. For music producers they have mostly been able to carry on at home in studios.

     

    If you are an artist or musician, you have to believe in the power of music! I know it sounds like fantasy, but music can help heal, or make you feel happy. I feel the world cannot survive without music!

     

    When you are creating art, that’s where you help get your emotions through, so I think that’s what helped me get through it."

  • How do you see your future in the city ?

    How do you see your future in the city ?

    "That’s a really difficult question for me at the moment because I’m also a mum.

     

    I think most New Yorkers are strong, most people want to be on the same page and have a positive vibe, and support each other.

     

    It’s been very hard to see so many stores shutdown.

     

    Most of our friends who have kids actually moved away. It’s made me think, what should I do? Living in New York is not easy, the rents are so expensive especially when you have kids and you want to find the best place to support your family.

     

    I love New York and it’s my home. I moved here from China when I was 17. I remember taking the train and crossing Brooklyn, seeing Manhattan and thinking, I’m really here, it feels like a dream!

     

    You say to yourself, one day I’m going to feel like I belong here, and years later I did.

     

    You work so hard for your career; the city drives you in that way. 

     

    I came here because I was accepted to Julliard precollege, this was a dream for a 17-year-old. 

     

    It’s a really sad question, especially because if you feel you belong here, but like my friends who moved away, they think it’s better for their family."

  • WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE ?

    "What can we do to fix what we lost and avoid this happening again in the future? Maybe we need to make some new changes especially in the classical world. 

     

    When they are teaching you how to be a great performer, they also need to teach us how to survive when we graduate.

     

    Not everyone can get a job in an orchestra, not everyone can be a soloist! That’s just a reality.

     

    It doesn’t matter if they are talented enough, lots of other things come with it.

     

    It would be great if the big orchestras could open up more opportunities for the young musicians. 

     

    Musicians can also think about what they can do to avoid something like this happening to us all again. Learn music producing, write music. learn about Jazz music, pop music, Techno music, it’s all music! 

     

    I don’t know the answer but our world is changing and many things need to change."