The Hottest Commodity in Pandemic New York? Fresh Air

The skyscrapers are empty, and the streets and parks are full. Here’s how the city is reinventing itself.Koreatown in Manhattan is one of the city’s new outdoor dining districts that sprang to life this summer.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesPublished Aug. 21, 2020Updated Aug. 23, 2020By late summer, New Yorkers are usually feeling grateful…

The Hottest Commodity in Pandemic New York? Fresh Air

The skyscrapers are empty, and the streets and parks are full. Here’s how the city is reinventing itself.Koreatown in Manhattan is one of the city’s new outdoor dining districts that sprang to life this summer.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesPublished Aug. 21, 2020Updated Aug. 23, 2020By late summer, New Yorkers are usually feeling grateful for the air-conditioned offices, gyms, restaurants, community centers, theaters and museums that abound in this vertical city.Things are a little different this year.The more we know about the coronavirus — that it’s airborne, that it can float for hours in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces — the more New Yorkers have embraced the outdoors, any way possible. There is also the simple fact that after the claustrophobic quarantine this past spring — and with the possibility of a second wave shutting the city down again — New York’s fresh air has become a hot commodity.The parks are lively, the bike paths teeming. Streets newly blocked off to traffic are filled with people seemingly having just discovered the pleasure of the stroll.True, certain open-air rituals — baseball games at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, Shakespeare in the Park — are gone, at least for now. Instead, we have socially distant porch concerts and outdoor comedy.Many businesses have proved themselves to be endlessly creative. Companies have set up shop on rooftops, hair stylists are seeing clients in parks and under bridges, museums are curating shows in their courtyards, and an indoor cycling studio has relocated to an empty lot.Restaurants started the movement earlier this summer, building elaborate al fresco dining areas in the streets when officials determined that indoor service would not be permitted. “This is a true surviving game,” said Roberto Paciullo, owner of three Zero Otto Nove restaurants. So far, about 10,000 restaurants and bars have shifted to outdoor dining, according to the NYC Hospitality Alliance.Just last week, Chelsea Market, the renowned (and always crowded) indoor food and retail space in Manhattan that spans over a million square feet, took over no-standing zones on 15th and 16th Streets between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Now wood-clad enclosures house 115 socially distanced tables, and customers can order from 19 food vendors. Five restaurants are also offering table service.So far, with coronavirus levels remaining low, the city’s fresh-air efforts seem to be working.But Nicole Gelinas, an urban economist who is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said that the city needs to be doing more to make the outdoors work for New Yorkers, and not just during the pandemic.“We need to be thinking of the parks as essential services as we head into layoffs,” Ms. Gelinas said. “We should be more aggressive in closing off streets to traffic,” she continued. “We need to rethink how much of this valuable resource we give over to cars and trucks and instead give it to people if we want the city to be livable in the long term.”More can always be done, of course, but this summer is a start. Here are a few of the ways New Yorkers have turned their city inside out.LeisureBallroom dancing under the trees, bocce on the rooftopImageThe Parks Department has updated its list of areas with sprinklers and water fountains, like Allerton Playground, in the Bronx. Credit…George Etheredge for The New York TimesWhen the city first shut down, fitness studios moved classes online. Now many are moving them outside. The Cobble Hill studio of Club Pilates is holding mat classes in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn. The downtown branch of Fred Astaire Dance Studios has organized group classes — free, with a tip for the instructor — at Rockefeller Park in Manhattan’s Battery Park City. And Pure Barre’s studios have headed to parks in multiple boroughs.Indoor cycling classes, however, require gear that cannot easily be carried to and fro. So Amy Glosser, the owner of Byklyn in Park Slope, opened a “studio” in an empty lot near the Barclays Center. Cyclists listen to pumping beats while wearing wireless headphones, so as not to disturb the neighbors.ImageIndoor cycling, outside.Credit…BYKLYN Indoor Cycling and FitnessThe exertion up on the roof of Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport doesn’t go beyond bocce, c
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