Focus on a Different Future Instead?

By Jacqueline Blyudoy

The semester began with a discussion in my Macaulay “Future of NYC” class about the pandemic’s effect on dining and entertainment spaces. While NYC restaurants were allowed to operate with outdoor seating areas beginning June 22nd, Cuomo did not allow indoor dining to reopen until September 9th. Even so, the reopening plan required for tables to be kept a minimum distance of six feet apart, further reducing maximum capacity. As a result, countless NYC roads were closed down to accommodate restaurants, so that they could bring their dining spaces outdoors. Roads that remained open were designated one way roads to diminish traffic.

The NYC population, after months of isolation in our homes, craved social interaction. They were presented with an opportunity to finally go out and cave in to our craving. New Yorkers were seen enjoying their favorite food or having a drink with a friend they hadn’t seen in a long time, while musicians played on the street. Additionally, after months of little to no exercise and physical movement, New Yorkers overwhelmingly took advantage of the beautiful weather Summer 2020 came with: they rode on their bicycles, walked, ran, and participated in yoga classes in the park. The line of customers waiting to buy a bicycle stretched down the block and by the end of the day, the store was often found empty!

Nonetheless, there has been constant discussion of “a return to normal.” In some cases, I wish for that too–I am restlessly waiting for the day that we don’t have to wear masks anymore. However, in other cases, why don’t we adopt a new norm and focus on a different future instead? New Yorkers have finally started to recognize the beauty of nature and its importance. Perhaps, it’s finally time to create more bike lanes to encourage a more eco–friendly mode of transportation and keep certain roads closed in order to continuously allow for dining spaces that encourage outdoor social interactions and entertainment during the warmer seasons.

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