Masked in Manhattan

Some photos from a June 12-13, 2021 visit…

Summary: Based on observed behavior and discussions with folks we met on the street, New Yorkers continue to regard their city, including the outdoor environment, as contaminated. However, instead of taking the obvious step of moving somewhere that isn’t contaminated, e.g., Zoom it in from Vermont or Hawaii, they continue to reside in NYC and attempt to protect themselves from airborne contaminants via bandanas, paper surgical masks, and other non-N95 masks (keep in mind that N95 works only if professionally fitted).

The city has a moderately post-apocalyptic feel. As in Boston, many retail spaces are vacant while marijuana-related enterprises are thriving. “Safety First: No Entry Without a Face Mask” on the door of a shop selling cigarettes and vaping products and some of the numerous marijuana-related trucks that we observed:

(The city is awesome for parents who were looking forward to discussing the crucial benefits of cannabis with their young readers.)

Roughly half of New Yorkers seem to wear masks on the sidewalk. The younger and less at-risk the person is from COVID-19, the more likely he/she/ze/they is to be wearing a mask. Mask usage is less prevalent within Central Park.

Vaccination does not comfort the anxious. Nor does actual experience of COVID-19 infection as a mild illness. For example, on East 90th street we encountered a group of locals who were taking the ferry to East 34th. One appeared to be a white woman in her 30s. She said that she’d had COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 and that it was comparable to a bad cold. She said that she’d been fully vaccinated. Despite this background, she stated that she wouldn’t use the subway system anymore, however, “because of COVID.” (Masks are, in theory, required on these ferries, but if you sit on the open top deck the enforcement is non-existent and compliance is only about 70 percent.)

What about being 18 years old, rich, white, and healthy? The Dalton School for Rich Kids says that you should be “unafraid” …. and fully masked:

(see also “Sex-ed teacher out at Dalton after ‘masturbation’ lesson for first graders” (New York Post) and “Uproar at NYC’s posh Dalton School after faculty issues 8-page anti-racism manifesto”)

Official government-funded media: “Fully Vaccinated People Can Stop Wearing Masks Indoors And Outdoors, CDC Says” (NPR, May 13, 2021). Private buildings and stores, however, remain skeptical. A friend’s cooperative building (a handful of units per floor):

What people used to call a “Korean deli”:

Capitol One, powered by Pride and “face masks or covering” (a bandana is fine!):

Here’s the restroom in the restaurant section of the Time Warner mall at Columbus Circle (when will that be renamed?):

They’d gotten organized enough to block off sinks, but were not organized enough to fill the soap or paper towel dispensers (we were there at 6 pm on a Saturday evening, so there were quite a few hours left before cleaning/replenishing).

Evidence that almost everything related to COVID-19 is religious… here’s a restaurant’s “outdoor dining” area. It is fully enclosed with no windows. Air is provided by a standard AC/heat pump.

But you can’t get COVID, unlike in a restaurant’s standard indoor space, because it is outdoors.

The most orthodox Churches of Shutdown that we found are the art museums. Email from the Guggenheim Museum after after making a mandatory reservation:

You’ll need to wear a three-ply mask regardless of vaccination status — staff is required to, too — practice social distancing, wash or sanitize your hands frequently, and pack light as our coat check is temporarily closed. Please plan ahead and read COVID-19 Safety Measures: What to Expect When Visiting.

In other words, they are fighting against an aerosol virus by cleaning surfaces and not touching their (rich white) visitors’ backpacks. (from November 2020: “The Coronavirus Is Airborne Indoors. Why Are We Still Scrubbing Surfaces?” (NYT): “Scientists who initially warned about contaminated surfaces now say that the virus spreads primarily through inhaled droplets, and that there is little to no evidence that deep cleaning mitigates the threat indoors.”). Among the below, my favorite is the exhortation to “Report violations of COVID-19 requirements by calling 311 or by texting ‘violation’ to 855 9044036.”

(How was the art? Nearly the entire museum is given over to a TV screen in the middle and visitors are supposed to stand and watch TV. Re/Projections:

To emphasize the works on display, many of the rotunda walls remain empty during Re/Projections.

Conceived in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, these projects rethink the Guggenheim’s iconic rotunda as a site of assembly, reflection, and amplification.

Artist Christian Nyampeta considers new models for globalism based in reparation and the possibility of a common world in an age dominated by difference.

Featuring renowned love songs written by men and played by women and nonbinary musicians, Ragnar Kjartansson’s performance celebrates pop music while revealing a culture shaped by chauvinism.

Our visit coincided with Christian Nyampeta’s work. It is unclear how much in reparations the (overwhelmingly white) visitors will want to pay after shelling out $25/ticket to the Guggenheim.)

Email from the Metropolitan Museum: “Face coverings are required for all visitors age two and older, even if you are vaccinated.” In other words, they’re somewhat less strict than the Guggenheim in that a bandana is considered effective PPE and museum employees won’t be inspecting your mask to determine the number of plies. Where the Met has the Guggenheim beat is in requiring visitors to wear masks in outdoor spaces, e.g., the rooftop garden:

The museum employs an official mask karen for this garden and he would periodically remind the scattered folks on the roof to keep their masks on. He also hassled a mom and dad for walking 20′ away from their two-brat stroller while taking a photo. Separately, where is Big Bird’s mask? (or maybe this isn’t Big Bird due to copyright issues? Big Bird is yellow)

The museum was mostly empty, possibly a consequence of the reservations required policy (though, as a practical matter, nobody checked whether or not we had a reservation). The slightly tighter spaces in the museum are closed off for safety:

There are COVID-19-related signs roughly every 10-20 feet throughout the museum. And, of course, water fountains are closed. Here is a sampling:

If you’re passionate about 1 gender ID out of 50+, make sure to get to the Met between July 2 and October 3 for “The New Woman Behind the Camera”:

The New Woman of the 1920s was a powerful expression of modernity, a global phenomenon that embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art. Featuring more than 120 photographers from over 20 countries, this groundbreaking exhibition explores the work of the diverse “new” women who embraced photography as a mode of professional and artistic expression from the 1920s through the 1950s. During this tumultuous period shaped by two world wars, women stood at the forefront of experimentation with the camera and produced invaluable visual testimony that reflects both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the era.

The exhibition is the first to take an international approach to the subject, highlighting female photographers’ innovative work…

Is it fair to say that referring to “female photographers” reflects cisgender-normative prejudice? Holding the phone just above a 6′ screen:

The Museum has a new Dr. Fauci section. Truth and Research:

What does Research tell us about the Truth regarding the origins of this most pernicious virus? The New York City government wants to remind you that it is Asians who are responsible for COVID. Times Square:

“Fight the virus, not the people” and “Stop Asian Hate”! Who are “the people” that we’re told to associate with “the virus”?

One of the more peculiar aspects of NYC and COVID today is that the stay-in-NYC New Yorkers assert that they’re lives are completely back to “normal”. Yes, they’re wearing masks indoors and out, avoiding the subway, mostly not working in offices, not going to concerts or theater, etc. But this is indistinguishable from the way that life was in 2019. In some ways, they seem to be correct. Traffic leaving Manhattan on a Sunday was bad and traffic returning was terrible, with at least 5 miles of parked cars jamming the approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel from the New Jersey side.

The cost of an Uber is up roughly 50 percent:

Inequality continues to be a public health emergency at Teterboro (ancient V-tail Bonanza in front of a Gulfstream V):

(Excellent service as always at Meridian and parking a four-seat piston-powered plane is cheaper than parking a car oin Manhattan! (parking fee waived with purchase of 20 gallons of 100LL) My standard tip of $20 for the line guys will soon be insulting; inflation is already at 8% per year.)

On the way out we did the Skyline Route down the Hudson at 2,000′, turned around at the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and came back up at 1,500′. If you don’t count LaGuardia Tower and Newark Tower, a good time was had by all!

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Why are New York hotels expensive and mostly booked?

Tens of thousands of people with money fled to Florida. Broadway shows are closed until at least September. The Metropolitan Opera has turned itself into a TV channel featuring 200-year-old shows. Museums require onerous Web-based procedures to reserve tickets. The State of Liberty is closed (sometimes the best way to celebrate “liberty” is to prevent people from going where they want to go).

Why is it that a hotel room in NYC this coming weekend is $300-600/night and about half of the hotels are sold out?

(In prep for our flight to the Florida Free State, we’re going to show Manhattan to the youngsters who’ve never been there. We did actually manage to book a hotel via Orbitz. The hotel sent us a message:

… Our In-house restaurant … is currently still closed but we can direct you to nearly place to eat.

During these unprecedented times we have had to modify our operations for the duration of your stay:

• We have increased the frequency of cleaning our public areas and have continued the use of approved disinfectant.

• We have increased the deployment of hand sanitizers.

• Extra disinfection of high touch areas in guest rooms including light switches and door handles, remotes

• Increased cleaning frequency of public areas hourly

• Reduced paper amenities (like pads and guest directories) in rooms

For your safety and comfort, we will not be servicing your room during your stay.

So… as long as coronavirus is primarily spread via contaminated surfaces, we will be safe!

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New York City High School: two days per week, two hours per day

I was chatting with a friend last night. His son is a high school student in the New York City public school system. What’s the experience, 14 months into coronapanic and four months after teachers became eligible for vaccines? “It’s two days per week, two hours per day,” he explained. “But there is no teaching. It’s like a study hall. We just talk to our friends.” What about the rest of the week? “We are online for two hours per day.”

Separately, though the son may not have learned much academic content since March 2020, he is fully educated on Mask and Shutdown Karenhood. He is a big believer in the efficacy of masks for the general public (#Science proves they work; practical trials in the Czech Republic cannot contradict #Science) and is happy to follow the dictates of Governor Cuomo and Dr. Fauci. What’s his personal experience with COVID? After a year of cowering and being masked any time he was outside of the family apartment-bunker… he got COVID. He, his sister, and his mom all had slight cold symptoms (the father had been vaccinated at this point).

Here are some photos from a May 1, 2021 COVID-safe fly-by, up the Hudson River at 1500′ in a friend’s Cirrus SR22T (with A/C!):

#StaySafe everyone!

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Flush toilets in New York City for $60 per hour

Our mole inside the New York real estate industry told us about a newly available career path: toilet flusher. “The office towers are empty and if you don’t have someone go in and flush toilets and run sinks, you’ll get Legionnaires’ disease. Even when the sinks and toilets are electronically controlled, nobody ever envisioned a time when buildings would be vacant for months or years. So there is no way to program them to run themselves automatically every few days. We’re paying people $60 per hour to go in and flush toilets.”

Why isn’t it $20 per hour? “There’s government funding for this so it has to be prevailing wage,” he replied. “Union wages start at $60 per hour.”

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Wealth migration from New York measured by K-1s

A friend of a friend runs a real estate business in Manhattan: “We have 18 limited partners,” he said. “Ten years ago, we mailed 18 K-1s to New York addresses. This year it was 0.” Where did the rich limiteds migrate to? “Two went overseas, one to Switzerland. Most of the rest went to states with no income tax. Florida, South Dakota.”

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