State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

My Neighborhood and Coronavirus, a Month Later

A month ago, when the coronavirus was just starting to tighten its grip on New York City,  I pulled out my cell phone and took some snapshots of how my Upper West Side neighborhood was reacting. We’ve seen and learned a lot since then. Here are followup photos, most from the past week.

March 24. Maybe the last soccer game played behind Booker T. Washington middle school on 107th Street for a long time. Shortly after, the field was padlocked.
A few weeks ago, our building made a rule: no sharing the elevator. If the door opens and someone’s in there, you let them go. On the wall, more rules.
Looking up Broadway from 104th Street, in front of our apartment building at 5pm, the onetime rush hour.
I keep reading about how nature is coming back as humans retreat—coyotes in California, dolphins in Venice. In New York City, it’s rats. With few people to bother them, they’ve honeycombed this tree pit on Broadway near 107th with burrows. A couple scurried down their holes when they saw me coming.
Outside West Side Market, 110th and Broadway. A month ago, this beloved food emporium was jammed at all hours. Now, due to social distancing, the few who come must wait in a line that winds around the corner, 10 silent feet apart.
Riverside Drive/106th Street. With fewer cars, colleagues who study the atmosphere say pollution has abated. On the other hand: some remaining motorists are blithely driving the wrong way on one-way streets and doing 100 miles an hour on the nearby West Side Highway.
7pm. The neighborhood erupts in cheering, pot-banging and horn blowing to salute the valor of our health-care workers and EMTs. Actually, it starts at 6:58 and goes to 7:05. I think we’re also cheering for other essential workers such as grocery checkout clerks—and each other. That’s my wife, Ruby, with the cowbell.
At least there is more time for previously neglected indoor activities. My daughter Stella, now back home from Maryland to finish her sophomore year in college remotely, gives Rosie the dog a much-needed bath.
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument for the Union troops of the Civil War, on West 89th Street, flying the flag at half-staff for coronavirus victims. April 18, 2020.
Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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