More than 40 million people visit Central Park every year. They bring with them a hive of commercial pursuits including guided pedicab tours, snack vendors, buskers, and breakdancing troupes. Many come to play music at the Strawberry Fields memorial for late Beatle John Lennon. Others pose for photos in front of a fountain that resembles the one in the opening credits of Friends. This is what Central Park was during the Corona Crisis.
The newly-found Central Park
Since mid-March, when New Yorkers were ordered to practice social distancing as the city became America’s coronavirus epicenter. However, the park has become a place for quick walks alone and somber reflection rather than a spot for picnics and noisy team sports. Gone are the softball games, horse-drawn carriages, and hordes of tourists. In their place are pronounced birdsong, solitary walks, and a renewed appreciation for Central Park’s beauty during New York’s coronavirus lockdown. The outbreak has coincided with the blooming of Central Park’s cherry blossom and crabapple trees, as well as North America’s spring bird migration.
Yellow pine warblers and blue-gray gnatcatchers frolic near pink and white magnolias and red maple trees, free of the typical background hum of traffic and planes overhead.
As the temperatures rose into the mid-70s, small clusters of people sat on the park’s grassy meadows. Others ran, jogged, or walked through the park. The city has been at the center of the coronavirus outbreak for weeks. And while the number of cases has recently been declining, city officials are still urging people to stay at home.
The New York Police Department had said that more than 1,000 police officers on foot, bikes, and vehicles. They would be enforcing social distancing during the weekend throughout the city. The mayor said officers were handing out free face masks. They would be issuing summons to those who tried to resist social distancing rules. Signs through Central Park reminded visitors how far apart they must remain from other people. Many people at the park wore masks and appeared to be keeping a distance from others.
Some may consider the sight at Central Park as a preview of what cities across the country may see as authorities ease restrictions.
When New York City erected a field hospital in the middle of the Park, residents breathed a sigh of relief. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to use every place needed to help people.
“This is the kind of thing you will see now as this crisis develops,” he told reporters while discussing the field hospital in Central Park.
The 14-tent hospital starkly contrasted the normal offerings of the park. It housed 68 additional beds to a city needing desperate assistance for its healthcare facilities. They were already inundated with Covid-19 patients.
Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization, built the tent hospital. They would act as an overflow for patients in Mount Sinai’s hospitals. But with New York apparently past its peak of Covid-19 infections, it was decided for the field hospital to close by the second week of May.
However, Central Park survived during the Corona crisis. Now you can enjoy the days of late summer and early fall, like bike-riding, and pedicab tours among the others!