Times Square virtually empty amid virus crisis, and the workers suffer

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Costumed characters wait for customers in Times Square. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The lights went out on Broadway this past Thursday because of new crowd capacity rules in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. The shutdown had a ripple effect on all those who depend on the tourists and local crowds who visit the area and spend their money.

Some of those especially affected are the restaurants, bus tour companies and their runners, costumed characters awaiting a tip from those wanting to take a photo. Cab drivers are also in the dumps as few people are riding to the area, and less to airports.

Even the homeless who beg for a meager living ask “Can you spare a buck?” — and get fewer answers.

The coronavirus has virtually scared off most of the normal crowds to the Times Square area, with an untold number of people dependent on income from the neighborhood facing economic ruin.

The Times Square plaza was empty. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Martin Clarke was trying to entice tourists to take a ride on his double-decker bus. But there were few takers.

“There’s just nobody out here – I don’t know what is going to happen if this keeps up,” Clarke said. “I’m out here in the cold trying to get people to take tours, and there is just nobody who wants to go.”

Nobody seems to want to take a double-decker bus tour of New York amid the crisis. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Julie Metz sat in Times Square sipping a cup of coffee by herself.

“It’s kind of nice to have the place to myself, but it’s for the wrong reason – that’s so sad,” she said.

Costumed characters were doing their best to stir up business, but there were few takers on a day that should’ve been brisk for business, rather than from the cold wind.

“I’m out here since this morning, and I’ve made a dollar or two the whole day,” said Minnie Mouse, joined by Cookie Monster. “There just isn’t many people out here. We might as well go home, but I have to try, because I have bills to pay.”

What passes for social distancing on a Sunday in Times Square amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The infamous Naked Cowboy was playing his guitar is his regular skivvies and took a photo with one young woman – no tip.

“If I’m out here saying the world is going to win, and it doesn’t then I lose,”said the Naked Cowboy. But I’m taking a gamble on Lord God Jesus Christ and that everyone will stay positive. I believe in life. I believe it’s all going to work out.”

The Naked Cowboy won’t let anything stop him from bringing joy to passers by. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Standing next to him was a man identified as Mark, who was standing with a sign saying “Don’t be afraid, put your trust in Jesus.” Few heard his Sunday street sermon.

“My message, I don’t believe in crisis, I believe in Christ and the word of God is powerful,” he said.

Mohammed Ullah, a cabbie for 15 years sat in his car with no fares and no prospects on West 46th Street.

“It’s very sad, the city is very afraid –  empty, since 7 o’clock, I didn’t even make 20 dollars, but my cost is $100 – maybe I just go home,” sighed Ullah, an immigrant to this country 24 years earlier.

“I like driving, many good people, nice people, but now we have a mess,” Ullah said.

Mohammed Ullah, a cabbie for 15 years, sat in his car, no fares to be had. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

A homeless man named Ronnie G, 48, who lives in a shelter in Brooklyn, held his sign on 6th Avenue trying to get a few dollars to survive. He said he was supposed to go to church this morning.

“I tried to go to church in Long Island City, and they come to with the BRC van (Bowery Residents Committee) to go to the Rock Church – they buy us a coffee, then buy us a pizza,” Ronnie G said. “Today, they didn’t even show up – they cancelled church. How do you do that in America?

Ronnie G. says he’s fallen on even tougher times. (Photo by Todd Maisel)