The streets of Manhattan have never been as barren of people as the COVID-19 crisis goes into its fifth week.
Only a hearty few have dared to venture out to see an empty, dark Broadway theater district that is sadly quiet during the pandemic.
Most businesses in the theater district are closed, save for a few grocery stores selling food and drink. Even the costumed characters have abandoned Times Square; the Naked Cowboy continues playing his guitar in the middle of Broadway in spite of it all.
“We’ve got to be strong – I’m still healthy, but I am wearing this American flag bandana,” the Naked Cowboy said as temperatures reached only the upper 40s Monday.
He stood in the middle of the avenue, and then walked over to where a homeless man was feeding pigeons and handed him a dollar.
“You have to have faith, things will get better and New York is strong. I just want to bring some cheer to the city in a tough time – we will beat this,” the cowboy crowed.
Three young nurses couldn’t resist getting a photo with this Times Square icon. The nurses were from Arizona, visiting the neighborhood for the first time after having served numerous hours at a Union City, New Jersey hospital treating victims of COVID-19.
“We are helping out with the COVID crisis – this is our first time in New York, but I hear this is not Times Square,” said Allie Love, who is living in the same residence as the other nurses with her. “It’s been really hard to see such suffering, there is no way to put it into words, it’s really hard.”
Kelly Pate, also a nurse, said Times Square was not how she pictured it.
“It’s nice to be here and it’s nothing like you expect unfortunately under these circumstances. It is what I would anticipate,” Pate said. “It’s so grand – I want to be here when things start opening up and see it when things are open. I’m at least glad I’m able to help in the middle of history.”
Another visitor, Sam Warton, a health care worker from Maryland, said he just needed to take a walk after weeks of efforts in a Manhattan hospital.
“There’s been so much suffering, but even beyond the health issues, this city is going to hurt for a long time,” he sighed.
Some of the few people standing around included the homeless.
Gregory Williams, 60, who claims to have been a private in the Army, having served in Kuwait in 1986, said he is struggling to get by since his family died in a Parkchester, Bronx fire in September.
“I don’t do drugs or drink. I just do this to get a room at night and eat,” Williams said. “But it’s hard, there’s nobody out here. What am I supposed to do?”