Manhattan, In the Time of Covid

It’s the most famous city in the world, vibrant, filled with over the top creativity, the place people dream of coming, whether to live or work here. It’s got the most famous skyline, high-end shops, specialty bakeries, art houses, architectural beauty, parks, and with neighborhood names recognized far and wide. Historically, it’s second to none – it’s where Washington took the first Presidential oath of office, where most of the immigrants over the last two centuries came for their freedom, and where the Statue of Liberty stands as a beacon for those still looking for a better life. Yet, on a recent Facebook chat, someone asked about whether it was safe to go into the city.

The mom was planning on bringing the kids in to see the tree, and the angel statues around Rockefeller Center. The responses were mixed, but most suggested they skip it, grumbling about the city being a horrible place these days. My suggestion was to treat a visit to Manhattan like they would any trip to a major city. Watch your bag, stay alert, bring snacks because getting into a restaurant without a reservation is futile, and plan high profile places at low peak times. The city is still the city, still phenomenal with exhibits opening, steady lines at restaurants and cupcake shops.  The numbers are fewer, yes, I agree. But here’s why I will continue to view the city as still the best place to visit.  

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get into the city from my Orange County home. My plan was this: brunch at City Winery, a visit to One World Trade Center, lunch with friends, a holiday décor stroll up Sixth Avenue towards Rockefeller Centre, then dinner. With a granola bar in my backpack, I had reservations scheduled so that I’d get to Rockefeller Center just before the hordes of evening crowds. I also had my mask and vax card at the ready. 

One World Trade Center Observatory (West and Fulton Streets).After a 47 second elevator ride (yes, I counted: one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.) up to the 100th floor of One Trade Center’s observatory, we witnessed the most inspiring and dizzying view of the city to the north, south, east, and west.  Also known as the Freedom Tower, and up until this year, it was the tallest building in the country.  But its 1776-foot-high measurement is still symbolic for capturing the spirit of America’s fight for freedom and strength after 9/11. 

It was interesting that the most popular side of the observatory was the one facing north, and no wonder since it encompasses the view of Times Square to the left, all the way across to the United Nations, on the right.  In between, we saw the tippy tops of Lincoln Center, and The Dakota, for example. Continuing to the right, the Apollo Theatre, Museum of Modern Art, St. Patrick’s, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, NY Public Library, Yankee Stadium, Grand Central Station, Chrysler Building, and lastly the cereal-box shape of the UN. A collection of buildings sure to take your breath away. And if you want to know why these sites are so famous, guests can borrow iPads that offer audio descriptions. (With certain tickets.)   

At City Winery (11th and 15th St.), I saw Strawberry Fields, the Beatles very gifted tribute band, recreate the fab four throughout their remarkable history, from their Ed Sullivan appearance, through to the Let It Be album. With seating around the intimate stage, and a scrumptious brunch, this was top notch. Continuing north, I met friends at Mustang Harry’s (7th and 30th St.) for an unhurried lunch of reminiscing. Back out on the pavement I glanced to my right and saw the cutest Little Island, a brand-new park of sorts that juts out into the Hudson River, built on an old pier, with walkways and views, and live performances through the nice weather. 

Then, heading north, towards Times Square (7th and 42nd St) to see the holiday décor, costumed characters, and a pop-up comedy show.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off one particular Elmo character who must’ve been hot under the big red head because he slid it back off his head making it look like our lovable Elmo was fascinated with something up in the sky. I would’ve taken a picture, but then I’d have to cough up a buck or two. 

Up to Rockefeller Center to catch the bright and large red ornaments across from Radio City. The NYPD’s traffic division was out in full force ensuring that whether on foot, pedaling a bike or driving a vehicle, traffic laws were being honored on 6th Avenue. Crowds were flowing along 49th Street, either for the next Rockettes’ show, picking up glowing souvenirs from sidewalk vendors, and then I was looking up at the most magnificent Christmas tree I’ve seen here in years – it literally popped with colorful bulbs in every nook and cranny. Dinner at Tito Murphy’s (8th and 46th St.) with my daughter and back to Penn Station for the train back to Orange County.

Manhattan is going to have its ups and downs while the Covid-pandemic and its offspring, Delta and Omicron, continue to play havoc with city life and recreational plans.  I remain optimistic and idealistic about the city’s ability to stand tall even as Broadway shows struggle, event planners plan and then re-plan, and Covid protocols vary from day to day. It’s the way it’s gonna be for who knows how long, but we can ride this out until life settles back down, and it will.  Just a note, though, when you’re in the city, give a little nod to those who make a day in the city safe, who manage the traffic, trains, buses, garbage collections, etc.  There are so many good people out there, so much good, despite what we see on social media.     

I invite all those who love this big ole’ Apple, even with a little brown spot on it, to support it.  Make a plan, watch your bag, wear your mask, have your vax card at the ready, and have a granola bar in your bag.

Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff

About MJ Hanley-Goff (110 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff has been contributing to Woman Around Town since its inception in 2009. She began her career at Newsday in the early 90’s and has continued writing professionally for other New York publications like the Times Herald-Record, Orange Magazine, and Hudson Valley magazine. Former editor of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, she also contributed stories to AAA’s Car & Travel, and Tri-County Woman. After completing her novel and a self-help book, she created MJWRITES, INC. to offer writing workshops and book coaching to first time authors, and college essay writing help to students. MJ is thrilled and honored to write for WAT for the amazing adventures it offers, like reviewing concerts, people, authors, events, and tourist attractions in New York, and around the world. “I enjoy drawing attention to the off-the-beaten path kinds of stories,” she says. “It’s great big world out there, with so many talented and creative artists, doers, and thinkers.”