Neighbors chat, dogs get acquainted and above all, there’s laughter. After three months of sheltering in place, this scene of normalcy is still not commonplace as the city tests the waters of socializing, within the prescribed limits.
Steve Grillo lives in the neighborhood and is a walking advertisement touting his West Side community. “Everybody’s a good person,” he says. After his longtime role as an intern on the Howard Stern Show, Grillo co-owned a pizzeria there in 2009 and “that’s when I fell in love with the neighborhood.”
There was no hanging out with friends on the streets most of March and April but by the end of May, “the neighbors,” as Grillo calls them, turned out to support the owners of corner bars and restaurants. “It’s ‘Cheers’ but in Hell’s Kitchen,” he says referencing the popular 1980s sitcom.
There were takeout food orders and drinks were mixed at the door. And a crowd gathered, which brought the police, who said they couldn’t be there. Following that, police placed a barricade, on occasion, to block traffic and allow for street mingling. An impromptu block party formed with the police in attendance to monitor.
The cautious return to life is intended to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus, which has killed at least 22,000 people in the city. While the number of new infections has dropped dramatically, it has not stopped entirely. Through the end of last week, hundreds of people were continuing to test positive each day.
Since the end of May, barricade or no barricade, as the pressure on hospitals has eased, the neighbors come out and line the side street sidewalks. Saturday, Grillo hosted a wedding reception underneath a canopy outside his apartment after the ceremony was held on his building’s roof. The newlyweds were neighbors, of course, and had planned to be married at West Point on the D-Day anniversary but that was scrubbed due to the pandemic.
He says this outdoor camaraderie wasn’t part of the neighborhood vibe before the coronavirus hit New York City so hard and the killing of George Floyd convulsed the country.
“Good people find good people. The pandemic has made us bond even more.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.