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A Time of Soft Reopenings and Cautionary Travel

As the pandemic crisis lessens in New York State, several NYC attractions are scheduling their reopenings. What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements.

With the state of New York currently ahead of the class in the pandemic outbreak across the US, many places have started to reopen. The rollout is designed to be gradual, with geographic regions advancing according to a fixed set of metrics. New York City, the hardest hit area in the first months of the crisis, entered Phase 2 on Monday, June 22 and is scheduled to move to Phase 3 on Monday, July 6.  

Hand sanitizer dispenser at the Marble Hill station of Metro-North's Hudson line

In NYC, some offices are bringing back their workers, and many restaurants, at least the ones that have survived the economic onslaught of the past few months, are commandeering the sidewalks for outdoor dining. Some commercial sightseeing boats have announced future dates for sails.  

Before the pandemic, a “soft opening” usually stood for a quiet opening for a limited number of people, a time to test the waters with the loyal clientele. These tentative steps more than ever apply to bringing back a business or public places following the trauma of the past few months. Both the businesses and the customers are a little nervous about seeing one another again. Tread softly and wear a mask.

A restaurant on Dyckman Street open for outdoor dining

A walk through the neighborhood this past week looked like a familiar time and place of long ago. The streets were busy again with people running errands, going in and out of stores without the long lines of March and April. Most were wearing masks, the more persistent reminder of the ongoing public health crisis, and some were even wearing them correctly. Yet, the city looks a little rough these days, frayed on the edges, like it’s just rolled out of bed. 

A clean subway car at the 207th A train station early in the morning 

Walking around the block or going to the park is one thing, but how safe is traveling a longer distance by mass transit? While officials in city and state governments have provided detailed guidance for each type of business in the phased reopening, they haven’t provided much guidance for individuals in terms of travel, especially for those of us without a car. 

Here, all is nuance. Everyone’s individual circumstances must be considered in making everyday decisions. We know the general rules: 1. Wear a mask. 2. Practice physical distancing of 6 feet. 3. Wash your hands; use hand sanitizer. Of course, not everyone abides by the guidelines, so some degree of risk is involved.

Hand sanitizer at The Hudson on Dyckman Street at the Hudson River 

“Some degree of risk” means we need to practice personal risk mitigation strategies. Experience and observation will help provide some guidance here. For example, going out for a walk in the morning is better than later in the day. But what about a train ride? How far? How much time will be spent underground in close quarters? Are buses better? It’s complicated. 

If I need to take a train, I much prefer early in the morning over late in the day because the trains are taken out of service and disinfected in the overnight hours. I prefer trains that travel above ground, like Metro-North on the Hudson line, because fresh air can blow through at each stop. Yet, things happen, like the person that stands too close or the boisterous family of seven that ignores the mask rules. 

On Metro-North heading north on the Hudson line

Walking is still the safest option. For relatively short trips out of the neighborhood, consider walking at least part of the way.      

So here goes ... updates marked in red.

Opening     


Phase 3 begins in NYC on July 6. Allowed: (updated) retail stores; personal care nail salons, massage, etc.; outdoor recreation; dog runs. At this writing, some local NYC officials are lobbying against reopening indoor areas of bars. (update, July 1 - NO indoor dining!)

Phase 4 begins in NYC on July 20. Allowed: Low-risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment, film and TV production, higher education and professional sports without fans. (Forward.ny.gov) 

• Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map for restaurants currently open in NYC. 

• On July 1, city beaches will open for swimming.

• (update) 15 NYC public swimming pools are scheduled to open August 1. 
Bronx: Crotona Park, Mullaly Park, Haffen Park
Brooklyn: Sunset, Betsy Head Park, Kosciuszko
Manhattan: Hamilton Fish Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Wagner, Marcus Garvey Park
Queens: Astoria Park, Liberty, Fisher
Staten Island: Lyons, Tottenville

The Metropolitan Museum of Art plans to open at the end of summer on August 29. While the museum would be allowed to open on July 20, the museum needs time to get ready. (The Met Breuer is permanently closed, after being transferred to the Frick Collection.)

New-York Historical Society will reopen on August 14 with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine.

(update) The Museum of the City of New York plans to reopen on July 23 with a special exhibit on the pandemic.

• New York Botanical Garden plans to reopen on July 20. Reserved timed ticket in advance. Outdoor areas only. Mask and distancing protocols.  (announcement)

• Libraries: NYPL. Starting on Monday, July 13, the library will allow a grab-and-go service. 

• The 9/11 Memorial will reopen on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices.


Want to take a long walk, practice social distancing, and see the Hudson River?
The bridge path of the Mario C. Cuomo Bridge (Tappan Zee Bridge) is now open.
The path links the towns of Tarrytown and South Nyack.

Tour Boat Companies:

• Classic Harbor Line. Sailing now. Some restrictions and limited service. Website.

• American Princess Cruises: Whale Watching and Dolphin Adventure cruises have resumed as of June 27. Website

• Hornblower Cruises: Spirit of New Jersey sailing from Lincoln Harbor Marina in Weehawken, NJ. Read more about their SafeCruise

Circle Line will open on July 20. 

Not Opening


• (update) On June 29, 2020, the Broadway League announced that performances will be suspended for the rest of 2020. The suspension will continue until January 3, 2021. (press release)

• (update) On July 1, the Mayor and Governor announced that indoor dining is postponed in Phase 3.

Images from June 2020.

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