Weather: A hot one — high in the upper 80s and sunny.
Alternate-side parking: In effect until May 31 (Memorial Day).
Over a year into the pandemic, today marks a return to normalcy. Or does it?
As infection rates dip and vaccinations become widely available, New York State has lifted many coronavirus restrictions starting today. Strict rules on capacity are no longer set in stone, and the mask mandate is technically over, with some exceptions.
So what will New York look like now?
What’s actually changing?
Businesses and houses of worship can open at 100 percent capacity, but they need to maintain six feet of distance between individuals or groups. So if you own a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or tiny nail salon, it may seem like not much has changed in terms of capacity.
For restaurants, there’s a way around that rule. They can place tables closer together if they erect five-foot-tall partitions between them. That requirement can be expensive, and health experts say Plexiglas partitions can do more harm than good.
“All of us in public health have been on the anti-Plexiglas crusade,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.
Theaters and large venues like ballparks can return to full capacity if they require proof of vaccination. Broadway theaters will fully reopen in September.
Do I still need to wear a mask?
That depends on where you are and whether you’re vaccinated. Masks are still mandatory on public transit and in schools, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings.
Fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, though private businesses can still require them.
Some vaccinated New Yorkers plan to keep their masks on regardless.
How safe is New York?
As of Tuesday, the seven-day average of positive cases in the city was 1.47 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Nearly 40 percent of city residents are fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times’s database.
Still, despite the new guidelines, epidemiologists recommend wearing masks indoors.
Although New York City is now averaging about 600 new cases a day, Dr. El-Sadr said that the city is almost “where we were last summer,” back when there were 300.
“But we are not there yet,” she said.
From The Times
And finally: Chelsea’s Black-owned art gallery
The Times’s Robin Pogrebin writes:
At a moment when equity and diversity have become paramount in the art world, Nicola Vassell, a former director of both the Pace and Deitch Projects galleries in Manhattan, will open her own exhibition space on Tenth Avenue on Thursday. It will be a rare contemporary art gallery owned by a Black woman in the heart of Chelsea.
“It’s time for a Black-owned gallery to inhabit the art world in New York in a really strong, dynamic way,” said Vassell, 42, in an interview.
Vassell said the “social fervor” of the past year — which fueled a re-evaluation of whom museums and galleries present and promote — “really lit a fire” under her.
“We are thinking about how revision will take place, now that people are calling for reconsideration,” she said. “It’s a window which would not have been open two years ago. Psychologically, it wasn’t possible or realistic. Suddenly people want to embrace different perspectives.”
Vassell’s venture also represents a bold business move, given some doomsday predictions about the future of brick-and-mortar galleries as well as pandemic-enforced efforts to build online sales.
But the dealer said she believes the in-person and virtual experiences of seeing art “can live together.”
[ Read more about Vassell’s plans for the space.]
“While there is proof of robust life in the digital sphere, artists still want to show,” she added. “They want their work to hang on walls, they want response.”
The program at the 3,500-square feet gallery between West 18th and 19th Streets — recently inhabited by Lisson Gallery, now a few blocks north — will be expansive and experimental, Vassell said.
A veteran of the field, Vassell said she is keenly aware of pioneers, such as June Kelly in SoHo, and of smaller galleries owned by Black women, including Welancora in Brooklyn, founded by Ivy N. Jones, and Housing on the Lower East Side, run by KJ Freeman.
“Many people have been integral to that storytelling,” she said, “and I am one step along the way.”
It’s Wednesday — experience something new.
Metropolitan Diary: Quick change
It was summer 2006. I had graduated from college and moved to New York with $1,500 in the bank. A friend and I had a sublet in Astoria. We paid $400 a month apiece for a shared room.
My roommate had an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I had a part-time job at a Starbucks on the Upper East Side. As cheap as the rent was, I needed to make more money if I was going to stay in the city.
Eventually, I landed an interview with a nonprofit group. To get to the office downtown in time, I had to go straight from work. After my shift was over, I changed into fresh pants in the bathroom, then rushed to the subway.
When a train arrived, I settling into a seat, yanked off the work shirt I had on over a tank top and put on a button shirt and a blazer. Then I tugged off my black sneakers and socks and slipped on a pair of pumps.
As I was shoving my barista clothes into my tote bag, I glanced up to see a middle-age woman looking at me.
“You’re a whole new person,” she said.
And I got the job.
— Caitlin Smith Rimshnick
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