New Yorkers rejoice as the city’s iconic cultural sites reopen

An employee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art checks a visitor's temperature as they queue to enter, September 3, 2020, New York City, USA.
An employee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art checks a visitor's temperature as they queue to enter, September 3, 2020, New York City, USA. © Jessica Le Masurier

New York City was the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States in March. Now the city’s cultural sites are slowly reopening.

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After six months of hibernation, the American Museum of Natural History is slowly coming back to life. 

The Upper West Side institution reopened its doors to the general public this Wednesday after the longest closure in its entire 150-year history.

But the hiatus did give the museum ample time to clean all of the dinosaurs’ teeth, offering a silver lining of the shutdown.

Among the first visitors to return were Chrissie Murphy and her two daughters, who danced between the T-Rex and the Apatosaurus through the hall of Saurischian fossils.

“To not be able to come here for six months has been really tough on us,” said the stay-at-home mother from Connecticut. “So just knowing that it was open again today, we were so excited to come back.”

Emma took a close look at the T-Rex’s teeth. “It has giant teeth and I am wondering if it can crack bones,” she said. She got the unequivocal answer to that question – “T-Rex could pulverise bones, in a snap” in the exhibition T. rex: The Ultimate Predator, which opened right before the pandemic and has been extended until spring next year. 

Visitors have to book tickets ahead of time and they must wear a mask in the museum. It has only opened at 25 percent capacity, as is the case for most of the other cultural attractions in New York City.

“We’re really limiting the numbers and just were making sure that it’s an enjoyable experience,” explained the museum’s chief of visitor services, Lisa Krassner. “It’s a great time to make the museum your own and really explore without any crowds.”

Back at The Met 

Due to travel restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19, most of the visitors queuing up outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which reopened in late August, are locals. 

“We’ve been waiting for this. We’ve been counting down,” said Tamar Wise, a New York City attorney, whose daughters had scooted to the museum from their home.  

“I want to see the art, all art inspires me,” daughter Ariel, six, explained from behind her face mask. 

Daniel Rossi, New York’s best-known hot-dog vendor, is also back up and running. His two carts have occupied the spot right in front of the stairs to the Met’s main entrance for 13 years. 

“I’m happy ... staying all those months without doing anything, it’s horrible,” said the 70-year-old veteran. On a good summer’s day his two carts used to make about $2,000 (€1,700). Now he said he is lucky if he makes $200 (€170) in a day. 

“The tourists are not gonna come back until there’s a vaccine. If it’s successful by the springtime, we’ll be back in business,” he said. 

Another of the city’s most iconic sites, the Empire State Building, has also reopened. 

“We are the heartbeat of NY,” said Jean-Yves Ghazi, the director of the Empire State Building Observatory. “We continue to be the symbol of New York City. And really, NYC was not open until the Empire State reopened.”

From the observatory, which is 320 metres above ground, you can see yellow taxis speeding up and down the avenues and feel the buzz of New York City starting to return.

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