How we coped

Six New Yorkers reflect on life during the pandemic, and how the outdoors helped see them through.

Before it washed over the country in the spring of 2020, the coronavirus wave broke on New York City first. In March experts advised anyone who could to shelter in place, leaving millions of people stuck in small apartments, stewing in fear, illness, and grief. Some left town. Others ventured out each day into an eerily silent city, risking exposure to the virus to carry out their essential work.

New Yorkers turned to their families, to their communities, and to nature to endure this harrowing time. They applauded from their balconies each night, covered their front sidewalks in blooming chalk artwork, and played music on their rooftops. And they sought out the little pockets of green close to home, reacquainting themselves with the neighborhood spots that had always been important—but which had now become lifelines.

From a city with so many stories, we met six New Yorkers whose ties to the outdoors saw them through the pandemic. This is what they had to say.

Rowshanara Rafique
 
“Those walks gave me strength. I felt, ‘Okay, I can do this.’”
Rowshanara Rafique
Ruben Ramales
 
“It's kind of the beauty of Queens.”
Ruben Ramales
Jen Nelson, Kristin Sedivec, and Charlie Sedivec-Nelson
 
“It felt like we had an acre to ourselves.”
Jen Nelson, Kristin Sedivec, and Charlie Sedivec-Nelson
Shaun Commodore
 
“We can bond with each other and motivate one another.”
Shaun Commodore
Surfer Diane Cardwell
 
“Surfing allows you to experience nature in a very different way than almost anything else.”
Diane Cardwell

The pandemic’s economic impact—from job losses to business closures—has only widened longstanding New York City's inequities, including access to outdoor spaces. Innovative green spaces drive economic recovery—a recovery we need to start now. By investing in parks, we can leverage federal funding and create much-needed construction and maintenance jobs. 

That’s why the Trust for Public Land created the New York City Park Equity Plan, and we’re calling on elected leaders and candidates to commit to expanding the park system so all New Yorkers have access to vibrant outdoor spaces.

Read more and take action here.

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