October 20, 2020
Fort Greene Park-goers take a stroll as the world opens back up. [Credit: Maeve Dunigan]
(NEW YORK) — It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. A child, his face half-covered by a purple cloth mask, is barreling down the paved pathway on a scooter, his worried guardian jogging behind, barely able to keep up. It may be late afternoon on a workday, but the park is bursting with energy nonetheless.
Look around the park and you’ll see that almost every person is wearing a mask, and no one seems to be letting their face covering inhibit the day. What might have seemed apocalyptic in February feels strangely normal now. It’s been over six months since the city was put on pause due to COVID-19. Now, New York is pressing play, but an air of caution still dominates the public space. The squeak of sneakers on acrylic concrete reveals what looks to be a masked father and son pair volleying a tennis ball back and forth. Children in brightly patterned cloth masks race down a hill. A woman in a medical mask gossips hurriedly on her iPhone as she passes by. It’s easy to keep your distance here.
A man yells to a group of people huddled around a pizza box, “Want another slice of plain?!” Everyone is standing for some reason as if they’re still waiting for a picnic blanket that’s on its way. It’s a bit overcast, warm but not too hot. A nice day to eat outside.
The air smells like evergreen needles, grass, late afternoon coffee, dust being kicked up from the field. There’s a hint of car exhaust, but it strangely complements the aroma. You can hear honking, rollerblades on concrete, kids laughing, a distant church bell as the clock strikes four, the thumping of a runner pounding his Nikes on the pavement.
Two women briefly remove their masks to take licks of their ice cream. For a moment, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when no one wore masks at all.