Photos show how NYC is slowly bouncing back after the pandemic

EXCLUSIVE: Striking photographs show how New York City is coming back to life 12 months after the coronavirus pandemic transformed the ‘City That Never Sleeps’ into a desolate ghost town

  • New York City has been picking up the pieces one year after being sent into lockdown due to the pandemic
  • The typically bustling Big Apple was transformed into a gloomy ghost town in March 2020 when a statewide mandate forced all businesses to shut down and residents fled elsewhere  
  • Stunning photos taken for show how New York is slowly beginning to return to its former glory, one year after being devastated by the pandemic
  • Photographer Phil Penman returned to some of the city’s busiest thoroughfares 12 months after he shot the streets left virtually deserted during the lockdown 

Before it became the epicenter of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, it was The City That Never Sleeps, teeming with around-the-clock social activity, buzzing streets, and booming businesses.

And then, New York City stood still.

More than 32,000 New Yorkers  lost their lives since the start of the pandemic last March, which at one point saw 800 people dying daily and body bags piling up on the streets. 

As the outbreak took hold, residents, particularly the wealthy and young professionals, fled the city in droves to take shelter elsewhere, leaving behind unprecedented scenes.  

Manhattan’s usually bustling thoroughfares, including its iconic Times Square, now stood deserted, while its restaurants, bars, and longstanding businesses that were once swarming with crowds, showed no signs of life. 

The effects of the pandemic were so profound, they raised questions as to whether the Five Boroughs would ever be able to bounce back.

New York photographer Phil Penman has captured the images of those desolate streets a year ago to memorialize the sad state of those once thriving neighborhoods.

Now, one year later, photos show New York City is picking up the pieces after being gripped by the novel virus that sent 8.4million residents into lockdown and effectively transformed the bustling Big Apple into a gloomy ghost town.  

Normally congested parts of the cities that were once abandoned, have re-emerged as recovering neighborhoods where the streets are now lined with ‘new’ outdoor dining tents, in line with COVID-19 rules. 

‘The main thing that stood out to me was the construction that has gone on in last year,’ Penman said. ‘In some of the pictures you can see entire new buildings have gone up. Also small differences of stores that used to be that are gone.’

Here, takes you on a dramatic journey thanks to Phil Penman’s stunning photographs –  New York then and now.

Stunning photographs by New York photographer Phil Penman show how the Big Apple is slowly bouncing back after a year of devastation and economic turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured above is the view of East 58th Street and Madison Avenue in the midst of the lockdown on March 22, 2020 and one year later on March 26, 2021

Flatiron District, April 1, 2020 vs March 16, 2021: The 2020 pandemic lockdown effectively transformed the the city into a ghost town after businesses were forced to shut down and residents fled. Above: Perfume shop, Saher USA Inc., is seen back open for business on West 31st Street and Broadway

Upper East Side, March 22, 2020 vs March 26, 2021: Cinema 123 by Angelika, located on East 60th Street and 3rd Ave, shared a farewell message to customers on its marquee after it was forced to shutter its doors. Twelve months later, the Upper East Side theater is back to showing indie films on its three screens 

Flatiron District, April 1, 2020 vs March 21, 2021: On West 26th Street, it’s business as usual again, as pedestrians, workers, and public transportation vehicles return to the streets after lockdown

East 52nd St and Fifth Avenue, March 19, 2020 vs March 21, 2021: One of Manhattan’s most famous thoroughfares known for its luxury retailers and wealthy residents, no longer resembled the busy, upscale shopping hub that it was known as. Twelve months on, the street was brought back to life as high-end retailers, Salvatore Ferragamo and Cartier reopened

East 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue, March 19, 2020 vs March 21, 2021:  Popular clothing stores, Zara and Hollister were left deserted after all non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down. Now, the stores are back to welcoming shoppers, and have even erected massive advertisements above scaffolding, as the city slowly comes out of lockdown

Soho, March 18, 2020 vs March 21, 2021: Nothing but a crushed cardboard box was left outside Wolford Boutique and a NARS cosmetic store on Prince Street during the pandemic shut down. Now, the once-desolate street is overrun with pedestrian and vehicular traffic, a promising sign things are returning to normal 

West 37th Street, April 1, 2020 vs March 26, 2021: A Dunkin Donuts in Manhattan’s Garment District is back open for business as new billboard ads are erected, in another sign of recovery   

Seventh Avenue, March 29, 2020 vs March 15, 2021: Pedestrians take to the streets and a nearby phonebooth is now defaced with grafitti as NYC returns to normal life 

Soho, March 18, 2020 vs March 21, 2021: A once shuttered Rimowa store on Prince Street is now reopen and offers outdoor seating 

W Houston Street, March 18, 2020 vs March 26, 2021: An outdoor flea market attracts customers outside The Church of St. Anthony of Padua, one year after lockdown 

Grand Central Station April 15, 2020, vs March 15, 2021: One of New York Cities busiest rail terminals, which was brought to a standstill during the pandemic lockdown, resumes operations on 42nd Street  

West 52nd St, March 22, 2020, vs March 15, 2021: Social activity and traffic slowly picks up in the Midtown West 

Washington Square Park, March 18, 2020 vs March 30, 2021: The famous West Village park is teeming with visitors again after resembling a ghost town during the lock down last year

Washington Square Park, March 18, 2020 vs March 30, 2021: The park’s usual crowd of college students and social activists were nonexistent after the pandemic took hold of the city last year 

Midtown Manhattan, March 23, 2020 vs March 15, 2021: West 55th Street, left desolate one year prior, bounces back with its usual busy traffic and outdoor seating tents lining the streets

Soho, March 18, 2020 vs March 21, 2021: In a sign of the times, Fanelli Cafe is seen back in business, this time serving customers in makeshift dining areas on the sidewalk in compliance with the coronavirus restrictions 

Times Square, March 29, 2020 vs March 15, 2021: Brooklyn Diner prepares to reopen for business with signs reading, ‘We’ll look forward to seeing you when it is healthy to do so’ 

Soho, March 18, 2020 vs March 21, 2021: Prince Street resembles pre-pandemic scenes, as New Yorkers return to normal life

Soho, March 18, 2020 vs March 21, 2021: Prince Street’s quaint roads were back buzzing with shoppers again as businesses reopened

Times Square, March 22, 2020 vs March 26, 2021: In perhaps one of the most staggering scenes during the lockdown last year, NYC’s most famous tourist attraction, known for its bright lights and congested streets was left completely deserted

World Trade Center, March 25, 2020 vs March 16, 2021: The iconic Oculus, an artistic landmark that serves as a transportation hub of the WTC is back in motion 12 months later 

Fifth Avenue, March 29, 2020 vs March 23, 2021: The famous thoroughfare, nearly unrecognizable 12 months earlier, has been transformed back into a bustling shopping district 

Park Avenue, March 22, 2020, vs March 15, 2021

Midtown Manhattan, March 22, 2020 vs March 15, 2021

Sixth Avenue, April 1, 2020 vs March 26, 2021: Pedestrians walk down the street littered with trash bags – in another sign that lockdown is coming to an end 

Grand Central Station, April 15, 2020 vs March 15, 2021: Commuters return to the rail station as the city resumes operations amid its reopening plan

Midtown Manhattan, March 24, 2020 vs March 15, 2021

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