Why New York’s a Lonely Town, Especially Since Covid – The New York Times


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We are still learning what the effects of prolonged isolation could be in a city where a million people live alone.
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Good morning. It’s Wednesday. Today we’ll look at something we all experienced in the pandemic when we lost friends or simply couldn’t get together — loneliness. We’ll also look at how the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library are countering book-banning efforts in other parts of the country.
My colleague John Leland writes that New York City, where a million people live alone, became an experiment in loneliness once the pandemic closed in: nine million people who were kept away from the old, familiar places. The bar where they always stopped in on the way home. The restaurant they always went to on Friday nights. It didn’t help that therapists were booked up as thousands grieved for a friend, a spouse, a partner or a parent.
Robin Solod, who lives on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, figured she was an unlikely candidate for loneliness.
“I was too busy schmoozing,” she said, remembering her life before the pandemic. “Who was home? I never was home. Then all of a sudden, everything comes to a halt.”
At the height of the lockdowns two years ago, two in every five workers nationwide were doing their jobs at least partly from home, according to Gallup. In Manhattan, Midtown office buildings sat empty.
Now the city is gearing up again as more pandemic restrictions are lifted. One big unknown is what the lasting effects of two years of prolonged isolation will be. But they could be widespread: Hardly anyone made it through 2020 and 2021 without some sense of a loss of human connections.
Solod’s loneliness has not eased with time. She was hospitalized in December in the Covid unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Now she sees the city returning to its old routines — without masks. “So many people I know say, ‘Oh, don’t worry,’ and they start quoting the mayor and talk about the kids in school,” she said. “But even putting the cancer and my illness aside, I would say I’m still very frightened of the virus. I don’t want to have to go back to that world of isolation.”
[New York Had an ‘Epidemic of Loneliness.’ Covid Made It Worse.]
Leland writes that mental health professionals consider loneliness the gap between the connectedness that you want and the connectedness you have. It’s a subjective feeling. People can have a lot of contact and still be lonely. Or they can be perfectly content being by themselves.
Even before the pandemic, the United States surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, said the country was experiencing an “epidemic of loneliness,” driven by the accelerated pace of life and the way technology had changed social interactions. He said the result was a public health crisis on the scale of the opioid epidemic or obesity. A recent citywide survey by the health department found that 57 percent of people said they felt lonely some or most of the time.
“There are more adults struggling with loneliness than have diabetes,” Dr. Murthy said. “Yet think about the discrepancy in the attention that we give to these two conditions.”
Weather
Enjoy a sunny day near the high 50s, with wind gusts. The evening will be mostly clear with temps in the mid-40s.
alternate-side parking
In effect today. Suspended tomorrow (Holy Thursday, Orthodox).
After a federal judge rescinded the nationwide mask mandate on public transportation, the agency that runs the subways in New York doubled down. Masks are also still required in taxis, Ubers and Lyfts. And passengers must wear them at Kennedy International and La Guardia Airports — in the terminals but not on most of the planes. The nation’s largest airlines dropped mask requirements for domestic flights.
Masks are not required at Newark Liberty International Airport, the third major airport in the New York metropolitan area. And while a mask mandate continued on the PATH system that runs between New York and New Jersey, the mask rule on New Jersey Transit buses and commuter trains was dropped, with Gov. Philip Murphy saying on Twitter that passengers “may wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by personal level of risk.”
In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that operates the subways, stayed with mask requirements, citing public health guidance from the state. Gov. Kathy Hochul expressed support for the decision and promoted vaccination and testing in a Twitter post. “Do your part to keep your neighbors safe,” she wrote.
A schizophrenic man accused of fatally shoving a woman in front of a subway train was deemed unfit to stand trial and will be committed to a locked psychiatric facility.
The union representing doormen and other workers in more than 3,000 apartment buildings in New York City reached a new contract agreement.
The U.S. attorney in Manhattan raised the prospect of putting Rikers Island under the control of a federal court, saying the city had failed to indicate how it would end the chaos at the jail complex.
Will Eric Adams release his taxes? The mayor, who initially refused to commit to releasing his returns, said he would — just not anytime soon.
The case against Brian Benjamin, who resigned as lieutenant governor last week, may hinge on whether political contributions constituted a bribe.
Efforts to ban books have proliferated around the country, with parents, activists and lawmakers adopting more aggressive tactics to challenge titles. The American Library Association counted censorship attempts involving just under 1,600 books in 2021, reflecting what Patricia Wong, the association’s president, called “an unprecedented uptick.”
She recalled growing up as a Chinese American who did not see herself or her community reflected in the books she read. “Diverse books create a better lens through which all children can see themselves in library collections,” she wrote in the association’s annual report, issued on April 4. “And yet these very titles — the ones addressing cultural invisibility and cultivating understanding — are the ones that are most frequently challenged.”
In the last two weeks, two New York library systems have moved to make their collections available in places where books might be taken off the shelves. The New York Public Library — working with the publishers Hachette, Macmillan and Scholastic — is making books available through its SimplyE reader app in a campaign called Books for All. The app is downloadable without a library card.
Anthony Marx, the president of the library, said recent instances of book banning “amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy.” He said that while opening the collection “shouldn’t feel like an act of defiance, sadly it does. And we are proud to be a part of it.”
Four books the library promoted as part of Books for All either appeared on the library association’s list or have been the subject of bans or challenge attempts. Two of the books — “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson, and “Stamped: “Racism, Antiracism and You,” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi — were on the list in 2020. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, assailed “Stamped” during the confirmation hearing of Ketanji Brown Jackson last month.
The Brooklyn Public Library, which is separate from the New York Public Library, will issue library cards that will give electronic access to the library’s digital and audio collections as part of a campaign called “Books UnBanned.” The card will be good for one year and is intended to complement access in local communities. Linda Johnson, the library’s president and chief executive, said it was targeting 13-to-21-year-olds and that teens who sign up would be connected to peers in Brooklyn to trade recommendations about books and information about fighting censorship.
New York City’s Easter Parade came back to life on Sunday in Manhattan. Bonnets and other finery were unpacked, adorned and proudly worn.
METROPOLITAN diary
Dear Diary:
Things weren’t going so well in my acting career, and I was desperate — so desperate that I went to an audition where I had to dress up as Captain America and sing the national anthem.
The job, which paid $400, was not at a sporting event or anything remotely as cool as that, but for the grand opening of a used-car dealership in the Bronx.
At the audition, I put on the costume and sang the first stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I guess I looked the part and sang well enough because I was offered the gig.
After saying my thank-yous, I hurried out and stripped off the outfit like it was on fire. When I got to the elevator, there was a tall, wiry young man waiting there.
We nodded to each other politely.
“Captain America?” he asked after a moment.
“Yeah,” I replied weakly, head down and feeling as though I had hit rock bottom.
He smiled and excitedly stuck out his hand.
“I’m Spider-Man!”
— Jack Mulcahy
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday@nytimes.com.
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