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As NYC Reopens, This Is What Summer in the City Looks Like

By Lyndsey Matthews and Sarah Buder

Jul 20, 2020

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The Empire State Building Observatory reopened on July 20, with limited hours and capacity.

Photo by Zhenyi Li / Shutterstock

The Empire State Building Observatory reopened on July 20, with limited hours and capacity.

New York is experiencing a summer unlike any other in order to control the coronavirus outbreak.

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This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

New York City entered its fourth—and final—phase of reopening on Monday, July 20, allowing low-risk outdoor activities and entertainment at 33 percent capacity and outdoor professional sports to resume without fans. But that doesn’t mean life in NYC is back to normal. All concerts, festivals, and other nonessential permitted events are canceled through September 30, and many states remain on the mandatory travel quarantine list for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. 

Even though daily coronavirus test rates in the city have been hovering between 1 and 2 percent positive since June, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned against the “inevitability of a second wave” coming from out of state in a press conference on Friday, July 17.

“I feel like we’re standing on a beach and we’re looking out at the sea and we see the second wave building in the distance, so I want all New Yorkers to be on high alert. The virus is spreading. It’s all across the country. It’s getting worse and it will have an effect on New York,” Cuomo said.

As of August 24, NYC museums can reopen, following the reopenings of botanical gardens, zoos, and other outdoor activities like the Empire State Building Observatory in late July. Tattoo parlors, spas, nail and hair salons, in-store retail, and outdoor dining reopened during previous phases this summer. While hotels were considered essential businesses and could stay open throughout the pandemic, ones that closed due to health concerns and the drop-off in guests have also started to reopen, including the Freehand in Manhattan and the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. 

Here’s what we know so far about what events have been canceled, and whether beach, pool, and park access are permitted.

Will NYC beaches, pools, and parks be open this summer?

Only 15 New York City public pools will open this summer, but city beaches reopened for swimmers on July 1.

Beaches and outdoor public pools

While Mayor de Blasio originally said all city pools would not open this summer, New York now will reopen 15 outdoor pools in two phases. On July 24, three pools reopened: Mullaly Pool in the Bronx, Wagner Pool in Manhattan, and Liberty Pool in Queens. On August 1, another 12 followed, including:

  • Bronx: Crotona, Haffen
  • Brooklyn: Sunset, Betsy Head, Kosciuszko
  • Manhattan: Hamilton Fish, Jackie Robinson, Marcus Garvey
  • Queens: Astoria, Fisher
  • Staten Island: Lyons, Tottenville

All tri-state beaches opened to the public at 50 percent capacity as of Memorial Day weekend. On July 1, swimming was allowed again at New York’s 14 miles of public beaches as lifeguards returned to duty. NYPD and Parks Department beach patrols will be up in force at NYC beaches to make sure beachgoers follow the rules, which include mandatory social distancing and the use of protective masks when people can’t stay six feet apart.

Most Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut beaches have permitted swimming since Memorial Day Weekend, but social-distancing rules will be in effect everywhere. In some areas neighboring New York City, local officials have moved to limit beach access in order to keep outsiders away. On Long Island, the town of East Hampton suspended the sale of nonresident parking permits and began enforcing summer beach parking regulations early this year, the New York Times reportedSmith Point on Fire Island and Cupsogue Beach in the Hamptons (both Suffolk County–run beaches) have also closed to nonresidents. 

New York City public parks

After well-documented overcrowding in New York City parks in early May, de Blasio unveiled new entry rules to cut down on crowds targeting places like Manhattan’s Hudson River Park (Piers 45 and 46) and the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, as well as Domino Park in Williamsburg. At these parks, the city has limited capacity and increased NYPD presence to ensure that people stay six feet apart as social-distancing rules mandate, according to the mayor. It’s unclear how long these limits will be in place; other parts of Central Park, as well as Prospect Park in Brooklyn, aren’t limiting capacity but are reminding visitors to keep six feet of distance from others and wear face coverings.

On July 15, Governors Island reopened with a new reservation system for ferries to get to the park. Round-trip ferry tickets cost $3 for adults and will be free for children age 12 and under, seniors age 65 and over, IDNYC holders, current and former military members, all NYC Housing Authority residents, and Governors Island Members.

On July 16, the High Line reopened with a new timed entry system in place that requires visitors to make free reservations in advance. 

Which NYC events are canceled this summer?

Brooklyn’s annual West Indian Day Parade seen here in 2016, is canceled in 2020.

Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade

Now that all permitted events have been canceled through September 30, Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade on Labor Day is officially canceled. The related J’ouvert celebration, which celebrates Caribbean culture in Brooklyn before the main parade starts, is also canceled.

Feast of San Gennaro

The annual celebration in Manhattan’s Little Italy, which includes a parade and a two-week-long street fair, was scheduled to take place between September 17–27, 2020. Because those dates fall during the city’s ban on large events through September 30, the Feast of San Gennaro is canceled.

NYC Pride March

For the first time in its half-century history, New York City Pride was canceled, along with all in-person events on the NYC Pride 2020 roster, originally scheduled for June 14–28, 2020.

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“Pride is a staple in New York City, and is oftentimes a safe space for many,” David A. Correa, Heritage of Pride interim executive director, said in a statement. “This weighed on our members, board, and staff, knowing that we serve as a haven for vulnerable communities. It was not easy to arrive at the decision to cancel pride . . . but our top priority remains the health and well-being of all those that participate with us.”

NBC New York reported that Mayor de Blasio said Pride events could be rescheduled for the fall, but some events occurred virtually. On Sunday, June 28, WABC-TV, the broadcast partner of Pride in NYC, aired “NYC Pride 2020: 50th Anniversary of the NYC Pride March” on Channel 7, as well as on abc7ny.com and the ABC News Live channel.

Celebrate Israel Parade

The 56th Celebrate Israel Parade, originally scheduled for June 7, 2020, was also canceled. With the largest Jewish population outside Israel, NYC hosts the annual parade, which usually draws more than 40,000 marchers, including American and Israeli community leaders and celebrities.

Puerto Rican Day Parade

The 63rd Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade was originally scheduled for June 14, 2020. Since New York is home to the largest Puerto Rican community off the island, it’s one of the city’s biggest events of the year, typically drawing 1.5 million spectators and marchers to Fifth Avenue to celebrate the people of Puerto Rico.

Instead, on June 13, WABC-TV broadcast a 90-minute celebration of Puerto Rican history and culture hosted by anchors Joe Torres and David Novarro with special appearances from the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Mermaid Parade Coney Island

Originally scheduled for June 20, 2020, the 38th annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island will instead be held as a decentralized Tail-a-Thon on August 29. What does that mean? Instead of hundreds of thousands of people meeting up in person in one physical space, participants will connect via video streams from across the globe and the parade organizers will combine those streams into one broadcast for the public to enjoy.

Shakespeare in the Park 

The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park 2020 season, held at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, has been canceled. In addition to planned productions of Richard II and As You Like It, the theater company will also be suspending the remaining season of programs and events, including Cullud Wattah and all performances at Joe’s Pub in its flagship home at Astor Place through August 31, 2020.

However, together with WNYC, the Public will broadcast Richard II as a serialized radio show at 8 p.m. over four nights between July 13 and 16. Listeners in the tri-state area can tune in to WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820, while everyone else can listen to the stream at WNYC.org.

Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Midsummer Night Swing, and Mostly Mozart Festival 

The 50th edition of Lincoln Center Out of Doors, which brings free performances to the Lincoln Center Plaza, was also canceled for summer 2020. However, the performing arts center has virtual opportunities available right now and plans for other in-person events later on.

“It is our intention, when it is safe again to gather in-person, to stage a free pop-up festival in a celebration of our great city, and the selfless first responders and healthcare workers who are giving so much during this crisis,” Lincoln Center said in a statement. “Currently, and for the foreseeable future, we’re taking our work online with Lincoln Center at Home, our new portal helping families and communities keep the performing arts front and center.”

BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival 

The 2020 edition of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but event organizers have brought the annual summer concerts online for a virtual series called #BRICxHome with artist interviews, musical performances, dance parties, and more.

City Parks SummerStage

Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage is New York’s largest free outdoor performing arts festival, producing more than 100 performances in 16 parks throughout the five boroughs each summer. Per city restrictions, none of its events will be taking place this May or June. However, City Parks Foundations is hopeful that it will be able to present SummerStage performances later in the summer or fall if and when public gatherings are allowed, according to a statement on its website

In the meantime, it will be adding new live performances to its website to bring SummerStage concerts directly to your home through their free digital series, SummerStage Anywhere. For updates, visit cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage.

Governors Ball 2020

Governors Ball Music Festival (Gov Ball), which was scheduled to take place on Randall’s Island June 5–7, canceled its 2020 event and will not be rescheduling it for later in the year.

“Over the past few weeks, we have gone to great lengths to find a postponement date that works for all parties involved. Due to a myriad of planning and logistical issues, we have come to the conclusion that there are no sufficient options available to us,” the festival wrote in a statement. “We are pushing ahead, and are already jumping into plans for 2021.”

Five Boro Bike Tour 

Initially postponed from its original date on May 3, 2020, the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, a 40-mile ride across all five boroughs, has been officially canceled for 2020.

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“Despite our every effort to reschedule the Tour, we have had to face the sad reality that holding our iconic celebration of bicycling later this year would pose insurmountable logistical challenges, and present untenable health and safety risks to our riders resulting from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19,” Ken Podziba, Bike New York president and CEO, said in a statement

Frieze New York 

Instead of postponing its original May 7–10 dates, the Frieze New York contemporary art fair on Randall’s Island hosted a virtual fair with online viewing rooms for more than 200 exhibitors (open to the public from May 8 to 15).

New York City Poetry Festival

The 10th annual New York City Poetry Festival, which was scheduled to take place on Governors Island July 25–26, 2020, has been officially postponed to July 2021.

Which NYC summer events are still happening?

To prevents crowds from gathering, the location of Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks were not announced in advance in 2020.

Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks

The Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks happened this year, but in a different way. Each night between June 29 and July 3, a series of five-minute fireworks shows occurred in each of the five boroughs. To prevent crowding, the specific locations weren’t announced beforehand.

Then on July 4, “best of” moments from the previous five nights were televised along with a grand finale that took place from the top of the Empire State Building, according to ABC7ny.com.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

The annual July 4 hot dog eating contest happened this year—but without a live audience. Instead of its usual location outdoors in Coney Island, it was held at a private location in the neighborhood with just 5 men and 5 women participating (typically there are 15 participants per group). ESPN broadcast the event, the New York Post reported.

Major League Baseball

On June 23, Major League Baseball announced that after months of negotiations, it has finalized health and safety protocols and a new opening day will take place on July 23 and 24, ESPN reports. The shortened 60-game season will last through September 27.

While fans won’t be allowed into games at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field to see the Mets play in Queens initially, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner says he expects fans in the stadium at some point during this season, according to ABC7ny.com.

U.S. Open

The 2020 U.S. Open will still take place in Queens at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center between August 31 and September 13—just without fans in attendance.

Which NYC landmarks and museums are reopening this summer? 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art plans to reopen on August 29.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building Observatory reopened on July 20, 2020, with reduced hours from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., limited capacity, and new safety protocols. Only 500 visitors will be allowed to visit the Observatory at a time (a reduction in capacity of more than 80 percent). Face masks will be mandatory and all visitors must submit to a temperature check in order to enter. Tickets must be reserved in advance at esbnyc.com.

Botanical gardens and zoos

On July 20, Wildlife Conservation Society zoos in New York reopened to members, including the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the Queens Zoo. The general public will be welcomed back on July 24. Because of limited capacity, all visitors must reserve a date-specific ticket in advance. All guests age three and up will be required to wear a face mask.

The New York Botanical Garden reopened July 21–26, for an “Appreciation Week” for garden members, Bronx residents, and healthcare workers in the Bronx. Public access resumed on July 28, provided all guests reserve timed-entry tickets in advance and wear a face mask during their visit.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden welcomed back members starting July 31, and reopened to the public on August 7. In addition to having new safety guidelines and limited capacity, all guests will be required to reserve timed-entry tickets in advance.

NYC Museums

As for the city’s museums, Cuomo is allowing institutions to reopen as early as August 24. MoMA announced plans to reopen on August 27, while the Metropolitan Museum of Art is set to reopen on August 29. In order to reopen, all institutions must follow new protocols including 25 percent maximum occupancy limit, mandatory timed ticketeting, and strict enforcement of face coverings. 

Are fall events in NYC affected too?

Yes, events scheduled as far out as November and December 2020 are already being canceled in New York. On June 24, the 2020 New York City Marathon scheduled for November 1 officially was canceled due to coronavirus-related health and safety concerns. Registered runners can expect to be contacted by July 15 to get refunds for their registration fees.

Earlier in June, New York’s performing arts institutions, including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and all other Lincoln Center organizations canceled their fall seasons. All Broadway shows are shut through the end of 2020.

With so much uncertainty, it can be hard to have hope. But Mayor de Blasio promises that when the city does reopen, the first major event will be a ticker tape parade in honor of health-care workers and first responders.

“When the day comes that we can restart the vibrant beautiful life of this city again, the first thing we will do is we will have a ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes for our health-care workers and our first responders,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “We will honor those who saved us.”

This article originally appeared on April 24, 2020; it was updated on August 18, 2020, to include current information.

>> Next: Will We Be Able to Travel This Summer?

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