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Two years ago to the day, on August 17, 2018, I started my walk across the Manhattan Bridge from Manhattan toward my home in Brooklyn. I had business to attend to in Manhattan and had taken the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan to attend to it. However, while the Brooklyn Bridge’s location was more convenient, I could not stomach consecutive walks across the crowd- and tourist-ridden bridge during the afternoon. For that reason, I would often use the Brooklyn Bridge for my commute to Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge for my commute home.
The Manhattan Bridge is certainly less aesthetic than the Brooklyn Bridge, but due to the daytime crowds on the Brooklyn Bridge, it was often a more pleasant walk during the day. The Manhattan Bridge was and is not heavily trafficked by pedestrians. It would be an entirely peaceful walk if not for the procession of subways rumbling by immediately adjacent to the walkway and a small number of bikers and individuals on non-street legal motorized contraptions who must have found themselves lost when they rode onto the walking side of the bridge instead of the bike side.
While the Manhattan Bridge itself is mostly calm and quiet, the approach to the Manhattan entrance of the Bridge is anything but that. The entrance sits on Bowery Street in a particularly hectic part of Manhattan’s Chinatown. It is crowded, dirty, and in the summer, blasted by the afternoon sun.
The entrance to the Manhattan Bridge itself, however, is serene. For pedestrians walking toward Brooklyn, the initial ramp of the walkway is bracketed on the left side by a stone wall and on the right by a fence, both protected by over-hanging trees.
On the afternoon of August 17, 2018, the opening ramp of the walkway was shady, with the only evidence of sun being the rays which flit through the gaps in the leaves of the trees. At that moment, there were no other people within sight of me. The sound of the cars to my left was muffled, creating a mostly quiet scene. Taken by the moment, I decided to capture it using my BlackBerry Classic.
The scene of tranquility that I photographed at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge depicts life in different times. New York City has undergone many changes since 2018, few of them good. Foot traffic in general has been greatly reduced by the outbreak and aftermath of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. City authorities routinely shut down both the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge – but more often the Brooklyn Bridge – on behalf of individuals engaging in mass demonstrations, but seldom make similar accommodations for those who are not engaging in activities approved and sponsored by local authorities. Reports indicate that the scenes on the Manhattan-side of the bridges are less-than-optimal, part of the reason why I have not found cause to engage in on-the-ground reporting.
In that moment two years ago, I took a picture in a charming New York City scene, standing at the foot of a magisterial bridge, in the midst of greenery, tenements, and traffic, close to the unpleasantly busy Bowery Street, but protected from both the sun and that unpleasantness. Ugliness corrupts, but beauty heals. Then, just as now, beauty and tranquility persist, and can take root even in decaying gardens being overrun by squalor.