The world is changing at warp speed as we live through these unprecedented times. The SoHo Memory Project focuses on documenting history and the past. We are, however, presently living through a moment that we understand to be historic as we experience it in real time, a moment that must be documented for posterity.
SoHo Memory Project is creating a SoHo Quarantine Time Capsule, a digital collection that documents SoHo under quarantine. The following are a selection of photographs taken from March 2020 through the present, submitted by community members, for this collection.
SoHo Stays Home
SoHo, like the rest of New York City, was a ghost town after Governor Mario Cuomo issued a “shelter in place” order on March 20, 2020. All residents were asked to stay at home, except to go shopping for groceries or for health emergencies, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This meant that all but essential businesses closed as New York became an epicenter of the novel coronavirus.
The above photo of Prince Street looking east from Greene Street could almost have been taken 50 years ago, which was probably the last time SoHo was this quiet and deserted.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an African-American man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, MN. A video of the incident depicting the officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for an extended period, attracted widespread outrage leading to local, national, and international protests and demonstrations (source)
Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched daily through New York City streets. Many of the demonstrations went up and down Broadway through SoHo. There was marked police presence in the area, especially after demonstrations gave way to rioting and the looting of many SoHo luxury boutiques the nights of May 30 and June 1, 2020.
By June 2, after two nights of looting, most storefronts in SoHo were boarded up. SoHo resembled the ghost town it once was before there were any stores and restaurants in the neighborhood.
It did not take long for SoHo artists to see the plywood lining the streets as canvases. SoHo became an open-air gallery of murals, many political, many explicitly condemning anti-black racism.
This public art movement grew out of the efforts of individual as well as groups, such as Art2heart and SoHo Social Impact, to beautify the streets of SoHo and to send messages of love and solidarity with ongoing protests.
Signs of Life
As of July 6, 2020, New York City entered Phase 3 of reopening. Street life is making a comeback in SoHo, with outdoor dining, window shopping, and small gatherings of people. Will we enter phase 4 on July 20? Maybe. We will in all likelihood need to reverse course and go back inside for a time before a vaccine is available. But for now, SoHo is showing signs of life. Who knows what is to come? It is the uncertainty that is so difficult to accept.
With the community’s generous participation, I have collected over 1,200 photos of what transpired inside and outside the cast iron buildings of SoHo over the past four months and I will continue to collect until we are on the other side of this. I have been able to piece together the neighborhood’s trials and tribulations as well as its silver linings. These images will be kept and preserved for generations to come.
As @villagegirl said back in March, "Something BIG is happening, and everyone feels it and is trying to work it out somehow- whether through photography or writing or meditation or work or watching Cuomo’s news conferences and reading the paper." Sweet are the uses of adversity, most of the time.
The other day, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Finch (formerly known as Julie Judd), dancer, choreographer, activist, and founding mother of SoHo. In 1969, with the help of her late ex-husband Donald Judd, Finch co-founded Artists Against the Expressway, a group of activist-artists that included Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, and Frank Stella, among others. The group opposed Robert Moses’ plan to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a ten lane elevated highway that was to run across Broome Street, thereby razing the then-thriving SoHo artist community. Needless to say, the Expressway was never built, and that’s thanks in part to Finch’s efforts. Read more>>
Former Managing Editor Allan Wolper has written a Soho Weekly News Who's Who. From Edward Gorey and Rex Reed to Bruce Springsteen, and many others in between, the numerous boldfaced names included here are a testament to the paper's journalistic excellence. Read more>>
SoHo Memory Project is pleased to announce two new initiatives that present SoHo’s extraordinary history, from the 19th century through the present day. Also included, the City's SoHo/NoHo Chinatown Up-zoning plan. Read more>>
Everyday Life in SoHo
Sep 01 2021
The SoHo Memory Project celebrates the history of SoHo as a New York City neighborhood.