SoHo Quarantine Time Capsule

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

 (photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)

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.


I took this March 16, outside Morgenstern’s ice cream store, on Houston Street, Soho. I think they were shutting down the shop for the foreseeable future. March 16 feels like a hundred years ago. I’ve been shooting whenever possible because 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. (@villagegirl)
dog and mask
That was the first day I wore a mask. It’s upside down because I didn’t realize there was a nose adjuster to prevent glasses from fogging! (Susan Wittenberg)
six feet
Public Service Announcement This is 6 ft. In NYC only possible on wide streets. It’s a bigger distance than most realize. (Susan Wittenberg)
climbing the walls
Day 28 of staying at home 24/7 and yes, literally climbing the walls… (Coral Dawson)
TEARS: In the time of covid
TEARS: In the Time of Covid: I’m on the 5th floor corner facing South & West, this is an earlier stage of my hanging Covid Installation. (Wendy Friedman)
Zigi with cigar
Artist Ziggy Ben-Haim gets creative with his mask. (Tsipi Ben-Haim)
dino in soho
A March video shoot on the empty SoHo streets (Robert Albion Zeigler)
ready to go shopping
Getting ready to go grocery shopping (Tsipi Ben-Haim)
banging pots
A SoHo resident banging pots for the nightly 7 pm salute to healthcare workers. (Tsipi Ben-Haim)
healthcare workers on plywood
Stores in SoHo began boarding up their windows to prevent break-ins. Many displayed photos of healthcare workers on the plywood. (Arnaud Gibersztajn)
Feeling I HAD to do something against the pandemic, Sam, Brian and I are now the “Flower Power Team” making brightly colored wood flowers as gifts to raise people’s spirits.  We are sending the first batch to all the nursing homes in Manhattan (Lynn Mayocole)
letter to healthcare worker
Send messages of support to the first responders in your community today! We can all do that virtually or by mail. (Coral Dawson)


SoHo Protests

NYPD officer during protests
(photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)

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.


Lynn BLM at WSP
Six days a week I go to Washington Square Park from 6:30 to 7 and sit with my sign as a personal memorial to George Floyd. I am not much of a candidate for marching these days although I demonstrated starting at the same park for Eric Garner, which did not do  a lot I fear—it must change now and artists must be part of that change! (Lynn Mayocole)
burned police car
On Broadway in front of Bloomingdales. The small car had been there for weeks, most likely to show a police presence. I made the sign and was intertwining flowers in the car when the police made me stop. (Wendy Friedman)
Smashed storefront of a looted store on Grand Street, June 1, 2020 (photo: Susan Fortgang)
Smashed storefront of a looted store on Grand Street, June 1, 2020 (Susan Fortgang)
Guardian Angels on Prince Street
Guardian Angels keeping the streets of SoHo safe in front of the boarded up Apple Store on Prince Street on June 1, 2020 (photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)
SoHo off limits
SoHo was cordoned off by police during the first city-wide curfew since World War II, which began on June 2 after widespread looting of area stores. Residents were required to show I.D. in order to enter the area. (photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)
Boarded up Broadway
Broadway looking south to Grand Street, June 3 2020 (photo: Susan Fortgang)


SoHo Creates

Father and child paintin
(photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)


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.


Birdwatching is not a crime
Over the past week, local artists have reclaimed SoHo storefronts by painting the boarded-up windows that line the neighborhood’s streets. The plywood boards hastily applied to protect the stores provided the ideal blank canvas, allowing local artists to uplift the community and bring some energy to the largely empty streets. (@NYCurbanism, photo by Coral Dawson)


Mural artists at work
The fact that the boards were available for painting obviously had more to do with its present status as a shopping district than its transitional status as an artist district and most of the artists doing the murals were too young to have more than a historical association with that time and its neighborhood landmarks. The murals themselves seem to have been well documented so my emphasis was on their making and their connections with the architecture with a couple of examples that a bit accidentally have echoes of minimalism and conceptualism with which Soho is most associated. (photo: John Matturi)
Rest in power
Artist Dena Paige-Fischer @dpfstudio: Peacefully protesting in the best way I know how. Spreading the word with other incredible artists on the walls of soho. Located at 54 Greene St. (photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)
portrait collage
Captured the morning of July 7th. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced mixed feelings the way I did that morning.  Seeing so many businesses boarded up was was an incredibly eerie and sad moment.  However, finding artists and families transforming what is usually a retail destination into a public art gallery was quite uplifting and inspiring at the same time. (photo: @_joshua_schaffel_)
boarded up storefront spring street
Storefront on Spring at Wooster (photo: @nattydw4)
Mural on Rag & Bone
Mural on Rag & Bone’s façade (photo: @nattydw4)
mural collage
Some of the impressive street art in Soho. A historic time seeing artists paint murals on boarded up Soho storefronts after the looting in May (@canvasbycasey

Signs of Life

Felix reopens
(photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)

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.

Family walks in SoHo July 2020
A masked family outing on Spring Street (photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)
Olive's open
Olive’s is open for business! (photo: Arnaud Gibersztajn)
Rexy the Dino at Coach
Rexy the dinosaur is back at Coach, ready to provide curbside pickup. (photo: Yukie Ohta)
Hanako and graffiti
My daughter examines the graffiti and street art of the moment. (photo: Yukie Ohta)
Fanelli Cafe 2020 T-shirt
Selfie with the fashion must-have of the moment, a Fanelli Cafe 2020 t-shirt! (photo: Yukie Ohta)