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Peter Pabón and Kenny Cousins feel like they have survived a plague.

The New York City photographers are trying to capture the living history of the coronavirus pandemic in the hard-hit city, once the epicenter of the COVID-19 trauma in America.

Pabón is a native New Yorker with deep roots in the action sports industry and music scene domestically and internationally. Cousins is from northern New Jersey and now is a Brooklyn man who travels around with two cameras; he told Fox News: “I shoot my friends. I shoot strangers. I shoot small businesses trying to make ends meet.I try and capture the everyday moments of life and human emotion and tell stories.”


Pabón, who lives now in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and drives his car as to avoid subways, took a break before realizing he should document this historical moment. “For the first month of the shelter in place, it was hard to bring myself to leave and shoot. People would assume that the city being empty would motivate me and be out in this once in a lifetime occurrence, the city empty, but it was the opposite, I felt like it was a shell of itself and I wanted no part of it. What makes New York City is the people that live and work here, that to me, is what NYC is - Now I shoot people that I know and have stayed to try and make some sense of the new ‘norm,’ be it trying to adapt and run their business or just how they feel. This is home and we got to hunker down and try our best to live through this.”

When he was ready to see the city, he saw a huge change: “The energy and lifeblood that is NYC isn’t there. A lot of what is New York is social interaction, be it professional or casual. It’s different groups of people intermingling with one another at a cafe, bar, restaurant, or in front of a pizzeria, connections are made, especially if you’re in a creative field, such as photography.”

He said the city now reminds him of a small town in the heartland: “New York is for the most part empty, most of the people that could leave, did and all that’s left are those who can’t or chose not to leave. The streets that are normally buzzing, like Soho, the Lower East Side, and midtown are relatively empty. Neighborhoods, like Sheepshead Bay, Harlem and such, there’s people out, but not as much.”

Cousins travels the city by bike, which he calls the easiest and safest way to get around the city. He has been reflecting on the time to come: “I hope the future of the city leads to more community. I'd hate for this epidemic to clean/price out the artists and musicians who have so thoroughly helped to establish the culture of NYC. There's hope for a diverse and eclectic city if we can protect our immigrants who have so duly contributed to its uplifting and colorful atmosphere. I would also love to see more block parties, and streets shut down on the weekends. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a safe space to be outside but also connect with those around you. Why not continue to shut down major roads on weekends for pedestrians to enjoy the city streets they grind in.”

The time of now, though, is a perplexity of bewilderment and a still melancholy. “NYC is on the verge. I'm not quite sure what it's on the verge of, but everyone can feel it. Comeback? Resurgence? Either way, with the warmer weather, restaurants and bars are adapting and using this time to attract NY'ers and keep their lights on. Honestly, the same things that have made NYC so iconic, is the same thing that is providing a sense of normalcy. The disregard for rules and counter culture of sorts. One could say drinking on the street is legal at this point,” he said. “It's divided the city in terms of further highlighting the disparity which already exists between the working and upper class. Yet, it's also brought communities together. From 7 p.m. first-responder celebration traditions amongst neighbors to efforts like Bedstuy Strong.”

While the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic has eased in New York, COVID-19 is still killing roughly 100 people a day statewide. There were 96 deaths Sunday, according to figures released Monday.

As the holiday weekend approached, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo loosened coronavirus-related restrictions last week to allow small public gatherings — initially just for Memorial Day observances and religious services.

He extended the eased rules Friday to all gatherings after the New York Civil Liberties Union sued, saying that if it was safe to gather to honor veterans and practice religion, the Constitution requires the same right be extended to other gatherings.

The rules now allow get-togethers of as many as 10 people, provided that participants stay at least 6 feet away from one another or cover their faces when unable to maintain that distance.

Cuomo joined a private ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, with both the sacrifices of military members and the challenge of the coronavirus on his mind.

“Over 100,000 Americans will lose their lives to this COVID virus. How do we honor them? We honor them by growing stronger together,” he said.


Pabón believes his city will create a new normal like a reboot of a time gone by: what was happening just at the start of the year is now dead.

“I think there will be a large exodus in New York. The only people that will stay are those that want to stay and those that can’t leave. The romanticizing of the New York experience will die out to the New York reality. It’ll be like the 80’s when all that lived here were artist and the working class.”