A Walk Down Broadway

On a brisk, sunny February day, I took two subways and one commuter rail from Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood to the Marble Hill station in Manhattan.  The station is at 225th and Broadway, just north of the Harlem River which separates the island of Manhattan from its northernmost point.  At approximately 9AM on February 16, 2020, I turned south on Broadway and began the 14.1 mile walk to The Battery at the southern terminus of this famous and infamous avenue.  Along the way I experienced the steady ascent in income and wealth from the poverty of Dominican, Puerto Rican, and African-American communities to the shops of the Upper West Side and the towers of Wall Street.  I passed from the tightly-packed bodegas, nail salons, and check cashing store fronts to the fancy boutiques of SoHo, from the fast food joints to the fancy restaurants, from the idyllic quadrangles of Columbia and Barnard to the gritty street campus of NYU,  from the street Spanish to the multi-lingual sidewalk chatter outside the Strand Bookstore.  America and all its beauty and ugliness was on display on this most wonderful of urban walks.  Six hours after beginning, I sat on a bench and gazed at the distant Statue of Liberty.  Little did I know that we were on the cusp of the COVID 19 pandemic, a disaster that would claim the life of thousands of New Yorkers that I might have walked past that day.