Agoraphobia: New York City Public Space in the Time of COVID-19
This paper explores how the first two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic (February – May 2020) in New York City had magnified extreme polarization between two different visions of public space: one clearly represented by the Hudson Yards Plaza in Manhattan, and the other epitomized by the Corona Plaza in Queens. It argues that the phenomenon of agoraphobia, the fear of others, translates into the fear of public space and by extension the fear of democracy driven by deep anxieties surrounding the definition of “the social.” This is clearly exemplified by Hudson Yards, which closed its doors to the public in May and approached early bankruptcy. On the other hand, Corona Plaza is still a vibrant public space providing vital social and community services. The Plaza was co-produced by the local communities, city agencies, the non-profit sector and public-private partnership, and it provides a resilient model for the production of public space in NYC. The paper argues that the process of producing an infrastructure of inclusion in Corona, which had preceded the construction of Corona Plaza and was strengthen through it, has enabled the Plaza to strive even during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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