Street gatherings bring joy in Hell’s Kitchen in pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) — On a late last Friday afternoon, there is joy and fraternity found on a blocked-off street in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. Neighbours chat, dogs get acquainted and above all, there’s laughter. After three months of sheltering-in-place, this scene of normalcy is still not commonplace as New York City tests the waters of socialising, within the prescribed limits.

Steve Grillo lives on the street and is a walking advertisement touting his West Side community. “Everybody’s a good person,” he said. After his longtime role as an intern on the Howard Stern Show, Grillo co-owned a pizzeria there in 2009 and “that’s when I fell in love with the neighbourhood”.

There was no hanging out with friends on the streets most of March and April but by the end of May, “the neighbours”, as Grillo calls them, turned out to support the owners of restaurants. “It’s Cheers but in Hell’s Kitchen,” he said referencing the popular 1980s sitcom. There were takeout food orders and drinks were mixed at the door.

And a crowd gathered, which brought the police, who said they couldn’t be there. Following that, police placed a barricade, on occasion, to block traffic traffic and allow for street mingling.

An impromptu block party formed with the police in attendance to monitor.

Since the end of May, barricade or no barricade, the neighbours come out and line the side street sidewalks. Last Saturday, Grillo hosted a wedding reception underneath a canopy outside his apartment after the ceremony was held on his building’s roof.