The best way to declare that a city is a ghost town is to cover up all the storefront windows and doors with sheets of plywood. Scaffolds suggest growth (and demolition headed for renewal) but plywood implies danger, defeat, destruction. New York, currently heaven for lumber merchants, is full of boarded-up stores and glass lobbies. Beginning in March during the first COVID-19 wave, hastily applied plywood was uniformly unwelcoming and decidedly eerie. Now what remains after protocols were eased is an eyesore. With election night (which Biden/Harris won, by the way) came another round of plywood and masonite re-covering. Not only a reminder of the tragic toll that this disease has already taken, now in the early stage of this new wave, plywood has diminished the luster that defines the city that never sleeps. If not for the haunting glare of LED streetlights, it is reminiscent of that unhappy week of blackout nights following Hurricane Sandy.
There is no law that says the plywood must remain up, but many retailers still fear property damage. So, in the meantime, at the very least, why not plaster the temporary coverings with great posters. New York City penal law 145.30 restricts bill posting as unlawful and the Dept. of Sanitation has done its best to enforce codes against littering streets with unwanted and unpaid wheat-pasted posters but, in truth, these placards might bring a life force back to our town. New York is, after all, an advertising metropolis.
Empty plywood cries out for posters and posters add life to the cityscape. Why not let New York artists and designers have the freedom to fill them? Provide temporary permits if that'll help. Eventually the plywood will be removed, right?
I think of it as when my parents allowed me to draw with crayons on the apartment walls before they were painted. It was temporary but, man, was it fun.
So, just for the duration of the shutdown(s), suspend New York City penal law 145.30 that specifies posting an advertisement on another person’s property without their permission is illegal. Lift whatever other legal obstacles exist. How about a hiatus allowing artists and designers to make great graphics for a week, a month or however long it takes until all the shops remove their plywood masks.