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Over the weekend, New Yorkers re-emerged in a changed city.

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It was once possible to envisage New York City coming back entirely. Now, whatever lies next for the city feels more like a giant collective improvisation, a city taking shape on the fly. The holiday weekend was a time to rediscover what New York was, and glimpse what it might become.

For many, the three-day weekend came as an occasion to do things they had not done for more than a year. Tourists arrived, while New Yorkers themselves crammed into airports, highways and sought-after getaway spots. Some parks were empty, and street parking was plentiful. But for those who stayed and gathered, it was hard to beat the sheer cathartic joy of being able to hug friends or elders again.

The city, once the epicenter of the pandemic, with thousands of new cases daily, last week had a daily average of 193 new cases and only three deaths per day.

But the city is not the same. The pandemic killed 33,000 New Yorkers, and some question whether the city could ever truly recover. In the South Bronx, Daniel Derico, 43, a photographer, said that despite the “big change” of seeing fewer masks, he did not feel that New York will ever return to the way it was.

“For instance, getting into an elevator with 10 or 15 people, I don’t think people are ever going to do that again without thinking about it,” he said. “And I think the second we forget and get too comfortable with that pre-Covid normal, it’ll be a wake-up all over again.”

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