One of the eeriest aspects of the pandemic as it has been experienced in New York is the possibility—and, increasingly, the reality—of flight, en masse, away from the city. Many more affluent New Yorkers have left their homes in the city and retreated to Long Island, other nearby suburbs, and communities further upstate. Since the seventies, the specter of an empty city—and its associations with white flight, urban decay, and crime—has left a strong impression on generations of New Yorkers. We will tour the history of NYC at its "emptiest," and explore visual archives of the ‘70s and other precarious moments in the city's life to see how representation has transformed popular ideas about public space.

Essayist Garnette Cadogan and writer Luc Sante will join New Yorker writer Vinson Cunningham to discuss the current fears of evacuation—including the spectacle of empty streets, parks, and plazas that came to us in photographic and video images in the early days of the pandemic—and how they might stoke our imaginations again.

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