As The City Reopens, New Yorkers Like Al Wright Are Starting To Process The COVID Era

“This thing had me scared, I’m not gonna lie to you,” Al Wright, a maintenance technician for Battery Park City Authority’s Parks Operation Department, told the Downtown Alliance. “And I’m still kind of shook. You know?”

Al Wright still can’t believe it when he sees people getting close to each other who aren’t wearing masks. When COVID-19 first came to New York, Wright made sure to do his part to explain to perfect strangers why wearing a mask is so important.

Wright told the Downtown Alliance about one such moment early on in the pandemic:

One day I was walking and I had my mask on. And a guy said, ‘Why are y’all wearing that mask?’ And I said, ‘You know why? So I don’t give the virus to you.’ I was trying to break it down to him. I said, ‘Yo, wear this mask. Because you don’t know right now — you’re standing by three people with no masks — you don’t know which one of y’all got it. But me? I’m not gonna give it to you, because I got my mask.’ And then he understood.

Even though he tries to stay in good spirits, life during the pandemic for Wright has been tough. “It’s been up and down,” he said. “We never experienced anything like this. Then I lost a few family members.”

But he’s glad he’s managed to continue to work at Battery Park City Authority, and the decrease in visitors and emphasis on social distancing has helped keep everyone safe, including Wright. “I’m a technician, so basically we do a lot of fixing, cleaning, keeping everything in shape, keeping the park looking good,” he said. “That’s what we do. We take care of Downtown.”

When Wright isn’t at work, he’s been treasuring moments spent at home. “You gotta stay inside,” he said. “Why would you wanna go out, you know? Watch TV, play games, spend more time with your family. Because every day, usually, we’re up and out.”

 Wright still wears a mask, though he momentarily removed it so we could get a shot of him smiling by the water. “I’m going to protect myself, as long as this virus is around,” he said. “I even went and bought masks to give out to my family members and friends.” 

Wright often thinks about the early days in January: “They said this virus was over in China somewhere, but it started growing over there, and then it spread,” he remembered, adding with special emphasis, “wear that mask. Nobody’s perfect, but just wear that mask.”