on the cover

On The Cover of New York Magazine: New York City In Extended Pause

Photo: Photograph by Alexei Hay

In New York’s October 12-25, 2020 issue, the magazine explores the city’s wide-open future, with Andrew Rice on the panic of power brokers as office buildings remain empty; Miriam Elder on the Upper West Side liberals who wanted to oust hundreds of homeless men from a local hotel, and what happened when Tucker Carlson took up their cause; David Wallace-Wells in conversation with Governor Andrew Cuomo; Justin Davidson on the challenges the next mayor faces, and where the city could go from here; and more. Also in this issue: Curbed, the pioneering site that has covered real estate, architecture, design and urbanism since 2004, officially relaunches as part of New York, continuing the magazine’s core mission of the original city magazine.

The cover of this issue was photographed by Alexei Hay, who shot an empty Times Square for the magazine back in April, when many still thought it might just be a matter of weeks or months before life returned to normal. Yet, seven months into lockdown, a few months from the “High Quarantine” of the spring, New York is in a strange, transitional place. In making this cover, New York worked with an aerial messaging company on a custom banner that would capture a sentiment shared by many New Yorkers right now. For the banner, the editorial team settled on “MISS U” – a message that could be interpreted personally by everyone who saw it, while also reflecting a common sentiment. “Even though there are plenty of people in the city right now, everyone has that feeling of missing someone,” says New York’s photography director Jody Quon. “There are so many people who were part of our daily routines that we miss.”

Coordinating the cover image involved two airplanes, which departed from Long Island and went up and down the Hudson River for about two hours. “It was the most immaculate day,” Hay says. While the banner drifted over the Hudson River, Hay flew in an airplane helmed by a furloughed commercial airline pilot, with both planes in constant contact, coordinating their positions. There were many variables Hay couldn’t control as he shot the cover: he had to shoot through the windows, without access to additional lighting. At times, shooting at altitude made him nauseous. “Even looking at the photos now, the ones that give you a sense of altitude make me sick,” he says.

Hay says the city he documented in the spring has evolved into something significantly different and foreign. “Everyone keeps asking if New York is still New York. Everyone doesn’t think about how we have all changed. We’re in this weird suspension.” In some ways, he thinks the cover feels like a message to the rest of the world.

“We’re in an extended pause that is devastating almost any way you slice it – though not all, since there’s also a certain loveliness to the looser, quieter, less commercial city,” says New York editor-in-chief David Haskell. “We are launching the new Curbed at this extreme inflection point for New York and cities across America, and we thought it appropriate to make a little event out of the cover, to send a note of longing, mourning, and warmth into the sky.”

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On The Cover of New York : New York City In Extended Pause