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Workers are still bravely working it

BY CLAYTON PATTERSON | Over the last week as things started to wind down, I was interested in capturing people at work. 

Vicki Rovere is a product of the ’60s. She’s a member of the War Resisters League, supports anti-war protests. She follows that up with the DIY protest buttons she makes and sells, community sharing and support.  She is most neighborhood-famous for her “free store” on Ludlow St. between Stanton and Rivington Sts., which she has run for years.  

Vicki Rovere, in front of the writer’s door on Essex St., with oranges and grapes she was handing out. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Vicki is a garbage picker and dumpster diver. I would witness her, almost daily, going by with her little cart for carrying her discoveries. She fills the cart with clothing, household items like pots and pans, clothing, books, things that are not garbage and should be saved. She then places them on hangers and hangs them up along the street in convenient places, and displays them in boxes and lets people pick up whatever is usable for them for free. 

In this crisis she has been picking up food stores’ throw away and giving them to shut-ins for free. Yesterday she had oranges and grapes and they were nice looking. I had my own supply, so I told her to share with someone else. It was very generous of her. 

A bike deliveryman gets ready to make another trip. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
The new normal: Empty streets. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

During the day now, the Lower East Side’s streets have the same kind of emptiness that you see around the Christmas holidays. At night the streets are almost empty. 

Most of the people out on the street are delivery people on bicycles. The Amazon bicycles with a pull-wagon of plastic containers full of Whole Foods deliveries have become a common site. Workers at other stores are daily busy with deliveries.

Our firefighters are on point working to protect the community. Cop cars can be seen on the street. There’s a School Safety bus parked outside P.S. 20, on Essex St.

Firefighters from Engine 15, on Pitt St., are out and about. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
School Safety officers are still on the job on Essex St. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

I saw Kammal Mohammed from Falafel Guys on Rivington St. talking to a Seventh Precinct cop on the need for businesses to work together with police for community safety. 

Kammal Mohammed talks to a Seventh Precinct officer as they practice social distancing. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

The little soda, beer, candy takeout store on Rivington St. next to Falafel Guys has been robbed at gunpoint a number of times. And crime is up. 

The M.T.A. buses are still running but are empty or almost empty. 

The buses keep running but most of them are empty or nearly empty. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Restaurants and cafes and more and more stores are doing window/door service. They are open limited hours. One surprise is window pickup alcohol drinks. Alessandra Zeka, a documentary filmmaker, showed me a first, the cocktails to go at El Sombrero, at Stanton and Ludlow Sts. Iggy’s bar on Ludlow St. has window service. 

Alessandra Zeka outside El Sombrero, which is offering cocktails to go. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Iggy’s on Ludlow St. — with a nod to Lucy of “Peanuts” and her therapy booth — will take your order. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

In our neighborhood, the little stores, the bodegas, tend to have toilet paper and hand wipes. 

A community group will do shopping for shut-ins. 

And Muslim merchants who are still working lock the door and do daily prayers inside the shop, then open back up for business.

Small stores still have the essentials. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Keeping the shelves stocked. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Timeout for prayer. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)


  1. Alice O'Malley Alice O'Malley March 25, 2020

    Nice coverage, Clayton, now stay home!
    If you need something from the store, put in a request through They are all volunteer, no charge, and young.

    • clayton patterson clayton patterson March 26, 2020

      Alice.. always on point..

  2. Vicki Rovere Vicki Rovere March 25, 2020

    Thanks, Clayton! One correction: My scavenging motive is not charitable, but environmental. Vegetable matter, as it decays, releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The only way to prevent this is to compost it-or eat it! The people I give food to are not shut-ins; their qualification is that they’re willing to eat scavenged food, thereby keeping it out of the landfill.

    • clayton patterson clayton patterson March 26, 2020

      You are always doing the right thing.. you contribute much to our community.

  3. Jeff Jeff March 24, 2020

    Great article and pics!! Everyone doing the best they can under the circumstances. Hope those firefighters are social distancing, gotta worry about them so close!!

    • clayton patterson clayton patterson March 26, 2020

      thanks Jeff.. yes the firefighters and all the other people who are working to keep this society moving.

  4. Steve Stollman Steve Stollman March 24, 2020

    Vicki published Where To Go classic guide to available public toilets in NYC. Great to see her still stirring the pot.

    • Clayton Patterson Clayton Patterson March 26, 2020

      Steve how are you. Yes, Vicki, always stirring never smoking.

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