Last week marked a return to 1011, as the New York Catholic Center, the archdiocesan headquarters at 1011 First Ave. in Manhattan is known to just about everyone who works here. I had not been on the premises since March, except for a single-day visit in June. Catholic New York’s 17th floor offices were much as they were left, with at least one notable exception, the signs throughout with advice about social distancing, and in one case reminding us that our conference area was closed until further notice.
We came back “home” to 1011, along with employees from most of the departments whose offices are in the building. Three Catholic New York employees returned last week, and three more were due back this week. We were happy to see each other and be back in the same office, even with necessary practices to maintain order and safety, including morning temperature screenings. Masks are worn during any strolls into common areas, and staff meetings are to be handled with phone calls or videoconferencing.
No amount of precautions and prescribed behavior could deny the reality that it was good to be back in the familiar work environment, even a few at a time. Catholic New York’s work never stopped, as readers can tell by the fact that we have not missed an issue during the coronavirus crisis. We did miss the in-person exchanges that are a big part of what makes newspapering such a rewarding and fun adventure. The process of shaping story ideas and headlines, as paragraphs become pages, gets into your blood. It’s good to have co-workers around to share the experience and to write the story we’re telling.
Of course, everyone here understands that these are the first steps of a process that is going to take a while. Right now, we have two teams of three alternating weeks at 1011, which means that many full-time staff members are still working remotely. In time, as coronavirus numbers continue to head in the right direction, we hope and pray that more of us will be able to return.
In talking to employees from other departments, I discovered that not everyone is marking their return in exactly the same fashion. One department director said that as much as her employees wanted to get back to working together, they were still a little hesitant about their return.
As we confront the new normal all around us, I’m sure we each have our own list of things we’re not ready to do just yet. For example, my years-long commute to New York City involves taking a train and subway to get to work each day. For the next couple of months, at least, I’m going to be driving into Manhattan. The reduced traffic flow is an influence. Plus, I just don’t feel quite ready to climb aboard a subway car.
The waiting, the crowded conditions and the specter of not being able to maintain any reasonable amount of distance make it a decision I want to put off until I feel more sure.
I don’t say that lightly because New York City has been very good to me. It’s been hard to be away for more than three months, and I’m glad to return, if only on a half-time basis. It’s not the kind of place that’s easily forgotten or dismissed. In fact, when I’m traveling out of town for a few days, I sometimes observe to those I’m with that I don’t feel entirely comfortable outside the familiar rhythm of New York City’s vibrant beat. Each of us that lives or works here misses that beat right now.
Hopefully, the reopening of 1011 is a sign of good things to come. It’s a rather big thing for the Archdiocese of New York, and those served by the ministries and offices headquartered here. And it’s also another cog in the wheel of New York City getting back on track.