Tourists still flock to Instagrammable Dumbo street despite COVID-19 warnings

Some tourists continued to flock to the Dumbo Instagram hotspot at the corner of Washington and Water streets on March 18.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Despite city officials advising people to stay indoors to curtail the spread of coronavirus, the photogenic intersection of Washington and Water streets in Dumbo still drew a handful of visitors posing for pictures and selfies Wednesday.

One globetrotter said he was using the opportunity to see the local landmarks without the crowds.

“In fairness it’s kind of worked out well because there’s less people,” said New Zealander Brian Smith. “I think we’re seeing this country at a unique time, just how quiet it is.”

Smith was visiting the borough’s former industrial waterfront-turned-Instagram-hot-spot with a friend from England, and said that the two hadn’t seen each other and were trying to enjoy touring the sights together.

“There’s only so much you can do, you can’t be defined by it,” Smith said. “You’ve got to still be able to enjoy the moment.”

His friend noted that they were both being cautious, but mused that it was safer to be in touristy areas without all the other tourists.

“We’re sensible with precautions, but we’re not going to miss out seeing each other,” said Michelle Babbs. “It’s so strange to see it so quiet, it’s quite sad really. In that way it’s kind of automatically safer anyway.”

The scenic street is usually chock-full of tourists and social media influencers getting the perfect shot and one Twitter user even caught a rare moment when the lane was completely deserted Tuesday evening.

“Holy crap you know it’s bad when the instagram street is empty,” tweeted David Mack.

A group of visitors from Northern Ireland came to see the towering bridge on their last day of their visit to the five boroughs, which they said was hampered by the many business closures as a result of the virus.

“We just wanted to come and see this, there’s nothing else to do,” said Padraig Holmes. “This is basically what we can do, all the main attractions were shut. We’re just trying to make the most of it.”

His friend said that they got into the country just ahead of President Trump’s travel ban for people coming from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and that several of their bookings to Broadway shows and tours of the city were cancelled on short notice due to the virus.

“When we were coming over it wasn’t that bad but then it got more serious,” said Melissa Maxwell.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced that New Yorkers should be prepared for a shelter in place mandate, which would direct residents not leave their home except for essential services, such as buying food, medicine, and exercising.

Similar orders are already in place in California and Italy, but officials of Governor Andrew Cuomo — whose approval would be required for the shelter directive — sent out conflicting messaging.

“Any blanket quarantine or shelter in place policy would require state action and as the governor has said, there is no consideration of that for any locality at this time,” Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said in a statement.