Timothy Davis recalls spending last summer mostly in his apartment, taking COVID-19 tests weekly to protect immunocompromised relatives — and hunkering over a laptop doing volunteer work remotely.
Those days are long gone, though.
This summer, Davis, 21, said he plans to make up for lost time with bowling, beach excursions, and spending time with friends — all while working part-time as an outreach assistant with the Henry Street Settlement social services organization.
“I love just moving, just being able to get around and conversate with people at a somewhat close distance, you know? yes That’s what I’d be doing,” said Davis, who is from the Lower East Side.
Summer of 2022 is shaping up to be different from the past two years, according to interviews with a handful of teenagers and young adults around the city.
Some young New Yorkers are spending their summers working or looking for in-person jobs instead of last year’s remote experiences. Other Gen Zers are getting ready for college or traveling again. But having some fun, at last, what’s on everyone’s agenda.
Even mundane activities seem more appealing now, said Mia Fields Pena, 16, of Riverdale.
“Like going on public transportation, just traveling more, being able to comfortably sit inside of a restaurant – you know, able to visit friends in their homes and not be scared that you’re like transmitting virus to them,” said Pena, who’s working as a teen staffer at the High Line Park.
Like Davis, 18-year-old Solana Quezada is working at the Henry Street Settlement as an outreach assistant this summer before heading off to college in the fall.
In between her duties delivering groceries, coaching kids’ soccer programs and tending the community garden, Quezada said she’s making sure she hits up one special place for fun.
“I wanted to go to Six Flags for like the longest time because I haven’t in, like, years,” said Quezada who lives on the Lower East Side.
She pointed out that when coronavirus began spreading in New York City in 2020, she and her peers missed out on several Sweet 16 parties.
“Before COVID, we were actually gonna have block parties, and we were gonna have a lot of celebrations because it was around the time where, at least for my age, everyone was turning 16,” Quezada said. “We are two years older, but we’re able to celebrate that. And so we’re planning on resuming everything from two years ago.”
The Henry Street Settlement has made a point of hiring young people this summer because it feels Gen Z needs some relief. The nonprofit tapped into funding from the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program.
New York City operates the country’s largest youth jobs program — run by its Department of Youth and Community Development and other city agencies. It is devoting $236 million to 100,000 summer jobs for young people.
Resting on the steps of the LES Skatepark under the Manhattan Bridge on a sunny day, 17-year-old Kevin Abreu said he’s looking forward to spending time with his girlfriend and catching the big July 4th fireworks display this summer.
The years of the pandemic have weighed heavily on him.
“I’m not gonna lie. Like, last summer … I wasn’t even outside because of the pandemic,” said Abreu, who lives on the Lower East Side with his mom who has diabetes.
But he’s hopeful things will improve this summer.
“Have fun, that’s all I’ve ever wished for because I live a stressful life. And I’m young. You know what I’m saying?” said. “So I just want to do better for myself. I want to get a job and move forward with life. You know? Because we can’t always look back. We got to look forward in life, you know, push forward.”
Sitting on a bench in the LES Skatepark, Jeanelle “Jeanz” Carufel, 24, was eagerly anticipating her first proper New York City summer after moving from Minneapolis to Bed-Stuy last year.
“I’m very jazzed,” said Carufel, who works at two Brooklyn restaurants and feels the city’s mood is “lighthearted” as longer days and festive nights Beckon.
“Going out to bars, right, that was something last summer, I was even a little wary of,” she said. “And I love, like, going out and meeting new people and just, like, having a good time.”
Carufel said she’ll spend a couple weeks this summer teaching at a Minneapolis skate camp for kids, before heading back to the city.
“I do feel that people are out and about again, traveling. Like it seems like everybody’s just trying to learn to live with COVID,” Carufel said, while also acknowledging that the pandemic isn’t over.
“It’s not going anywhere. We’re doing what we can,” she said.