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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (10/8)


It’s Thursday, October 8, 2020. Welcome to the weekly edition of my COVID newsletter.

At press time, nonprofit news site’s COVID-19 tracker showed the following:

  • Manhattan has 34,051 confirmed cases and 3,183 deaths (425 more cases and 2 more deaths than last week).
  • The city as a whole has 248,000 cases and 23,873 deaths (3,426 more cases and 44 more deaths than last week).

Experts say seven-day averages are a more reliable indicator, so we’ll start to show them in this newsletter.

  • Manhattan’s seven-day positivity average as reported by the New York State COVID testing dashboard is .7% (click the link, click on “New York” county, and hover over the end of the graph).
  • The seven-day citywide positivity average as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 1.7% (click the link, scroll down to the “virus tests” section, and hover over the end of the graph).
  • The seven-day moving average-per-thousand for cases in the city as reported by the NYC Dept. of Health is 338 (click the link, scroll down to the “daily counts” section, and hover over the end of the graph).


On the subject of data, last week Gothamist published “A Guide To Better Understanding New York City’s COVID-19 Data,” which clarifies and explains the differences among data-gathering methods, neighborhood breakdowns and how the data can affect our reopening.

Nine ZIP codes that show high positivity in Brooklyn and Queens are a real-time demonstration of a vigorous testing regime. These hot spots (and the areas abutting them) are spiking in positivity rates and are why the schools, businesses and large gatherings there have been restricted by the City and State. The fact that we can pinpoint where the infection is spiking shows how important testing is, and how closely the City and State are paying attention.

The Governor objected to using ZIP codes as boundaries for hot spots, so check Notify NYC’s interactive COVID-19 Zone Finder to find out if you have friends, relatives, businesses or other interests in a Brooklyn or Queens orange or yellow zone and what restrictions apply there.

The Mayor has announced a rezoning plan for SoHo and NoHo, and the Dept. of City Planning is conducting two virtual meetings: a public informational seminar on 10/26 and a public scoping meeting to hear public comments on the environmental scoping materials and to allow the public to inform the environmental review process on 12/3. I will supply the registration links for these two meetings when they are provided.

SoHo’s roots as a hotbed of the arts has attracted so much commercial development over recent years that commerce now far overshadows those roots, and artists have been increasingly priced out. I’d like to see some form of rezoning that allows for that artistic legacy to continue.

I’ve supported and opposed rezonings in other parts of Manhattan (though I’ve never taken a position on rezonings in other boroughs). I strongly support affordable housing; but the administration’s admirable drive to create more of it has all too frequently run roughshod over communities and the planning process.

So I was glad to participate in the SoHo-NoHo planning process last year, along with the Dept. of City Planning and Council Member Chin, to hear from the community and bring some analysis to bear on the future of these neighborhoods, which have long anchored downtown’s culture and commerce (read our report here).

The administration’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program has often resulted in too few affordable units that simply aren’t affordable enough– and irreversibly changed our neighborhoods in the bargain.

We have an opportunity with this rezoning to address affordable housing, diversity and a neighborhood’s roots at the same time, and we shouldn’t blow that opportunity.

I look forward to seeing the details of the Mayor’s plan.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week finally posted its acknowledgement that aerosols are a prime method of virus transmission. “Aerosol” (sometimes referred to as “airborne”) transmission is similar to droplet transmission, except that the bits of fluid are so small that they can linger in the air for minutes or hours.

But a group of scientists who believe that the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are too slow in recognizing the role of aerosol transmission have written up a Google Doc of advice for the public: FAQs on Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 Aerosol Transmission.

MIT Technology Review interviewed the lead author of the document, Jose-Luis Jimenez, in which he says, “It’s scandalous and absurd these agencies refuse to give correct guidance.” Asked what the most important part of the FAQ was, Jimenez said:

The thing people need to understand is aerosol transmission is like everyone breathing out cigarette smoke, and you want to breathe in as little of others’ as possible. Everyone you are around, imagine they are breathing smoke, and try to avoid it. It’s not good enough to just give people guidelines; you need to explain the actual science behind it, too.

Jimenez has been ringing the alarm for months. He was one of the 239 signers of an open letter to the WHO in July 2020 imploring it to recognize the role of aerosols in transmission of the virus. It’s a shame that these large bureaucratic organizations charged with public health are moving so slowly; it’s a testament to the power of the internet that this good public health information can get out despite the CDC and WHO’s sluggishness.

Longtime blogger Aaron Kottke— from whom we got this Google Doc link– says:

As someone who has done a ton of reading about Covid-19, the most best accessible information on how individuals and societies can protect themselves and others during the pandemic (and why) is available in Jimenez’s Time article, Aaron Carroll’s NY Times piece about how to think about risk management, Zeynep Tufecki’s piece in the Atlantic about dispersion and superspreading, and now this Google Doc by Jimenez et al.

Another giant of NYC journalism– and honorary “mayor”of Washington Heights– is gone: Jim Dwyer has died.

As Manhattan Historian Rob Snyder puts it, “Jim Dwyer covered all of New York, but he always remembered that the city is revealed most clearly in the lives of individual people and neighborhoods. He chronicled the subway system, told the story of 9/11 from the perspective of survivors, and introduced many thousands of readers to Coogan’s–the late, great bar that was the most amiably integrated institution in New York. He was a fine writer and a searching reporter whose words knit our city together. Living in Washington Heights, he often reported from his own neighborhood and brought understanding and insight to a part of Manhattan that is too often ignored or misunderstood.”



Congratulations to the newly announced winners of my Cultural Tourism Development Grants, awarded to 24 performing arts and cultural institutions throughout Manhattan, in partnership with the NYC & Company Foundation. Click the link to see the full list.

The last day to register to vote is tomorrow (10/9), so get registered now and make a plan for voting, either by absentee ballot, at an early voting site or in person at your local polling site on 11/3.

Early voting begins October 24, and for those absentee voters who are skittish about even entering an early-voting poll site to drop their ballots in the drop boxes there, there’s a solution. Invisible Hands, a nonpartisan volunteer group that’s done amazing work running errands for the homebound, will pick up sealed absentee ballots from seniors and deposit them in the drop boxes at early voting sites.

Homebound seniors (or whoever) can request a volunteer to pick up their ballot here.

And if you’d like to volunteer for Invisible Hands to do ballot runs, complete the volunteer form here.

Have you requested an absentee ballot but haven’t received it yet? Use the Board of Election’s Absentee Tracker to see where your request is in the process.

70 Mulberry St., the former P.S. 23, was devastated by a fire in January, which displaced the Museum of Chinese in America and four other community organizations. The building is beyond repair, so local elected officials (including me) and an array of community organizations are conducting a “visioning” process to help ensure that the next life of 70 Mulberry meets the needs of these organizations and the community.

A series of meetings will be held for four local constituencies next week via Zoom. Register for them at

  • Community and industry groups: Tuesday (10/13), 6 – 8 pm
  • Local property owners: Wednesday (10/14), 6 – 8 pm
  • Local small business owners: Thursday (10/15), 6 – 8 pm
  • Residents: Friday (10/16), 6 – 8 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed the city’s property tax lien sale back another month until at least 11/3, giving property owners more time to come up with funds to pay their overdue taxes before they’re sold off to collectors. As of last month, more than 7,000 properties had liens, according to City data. The number is expected to decrease with each postponement as property owners have more time to come up with their payments.

Manhattan’s new Open Streets are W. 45th St. (btwn 9th and 10th Aves.) and Pleasant Ave. (btwn E. 118th and E. 120th Sts.), which I pushed the City to add to the program. Additional Open Streets: Restaurants are Amsterdam Ave. (btwn W. 110th and W. 111th Sts.) and Waverly Pl. (btwn Christopher and W. 10th Sts.).

Next Thursday (10/15), the MTA will adjust service on its least-used overnight bus routes, including eliminating overnight service on the M34SBS/M34A, M20, QM17 and B39.


Register by Wednesday (10/14) to get supplies for Team Up to Clean Up West Harlem on Saturday, 10/24 at 10 am.

Food scrap drop-off locations have reopened at:

Apply by tomorrow (10/9) for YouthAction NYC, a free 10-week course that teaches high schoolers how to become effective advocates. Apply here.

Get free homework help from licensed teachers through the United Federation of Teachers by calling 212-777-3380 or visiting the Dial-A-Teacher website, Mondays through Thursdays, 4 – 7 p.m. Help is available in Armenian, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian-Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Tagalog.

Public schools can access Landmark West’s new online Keeping the Past for the Future teacher and student portals for free.

THE POINT offers free virtual after-school programs for 1st – 8th graders. Contact to register.

Apply now for City Parks Foundation’s two virtual after-school programs for middle schoolers, “Green Girls” and “Coastal Classroom.”

High schoolers, especially in East Harlem, can apply for HS Support, a tutoring program through Children’s Aid-Milbank Center.

East Harlem teens 14-19 years old can apply now for a 12-week paid restorative justice internship with Youth Harlem Impact. Contact

Out-of-school and unemployed youth ages 16-24, especially West Harlem residents, can apply now for a paid internship program, Opportunity Youth, with Children’s Aid-Milbank Center.

Senior citizens can get tech help from Older Adults Technology Services, Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm at (920) 666-1959.

Robin Hood’s COVID-19 Relief Fund is now accepting grant applications for nonprofits that provide frontline support to vulnerable populations.

Research organization Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation is offering free consultations to nonprofits and public agencies to help adapt programs to better serve constituents during the pandemic.

The NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development put out a Request for Expression of Interest for nonprofits to assist tenants with the affordable housing process. Apply by next Friday (10/16).

Use this new Freedom of Information Law form to obtain records from the NYS Division of Homes and Community Renewal.

Gracie Square Hospital is providing free Naloxone training over Zoom. Email to book a training.

Nominations close Sunday, 10/18 for the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York’s 2020 NYAW Awards.

Listen to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 1973 talk at the 92nd St. Y on women and the law.

Listen to the Time 100 Talk with Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father, Luis.

Visit new murals depicting the story of the Latinx diaspora in New York City at the Plaza de las Americas, outside of the United Palace on W. 175th St. The murals are up for the next two weeks.

Reserve free tickets now for Atlantic Theater Company’s fall Reunion Reading Series, featuring plays “Skeleton Crew” and “Guards at the Taj.”

Register now for Concerts in Motion’s 10/28 fall virtual salon, featuring a performance by the Emeril String Quartet.



Tonight (10/8) at 6 pm, the National Association of Social Workers NYC Chapter hosts its 13th Annual Leadership Awards Gala. Join me, Carla D. Brown and Marricka Scott-McFadden for a virtual fireside chat.

Tonight (10/8) at 6 pm, the Commission on Human Rights hosts a virtual “Community Town Hall: Addressing Anti-Asian Bias.” Click the title to register.

Tonight (10/8) at 6 pm, the NYC Ballet hosts a free virtual movement workshop for teens and adults with disabilities. Register here.

Saturday (10/10) at noon, NYC Ballet hosts a version of the workshop for children with disabilities. Register here.

Tonight (10/8) at 7 pm, the Tenement Museum hosts “Contraceptives and Controversies,” a discussion about birth control from the 1870s – 1930s. Watch on YouTube.

Tonight (10/8) at 7:30 pm, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance continues its Thursdays with NoMAA series with visual artist Rachel Sydlowski. Watch on Zoom or Facebook.

Tomorrow (10/9) at 12:30 pm, the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden hosts a virtual lecture, “Literature in the 19th Century.” Watch on Zoom.

Tomorrow (10/9) from 4 – 6 pm, Rep. Adriano Espaillat hosts “Afternoons with Adriano” at Taft Houses (1730 Madison Ave.). Register at

Tomorrow (10/9) at 7 pm, Bloomingdale School of Music’s free faculty concert series kicks off with “South American Sounds.” Click the title to register.

Saturdays through 11/21 at 9:30 am, FamilyKind offers a free parenting class for parents of children ages 3-13.

Saturday (10/10) at 10 am, Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Council Member Diana Ayala host “Project: Clean Up Your Block.” Meet at 105 E. 116th St. Register at

Saturday (10/10) at 10 am, the Police Athletic League hosts “Street Games” at the Polo Grounds Houses basketball court (near 3005 Frederick Douglass Jr. Blvd. and 155th St.). Click the title to register.

Saturday (10/10) at noon, WARM (We All Really Matter) hosts “Love on the Block” at Polo Grounds Houses on W. 155th St.

Saturday (10/10) at 2 pm, take a family tour in English or Spanish of the Morris-Jumel Mansion and grounds (65 Jumel Terr.). Register here.

Saturday (10/10) at 2 pm, Summer on the Hudson hosts its final virtual “SO Fun Gameshow” of the summer. Register here.

Saturday (10/10) at 5 pm, Apexart interviews anthropologist and nuclear abolitionist Martin Pfeiffer. Register here.

Saturdays at 7 pm through October, the Open Street at E. 101st St. and Lexington Ave. screens film shorts from the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival.

Sunday (10/11) at 2 pm, Uptown Grand Central hosts “Cash Mob: a Socially Distanced Progressive Meal” to support East Harlem restaurants. Click the title to register.

Sunday (10/11) at 4 pm, the Harlem Chamber Players present “Portraits and Dialogues: A Virtual Concert and TalkBack with the Musicians and Founder Liz Player.” Watch on Facebook.

Monday (10/12) at 4 pm, Discover at Home hosts a virtual interactive science laboratory session with students in grades 3-5. Register here.

Monday (10/12) and Wednesday (10/14) at 6 pm, the Skyscraper Museum continues its “Rewriting Skyscraper History” series with paired talks “Business Buildings: Thinking About Corporate vs. Commercial Skyscrapers.” Click the title to register.

Tuesday (10/13) and Wednesday (10/14) at 10 am, the 92nd St. Y and Hundred Stories host the 4th annual “City of Tomorrow” summit. Click the title to register.

Tuesday (10/13) from noon – 5 pm, Council Speaker Corey Johnson hosts a Donation Drive for our Unhoused Neighbors, accepting new clothes, toiletries, school supplies and baby items at 224 W. 30th St., Suite #1206.

Tuesday (10/13) at 2 pm, small business owners are invited by Pace University’s Small Business Development Center to a webinar titled “Integrating the Value of Sustainability into a Small Business Model.” Click the title to register.

Tuesday (10/13) through next Thursday (10/15) at 2 pm, State Senator Liz Krueger hosts a virtual Senior Resource Fair, featuring arts, wellness and employment sessions. Register here.

Tuesday (10/13) at 5 pm, City Parks Foundation’s Summerstage Anywhere series hosts a virtual concert featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela and The Mavericks.

Wednesday (10/14) at 6:30 pm, the Dept. of Design and Construction hosts a virtual Design Input and Review Session for the Manhattan Detention Center. Join the Zoom here.

Next Thursday (10/15) at 8:30 am is the Manhattan Borough Board’s monthly charter-mandated convening of the Borough President and all of Manhattan’s Council Members and Community Board Chairs. This meeting is open to the public, and Afraz Khan, an Institute for Social Policy and Understanding educator, will present data on American Muslims; register here.

Next Thursday (10/15) at 6:30 pm, I’m speaking at Goddard Riverside’s “Social Justice Never Sleeps” series. Register here.

Next Thursday (10/15) at 6:45 pm, I’m delighted to be honored at Community Impact’s Sharing our Stories Benefit. Register here.