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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (3/18)


It’s day three for closed schools.

As of yet, there is NO “shelter in place” order for New Yorkers.

Gov. Cuomo announced today that the statewide total of COVID-19 cases is now 2,382, with new cases in 20 counties.

The Governor has also announced he will issue an executive order directing non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective this Friday, March 20. Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent. The order exempts shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other industries critical to the supply chain.

And he said the USNS Comfort hospital ship will be deployed to New York harbor and is expected to arrive in April. The 1,000-bed hospital ship has 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and will significantly increase New York’s hospital surge capacity. The Governor is meeting with leadership of the Army Corp of Engineers today to discuss other ways to increase hospital capacity in New York.

New York State wants the help of qualified retired health professionals to temporarily supplement hospital capacity– if and when the health crisis worsens– treating seriously ill coronavirus patients. The NYS Dept. of Health will recertify individuals for the purpose. Please take the Retired Health Professional Survey here.

Governor Cuomo and Attorney General James announced that the state will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection for at least a 30-day period in response spread of COVID-19. Apparently they have also created an application for suspension of debt collection activity here.

Our mentions in previous newsletters of evictions being suspended brought word of a city marshal posting an eviction notice for a tenant in upper Manhattan. We heard from the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of Civil Court who confirmed that all evictions  are suspended, although landlords are still being permitted to file cases since certain statutes of limitation have not been suspended yet by the Governor. He also said marshals are not supposed to be carrying out any evictions, and he agreed to look into the case.

To inform distribution of these electronics, DOE is asking families to complete a survey sharing their best contact information over the next few weeks as well as whether they have access to a smartphone, a laptop/tablet/computer, the internet, or none of the above. Take the official DOE learning devices survey here.

I spoke to the CEO of Fresh Direct, and at the behest of my fellow Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., they will deliver 8 pallets of food boxes to each borough — filled with staples — starting next Tuesday and every day thereafter. (They are already working with the Common Pantry on W. 116 St; when their regular suppliers dried up, Fresh Direct stepped in.  We will keep you posted one we know the Manhattan drop-off location (and who knows how it will be handled under a “shelter in place” order, but we’ll figure it out!).

That said, many supermarkets are opening early or prioritizing their regular first hour of opening for senior citizens and the most at-risk. Morton Williams notified us yesterday they will be blocking off 7 – 8 am for this purpose. Because it’s the first business hours of the day, the shelves are likelier to be stocked. If you know of other supermarkets doing this, please let us know!  (RECAP: Yesterday we mentioned our supermarket guide can give you contact info and discounts available to seniors: )

A reader sent me this post about relief funds for restaurants, and I thought it worth publicizing:

The Indie Theater Fund is offering unrestricted rapid relief grants to independent theater companies and individual artists in need due to the financial strain of  COVID-19. They will be offering grants of up to $500 on an ongoing basis until funds run out. They are prioritizing companies and artists with budgets less than $250,000 and will be reviewing applications on a first come first serve basis. Visit the Indie Theater Fund info page here.

Today I spoke to Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the city’s Dept. of Small Business Services. For more  information on programs to help small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit

The City will provide relief for small businesses across the city seeing a reduction in revenue because of COVID-19. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decreases of 25% or more will be eligible for zero interest loans of up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit. The City is also offering small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees.

We are in touch with the Dept of Finance to obtain a way that businesses can get an extension on paying their sales tax due this Friday, March 20.

The Human Resources Administration offices remain open and ready to serve those in need. For those unable or unwilling to come to our offices, NO NEGATIVE CASE ACTIONS WILL BE TAKEN including services with the Office of Child Support Services and Career Service providers. Those who do not wish to report to their assigned center, HRA Centers will assist clients no matter which center they normally report to.

ACCESS HRA remains a vital tool for clients and is a great way to skip the trip. For those seeking SNAP benefits or those already in receipt but with a recertification coming due, ACCESS HRA, can be used to submit the application/recertification form and to upload pictures of documents needed for eligibility determinations. For those in receipt of cash assistance benefits, ACCESS HRA can be used to submit requests for special grants and emergency assistance without having to come to a Job Center. Access HRA can also be used by those with a scheduled recertification appointment to submit your recertification form.  For all clients, ACCESS HRA can also be used to update your contact information. It is important during these times that HRA has a way to contact you and this is the fastest and easier way to keep updated.

NYCHA encourages households experiencing a loss of income to access our rent hardship program. You may qualify for a rent reduction if all the following conditions are met:
• There is at least a 5% reduction to gross income;
• Current rent is more than 30% of the net household income; and
• Reduction in income has lasted at least two months.
Residents can request a rent reduction by completing an Interim Recertification via the NYCHA Self-Service Portal or by calling their Property Management Office to request a paper form be mailed to your home.

If your household experiences a complete loss of income, you may qualify for NYCHA’s Zero Income Policy; please call your property management office to participate in the required eligibility interview.

As a reminder, public housing residents have eight ways to pay rent, including via mail, MyNYCHA, online, at an authorized bank or credit union, by phone, and more. Visit to learn more.

If you have any NYCHA questions or concerns, please call 718-707-7771.

Here is a map of Manhattan wifi hotspots, as compiled by my technology staff.

Again, to recap, Spectrum cable (and other cable providers such as Optimum, which does not have a franchise footprint in Manhattan) is offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription, and installation fees will be waived for new student households. For eligible low-income households without school-aged children, Charter continues to offer “Spectrum Internet Assist,” a low-cost broadband program delivering speeds of 30 Mbps. They are also opening its Wi-Fi hotspots across their service area for public use.  To enroll in the free broadband service or Internet Assist, call 1-844-488-8395. (It’s their standard customer service line, so use the “new service” or “add service” option. To avoid long wait times, call early in the morning or later in the evening, until 1:00 am EDT.) Optimum’s number is 1-866-200-9522 and their COVID-19 webpage on this is here.

Most news outlets have placed their COVID-19 stories outside the paywalls of their websites. In addition, many New Yorkers may not be aware of the Washington Post’s coverage, viewable here; They are also issuing a daily Coronavirus newsletter, which can be subscribed to from that page.

Chalkbeat, the excellent nonprofit education news website, is also useful, especially as the city schools are scheduled to begin distance learning this coming Monday (3/23). They also have NYC and national newsletters available for sign up here.

Here is today’s updated list of senior center meal pickup locations:

  • Goddard Riverside Senior Center from 12pm-1pm
  • Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center (Goddard) from 12pm-1pm
  • Central Harlem Kennedy Senior Center from 12pm-1:30pm (note new start time)
  • Project FIND Hamilton Center from 11-12:30pm (Sunday through Friday)
  • Carter Burden Roosevelt Island from 11:45am-1:30pm (their info is also on their network website)
  • Carter Burden Covello breakfast from 8:30am – 9:30am and lunch from 12pm – 1:30pm
  • Carter Burden Lehman from 12pm – 1:30pm
  • Carter Burden CBLC at Epiphany from 12pm – 2pm
  • University Settlement only Mondays and Thursdays 12pm-1pm
  • YM/YWHA Washington Heights from 11:30-1pm
  • Stein Senior Center from 10am-11am
  • Washington Heights Star Neighborhood Senior Center from 11am-12:30pm
  • UJC Lillian Wald Senior Center from 9am-5pm
  • UJC Adult Luncheon Club from 9am-5pm
  • ARC Fort Washington Senior Center from 12-1:30pm
  • ARC XVI A. Philip Randolph Senior Center from 12-1:30
  • ARC XVI Central Harlem Senior Center from 12-1:30pm
  • Chinatown Senior Center (from 150 Elizabeth Street, CPC Central Office) from 10:30-11:30am
  • Open Door Senior Center (168 Grand Street) from 10:30-11:30am
  • Sirovich Senior Center from 12-1pm
  • ABSW Neighborhood Senior Center from 12-1:30pm
  • A. Philip Randolph Senior Center from 12-1:30pm
  • Center on the Square Senior Center (Greenwich House) from 12-2pm
  • Judith C. White Senior Center (Greenwich House) from 12-2pm
  • Hamilton Madison City Hall Senior Center from 11:30-1pm (Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays)
  • Corsi Senior Center (Union Settlement) from 11:30-1:30pm
  • Gaylord White Senior Center (Union Settlement) from 11:30-1:30pm
  • Jefferson Senior Center (Union Settlement) from 11:30-1:30pm
  • Wagner Senior Center (Union Settlement) from 11:30-1:30pm
  • Washington Lexington Senior Center (Union Settlement) from 11:30-1:30pm
  • Frederick Douglass Senior Center (WSFSSH) from 12-1:30pm (must call 646-214-2560 between 9-10:30am to request meal)
  • Senior Nutrition Program Located at Casabe Houses for the Elderly from 12-1pm (request call from 10-11am to 212-722-2205)
  • SAGE Harlem from 12-1pm
  • Encore Senior Center starting at 11:30am
  • Project FIND Coffeehouse from 10:45am-12:30pm
  • Project FIND Clinton Senior Center from 10:30am-12:30pm
  • Project FIND Woodstock Senior Center from 8-9am (breakfast) and 10:45-12:30pm (lunch)
  • Henry Street Settlement from 12pm-1pm (lunch and dinner)
  • 80 Pitt Street Community Center (Grand Street Settlement) breakfast from 9:30-10:30 and lunch from 12:30-1:30pm
  • Hudson Guild Senior Center pick up from Elliott and Fulton sites on Mondays from 12-1pm (bring cart as seniors will receive multiple meals for the week)
  • Jackie Robinson Senior Center breakfast from 9-10:30am and lunch from 12-1:30pm
  • NCJW Council Lifetime Learning Thursday (3/19) and Friday (3/20) 11:30-1:30pm
  • John Paul II Friendship Center from 11:15am-12:30pm
  • King Towers Social Club from 12-1pm
  • LaGuardia Senior Center breakfast from 8:30-9:30am and lunch from 11:30-12:30pm
  • Moriah Senior Center from 12-1:45pm
  • Weinberg Center for Balanced Living (Ed Alliance) lunch from 11:30am-1pm (and seniors will be provided with breakfast for the following day)

Many New Yorkers have turned to biking to get around, and the DOT is considering creating temporary, emergency protected bike lanes to protect those growing numbers bikers.

It’s incredibly important that the DOT roll these out as soon as possible, to help encourage more New Yorkers to cycle. If we don’t increase street safety infrastructure, we could see cyclist deaths rise even higher, after the record year for deaths last year.

The city implemented similar kinds of temporary transportation solutions after Hurricane Sandy, so there’s precedent. Some suggestions for DOT on where these emergency bike lanes, bus lanes, and expanded pedestrian spaces could be implemented:
– Protected North-South bike lanes on every other avenue, at the minimum (Ex. 1st and 2nd Avenues).
– Crosstown protected bike lanes every 25-30 blocks.
– Widening of small, current crosstown lanes on 26/29th Streets and 52/55th Streets.
– Bus lanes on major crosstown thoroughfares and on additional North-South thoroughfares.
– Expansion of sidewalk space in overly-congested areas in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

That’s all for today. Please contact me at (212) 669-8191 if you have questions or concerns.