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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (3/24)

Today, I started helping distribute 4,000 lbs of free food each weekday, courtesy of online grocer Fresh Direct, as part of  their “Operation Five-Borough Food Drive”


It’s Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the fifth day of spring.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says “The pandemic is accelerating… It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.

More than 2,000 Italians have been killed by the virus in the past four days alone. The Washington Post reports:
The staggering toll stands for now as a worst-case scenario for what happens when a country is caught unprepared. Italy’s large elderly population has exacerbated the problem. But while some unique aspects have amplified the scale, doctors and health officials say other countries should regard Italy not as an outlier or an example of missteps, but as a harrowing preview of the hardships they might soon have at hand.”   “Italy’s coronavirus deaths are staggering. They may be more preview than anomaly.

Those statistics are why Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo– along with governors of many other states– have ordered all non-essential employees to stay home and limit their “social distance” to six feet between people. Because every drastic step we take now to reduce exposure to the COVID-19 saves lives down the road– and preserves our health care system’s staff and infrastructure to better handle not only virus cases, but the regular medical emergencies (and births!) that occur as a matter of course.

Those who think we’re going to be able to be back to business as usual by Easter (April 12 this year) are… sadly deluded. And those in the media world– which is centered in New York City– who give a platform for that kind of delusion are imperiling public health (including that of their own staffs).

Today, I started helping distribute 4,000 lbs of free food each weekday, as part of  “Operation 5-Borough Food Drive.” My office is coordinating distribution of the 10 lb boxes, contributed and delivered by the online grocery Fresh Direct, at a rolling list of different NYCHA developments in Manhattan. Today, we distributed cartons to 400 residents in need at Dyckman Houses in Inwood, in cooperation with each development’s tenant association. Present at today’s launch was David McInerney, CEO of Fresh Direct, Dyckman Houses Tenant Association President Nathaniel Greene, Lillian Al-Bilali from Children’s Arts and Science Workshops (which runs the Cornerstone program there), and Community Board 12 Chair Eleazar Bueno– along with Aldrin Bonilla, Deputy Borough President and staffer Rosalba Rodriguez. For more information on “The Five Borough Food Drive” visit .

All 12 Manhattan Community Boards have been provided Zoom teleconferencing accounts by my office, and will be able to conduct full board meetings, committee meetings and other necessary multi-participant conferences. These sessions will be posted for the public’s participation on each Board’s website. My office will also conduct monthly Borough Board and Borough Service Cabinet meetings using this same web-based meeting tool. Community Boards will continue to be supported by the civic technology nonprofit BetaNYC (through our strategic partnership that employs CUNY Service Corps members who have been trained by BetaNYC to become Civic Tech Fellows). Thanks to Noel Hidalgo and BetaNYC who researched and setup this virtual meeting tool and provides technical assistance to Community Board Chairs and District Managers.

The Mayor announced today that up to two streets in each borough would be closed to vehicular traffic to allow more outdoor space with proper “social distancing”. I await the specifics on which streets and what length of the street will be opened up, but it’s far fewer than called for by Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York (and which I supported). Nonetheless, it is a start. The streets to be closed may be announced as soon as Thursday; I’ll keep you posted.

The City has created the GetFoodNYC food delivery program to provide food for coronavirus (COVID-19)-vulnerable and food-insecure New Yorkers not currently served through existing food delivery programs. Sign up here or call 311.

The city’s Dept. of Environmental Protection advises: don’t flush those disposable disinfectant wipes down your toilet!   “Trash it, don’t flush it!”

Renaissance Economic Development Corporation, an affiliate of Asian Americans for Equality, just announced its Emergency Small Business Relief Loan Fund to help the many independent neighborhood businesses imperiled by COVID-19. Learn more (or apply) at:
English –
Chinese –
Korean –
Spanish –

I mentioned yesterday that the city’s Dept. for the Aging (DFTA) is phasing in a direct meal delivery system that will gradually replace the current Grab and Go model of food distribution at senior centers. The first phase will began today, March 24, and kosher meal delivery will start tomorrow, Wednesday March 25. Grab and Go meals will continue at many centers and even overlap as the new system is implemented.

My office will continue to track and share the changes. DFTA recommends contacting the centers directly before going to the center to confirm timing and availability of Grab and Go meals. In New York City, senior services are considered essential and some centers may need assistance from volunteers in providing these critical meals to clients. If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact my office at

Foodbank for New York City needs able and healthy volunteers to help prepare meals, pack food and other essentials.

Alternate side parking rules, originally suspended until today (March 24th) have been further suspended until March 31st.

Many Harlem restaurants have felt the impact of the COVID-19 crisis; it’s worth helping keep them going until all this is over by ordering take ou and delivery. Here is a list of Harlem restaurants still cooking for us!

American Jewish Committee (AJC) has started a campaign to share and honor acts of kindness and decency on the part of individuals, groups, organizations, companies, and countries around the world and even inspire more of them. The initiative is called #BeAMensch based off of the Yiddish word meaning “a person of integrity and honor”—or, put simply, a good person. Learn more at

Folding@home (F@h) is a distributed computing project, using volunteers’ personal computers in order to simulate protein dynamics, which in turn helps researchers find new cures and treatments for various diseases.
The project is being run out of Washington University in St. Louis and originated from Stanford University; with many New Yorkers at home wondering what they can “do” do to help with COVID-19, maybe this can be an outlet for that desire. More info at

Tonight at 8 pm on WLIW (PBS) is a wonderful documentary on public housing in America– produced by Ken Burns– using East Lake Meadows in the Atlanta area as the basis for its narrative. I was delighted to host 50 NYCHA leaders at a screening at CUNY in February, and everyone heartily reccomends it!

That’s it for today, thank you all for reading– please don’t forget to complete your sensus form!