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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (6/2)

Friends,

It’s Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

At press time, TheCity.nyc’s COVID-19 tracker shows Manhattan has 25,092 confirmed cases and 2,924 deaths; New York City as a whole has 200,830 cases and 21,607 deaths.

As we go to press, this was tweeted from NBCNewYork’s Myles  Miller: “NYPD officials tell @NBCNewYork all traffic south of 96 St will be restricted to essential workers, commercial deliveries, and residents starting at 8p. This will mean the closing of the West Side Highway and FDR Drive.”

The curfew is now from 8 pm – 5 am, and has been extended through to Sunday (6/7). Services like CitiBike and Revel will be suspended during those hours, but the MTA will continue service for essential workers, who are exempt. Read this curfew FAQ (PDF) I received from City Hall earlier today to learn more.

There’s no word that better describes how I’m feeling than heartbroken.

Heartbroken for George Floyd and his family– and rampant mistreatment of African-Americans– heartbroken for Minneapolis, New York City, and our nation.

With the continued violence and looting last night, both before and after the  curfew belatedly announced in late afternoon, I am truly heartbroken for Manhattan.

But governing is not only about feelings.

At its most basic, governing is about preserving the public order, however imperfect and unjust. And that has not been done. Our entire leadership shares the blame: the Mayor, the Governor, and the NYPD (and to be clear I am not exempting myself– or leaders in Washington!).

Looting and violence by a few have now tainted the ongoing fight for justice.

What if the scaffold fire on lower Broadway set during the protests resulted in the death of one of the families living inside the scaffolded building?

What if the police officer hit by a brick had suffered a hemorrhage and died?

What if the protester whose mask was taken down by a police officer and pepper sprayed had suffered his own seizure and died?

And what if, after these many nights of protest, COVID-19 infections spike again and flood our hospitals?

We in Manhattan have long been able to manage, albeit imperfectly, the high-low dynamic of being home to some of the wealthiest and the poorest New Yorkers.

Many other factors happening at the same time helped bring us to where we are now: the boom in global tourism to NYC since 9/11 and the resulting boom in retail and hotels, the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath which exacerbated income gaps, left no one punished, and resulted in historically low interest rates which real estate magnates used to finance ever-more-expensive developments (and the national chains who drive out local mom-and-pops), and, not least, the impunity that police have enjoyed in the face of outrageous and deadly racial incidents.

We have to work to enact structural reforms that fairly tax the wealthy to fund fair and equitable schools, healthcare, and housing so that all New Yorkers, wealthy and less so, benefit from the unique energy and joyfulness that used to define our city.

My friend State Sen. Liz Krueger wrote earlier this afternoon:

“…For years, protesters have chanted “no justice, no peace.” I hear this phrase not as a threat, but as a warning and a statement of fact. Peace is not achieved simply by a lack of violence. A truly peaceful society, one where we can all go about our own business unmolested and without fear, can only be achieved by first creating a just society. Only by working for justice and equity will we ensure that our city, our state, and our country are able to emerge from the multiple crises we are facing.”

I urge you to read the whole thing.

I applaud NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, who kneeled with protesters in Washington Square Park Monday in support of George Floyd. That kind of empathy is something we need more of.

This morning I joined Rev. Sharpton, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and members of the City Council and U.S. Congress Members Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries and other elected officials in Foley Square to support City legislation to ban the use of chokeholds by police, and national legislation to make such tactics a federal civil rights violation. Then I toured the damage in SoHo, and went to another rally with Congress Member Adriano Espaillat at the State Office Building in Harlem.

I will keep showing up, but I can’t do it alone. I urge you to take steps in your own lives to help bring about a better world. You’ll see that Sen. Krueger quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. in her note, but I also like the Rev. Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

And now, back to our “regular” newsletter…

Our Town has published my opinion piece on “Why Every School Needs a Social Worker” in the midst of current city budget negotiations at City Hall. The mental health of the city’s children will need even more help than ever after the pandemic subsides. And compared to many larger expenditures, the cost– IBO estimates about $91 million– is a worthwhile investment in our future.

Unemployment insurance debit cards issued by NYS are administered by KeyBank. Because there is only one branch of KeyBank in New York City (located at 11 E. 22nd St.), too many New Yorkers assume that it is the only place to access their unemployment benefits without ATM fees (and may also be attracted to the high daily withdrawal limit of $1500). Long lines at that location have resulted.

But everyone should know that Allpoint-affiliated ATMs take KeyBank cards without charging fees, including those at many RiteAid, CVS and Target stores. See a map of AllPoint locations here; the Allpoint site does not specify a withdrawal limit, saying each ATM operator may set its own limit.

I wrote to Gov. Cuomo to urge that the Dept. of Labor make it much clearer to unemployment recipients when the debit cards are issued where they can use them without fees and surcharges. Read my letter here.

In related news, the federal government is now issuing debit cards loaded with $1200 coronavirus stimulus payments to some recipients, in an effort to get the money out faster. Problem is, those cards come in envelopes that don’t look like government documents and it’s easy to assume it’s junk mail. DON’T THROW IT OUT! Here’s more from New York Magazine: Everything We Know About the Coronavirus Stimulus Debit Cards.

The first of every month is when our neighbors who receive SNAP and WIC benefits go out to buy food. Please be mindful of your own shopping– if you are able, even postpone for a day or two — and avoid choosing items tagged with WIC labels unless absolutely necessary.

The Testing Project, a public health advocacy group, has created a list of all the free testing sites in Manhattan (Google Doc). The City and State refer people to this map tool from Castlight Health.

As I mentioned last week and on my website’s testing sites list, two new pop up sites opened until this Friday (6/1 – 6/5):

  • St Matthew’s Baptist Church, 43 Macombs Place. Monday – Friday, 11 am – 7 pm. To make an appointment, call (833) 422-7369.

  • Mother AME Zion Church, 140-148 West 137th Street. Monday – Friday, 11 am – 7 pm. To make an appointment, call (833) 422-7369.

The City has begun their “Testing and Tracing” program, starting with contact tracers. The tracers, who speak a total of 40 languages, will help those who have tested positive with isolation or other services as needed. They will call once a day for 14 days, and will visit the person’s home after six failed phone attempts.

Governor Cuomo announced that dentists’ offices can reopen while complying with best practices for safety and social distancing.

The West 13th Street Alliance and Project NYC have partnered with Buon’Italia of Chelsea Market for a five-week program to provide a free meal once a week to West Village residents over 60 years old. To register, email toc925@gmail.com with your name (or that of the person you are registering) and the phrase: “WEST 13TH STREET ALLIANCE/PROJECT/NYC”.

The City’s Department of Small Business Services has shared their new “Find a Job” page, which lists open employment listings from across NYC. Learn more and search the listings.

The Fortune Society has released “Good Ship Fortune,” an online page compiling arts, wellness and learning resources for social isolating, and includes a separate list for kid- and teen-friendly resources (Google Doc).

This summer, Metropolitan Opera is hosting “Met Opera Global Summer Camp,” a free eight-week opera appreciation program featuring Met Opera writers, artists, and musicians for students from grades 3-12. Learn more and register here.

Tonight (6/2) at 6 pm, join Village Preservation for an online version of the popular Birth of Punk Tour from Walk on the Wild Side Tours NYC. See the Velvet Underground’s rehearsal space, learn the first use of the word “punk” as a genre name, and discover punk’s roots in the city’s LGBTQ+ community. Register here.

Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday nights (6/3, 6/4, and 6/5) the New York Urban League is hosting online discussions as part of their yearly The State of Young Black New York Conference. Panels will discuss rebounding financially after COVID-19, resources for virtual teaching, and the way forward for organizers on everything from policing to the Census. Register here for Wednesday (6/3)Thursday (6/4), and Friday (6/5).

Tomorrow (6/3) at 7:30 pm, a group of independent NYC-based educational consultants present #CollegesUnbranded: A Virtual College Fair with a Catch.” Students and families can watch presentations from six admissions officers, but details about the colleges will be discussed before the schools’ names are revealed. Register here.

Tomorrow (6/2) at 3 pm, Hunter@Home presents “Making Anxiety Our Ally During the Pandemic,” a conversation with Hunter Psychology professors Tracy Dennis-Tiwary and Evelyn Behar. RSVP here.

On Thursday (6/4) at 5:30 pm, my office will be hosting the fourth edition of our monthly Uptown Arts Call, co-sponsored by the Coalition of Theatres of Color, the Arts and Culture Committee of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, the Harlem Arts Alliance, and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. The meeting will address the proposed FY21 city funding for arts institutions, with an emphasis on the 42-member theatre coalition. Register here.

On Thursday (6/4) from 6 – 7 pm, I’ll be joining WEACT for one of their Uptown Chats online events, where I’ll be talking about some of the issues that matter most to Northern Manhattanites and taking a questions. Register here.

On Thursday (6/4) from 6 – 8 pm, I’ll be co-sponsoring a Pandemic Tenants’ Rights Virtual Town Hall with Council Member Ben Kallos and other local, state, and federal elected officials from Manhattan. Attorneys will be available to provide additional information and  answer questions. RSVP online or call (212) 860-1950.

On Thursday (6/4) from 7 – 10 pm, the Apollo Theater is hosting a “Let’s Stay (In) Together” online concert and benefit featuring performances from Kool & the Gang, Gary Clark Jr., Michael McDonald, Ray Chew, DJ Reborn and others, with special appearances by Dionne Warwick, Teddy Riley, Doug E. Fresh, Roy Wood Jr. and more. The concert will stream free on apollotheater.org, but you can also RSVP in advance.

Today’s FreshDirect delivery was made to Dyckman Houses. From there, the 10-lb food boxes were distributed to Fort Washington Consolidated, as well as Marble Hill, Samuel City and Drew-Hamilton Houses.

Please forward these newsletters to anyone you know who would find them useful, or have them subscribe to my enews here or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram.

And please do call me with any urgent problems or concerns: (212) 669-8191.