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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (7/2)

Here’s a work in progress shot of Centre St. in Foley Square, which is being painted with a unique “Black Lives Matter” mural by three up-and-coming artists of color in their first large public commissions (that I helped arrange with the folks at Black Lives Matter of Greater NY, the architectural firm WXY Studio, and the City’s DOT and DCLA). Weather permitting, we’ll be unveiling the mural tomorrow, Friday (7/3), at 3 pm and Centre Street will be closed for ten days to allow visitors (and LOTS of selfies!), so please come down and visit. Make an afternoon of it, this weekend or next week– many Chinatown and Lower Manhattan restaurants are open for takeout and sidewalk dining, and they could use the support!

Friends,

It’s Thursday, July 2, 2020.

At press time, TheCity.nyc’s COVID-19 tracker shows Manhattan has 26,866 confirmed cases and 3,094 deaths; New York City as a whole has 212,774 cases and 23,123 deaths.

Next week, as the City enters Phase Three of reopening, we will shift to a weekly newsletter format (with exceptions for urgent news). It’s been a pleasure to work on these every day, and I know– from the scores of appreciative emails and comments– that people love the work that has gone into them. (There will also be no new newsletter tomorrow, on account of the holiday.)

Just last Saturday, as I was touring Harlem barber shops (I toured beauty salons a few days later), one barber mentioned to me that it was our newsletter which helped him get PPP funding for his shop. I couldn’t be prouder!

I have more to say about the FY21 budget.

Yesterday I described my objections to the cuts-and-restorations in summer jobs and youth programs at a time when we really need them most. Sara Heller and Judd B. Kessler, economists who have studied the impact of summer jobs programs for young people in New York City and elsewhere, described better than I could the benefits of these programs in a NY Times op-ed on Monday (“Mayor de Blasio, Bring Back Summer Jobs”).

As I said yesterday, I know how brutal budget negotiations can be, having served on the Council’s budget negotiating team for 12 years.

I’ve been championing funding for a social worker in every school for a long time and, particularly coming out of this pandemic, that goal is more important than ever.  It is not clear to me that the money restored for social workers maintains the modest level committed to by the Mayor last year, since vacant positions are being eliminated and I do not know what the $4.8 million that is allocated will fund. Will they be school-based, as I have asked? Along with Council Member Treyger, I’m disturbed that social workers are not exempt from the hiring freeze. We need these critical workers now more than ever, as the health crisis and resulting economic crisis merge in young minds into one giant mass of uncertainty.

A third priority of mine was organics recycling. It is unfortunate that the $7 million needed for community composting and e-waste collection was not fully restored. While a $2.86 million restoration of community composting programs is welcome, it’s a step backward from the goal of a citywide composting program.

I’m appalled that the final budget did not address the need for affordable housing. FY20’s fourth quarter and FY21’s cuts to the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development’s capital budget total over $1 billion, which advocates estimate will lead to the loss of 22,000 units of affordable housing and 37,000 jobs associated with developing those units.

We must explore all options for producing and preserving affordable housing. I’ll begin by consulting experts and advocates to re-evaluate the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program, with the goal of improving MIH as a way to generate truly affordable housing during this time when there is a scarcity of subsidies and financing. As part of that, we’ll examine whether the offsite allowance under the Voluntary Inclusionary Housing program is effective.

I am also concerned about cuts to the Department for the Aging (DFTA).  While these cuts are minimal compared with other agencies, DFTA represents less than 1% of the city budget. Cutting the Borough Presidents’ DFTA discretionary money will mean a $241,675 reduction in services in programs like Visiting Neighbors, Inc. and Harlem Wellness Center in Manhattan, and thousands more in the other four boroughs.

I’m glad that the City Council restored key CUNY programs, such as the ASAP program that enables low income students to attend and graduate from community colleges.

And I wholeheartedly support the Council’s restoration of support for libraries and to culture and the arts, including $3.7 million for the Coalition of Theaters of Color Initiative.

Like so many, I’m concerned that the supposed $1 billion cut to the NYPD is simply not real. Money has been shifted among agencies, and there is no concrete plan for eliminating or capping overtime. I believe that much more needs to be done, as we re-imagine policing in our city. I intend to continue to call together advocates and experts, hold community dialogues (as I have done in the past), and seek real reform.

Manhattan Borough Historian Rob Snyder recorded a reflection on what it means to celebrate the Fourth of July this year. It’s a beautiful commentary on the teachable moments and parallels we can find between the American Revolution and our current fight against systemic racism.

Mayor de Blasio announced today that outdoor dining already allowed on some Manhattan Open Streets will as of tomorrow (7/3) be extended to include Friday nights (5 – 11 pm) and weekends (noon – 11 pm), including:

  • Doyers Street in Chinatown

  • 101st Street in East Harlem

  • Gansevoort Street, 9th Ave, 13th Street, and Little W. 12th Street in the Meatpacking District and Chelsea

  • Broadway in Flatiron

  • W.46th Street near Times Sq.

  • Mulberry and Hester Street in Little Italy

  • Orchard and Broome Streets in LES.

Thanks to the collaboration of Harlem elected officials, Community Board 10, Cure the Violence groups, community-based organizations, block associations, clergy, Ambassadors, and NYPD, we are working together to address any local issues and activities– planned and unplanned– and we are keeping community relations and safety in mind.

As the 4th of July weekend approaches and summer activities increase, we are calling on all to join us in promoting responsible outdoor gatherings within social distancing guidelines, culturally sensitive community engagement strategies and mitigation of any risks to public safety.

Thanks to everyone involved in this herculean effort.

Tonight (7/2) at 6 pm, the Harlem Business Alliance presents “Green Revolution– Leveling the Playing Field,” a panel discussion on how best to ensure cannabis legislation in New York State with racial justice in mind. Register on Zoom, or stream on YouTube or Facebook.


Tomorrow morning (7/3) at 10 am, I’ll be joining community groups and other elected officials in Harlem for the kickoff painting of a Black Lives Matter mural at the 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard. Come join us (from a safe distance)! The painting is planned to continue until Sunday (7/5).

On Saturday (7/4) from 10 am – 3 pm, join the New-York Historical Society’s Dimenna Children’s History Museum for a series of online events in celebration of the Fourth of July. See the full schedule here.

This Sunday’s edition of Lincoln Center’s “Memorial for Us All” webcast (7/5, 6 pm) features singer and actress Vanessa Williams and names of many we’ve lost. If you’d like a name included in July 12th’s broadcast, please submit the name by this Monday (7/6) at 6 pm.


A group of educators and volunteers have launched Project Inspire, a free online program for kids in grades K-8 to develop their core writing skills and confidence in public speaking. The program runs from July 5 – August 16. Sign up here, and learn more.

The “Time in Children’s Arts Initiative” has announced a free online edition of their Summer in the City program for kids in grades 3K – 12. Learn more.

Inwood Art Works have launched “Inwood Art Works On Air,” a podcast featuring local artists from Northern Manhattan. Listen on Apple MusicSpotify, or the Inwood Art Works website.

Finally, in honor of the upcoming long weekend, I thought I’d offer a few links to pieces that I’ve found fascinating in weeks past. You might, too. In no particular order:

New York Times, June 26, 2020:

I’m a Health Care Worker. You Need to Know How Close We Are to Breaking.

By Dr. Bradley A. Dreifuss

An opinion piece from the Arizona front of the COVID war. Dr. Dreifuss is director of rural and global emergency medicine programs at the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Tucson.

New York Times, June 30, 2020:

What a Family That Lost 5 to the Virus Wants You to Know

By Tracey Tully

Washington Post, June 29, 2020:

Millions track the pandemic on Johns Hopkins’s dashboard. Those who built it say some miss the real story.

by Kyle Swenson

“‘Numbers in some ways instill this sense of comfort. But then on the other hand, they can be wrong,’ said Lauren Gardner, the associate professor at Johns Hopkins’s Whiting School of Engineering who has spearheaded the global tracker since Day 1. ‘And they can be wrong for lots of different reasons.’”

The New York Times, June 27, 2020:

How the World Missed Covid-19’s Silent Spread

By Matt Apuzzo, Selam Gebrekidan and David D. Kirkpatrick

“Symptomless transmission makes the coronavirus far harder to fight. But health officials dismissed the risk for months, pushing misleading and contradictory claims in the face of mounting evidence.”

ProPublica, June 23, 2020:

My Family Saw a Police Car Hit a Kid on Halloween. Then I Learned How NYPD Impunity Works

by Eric Umansky

ProPublica Deputy Managing Editor Eric Umansky’s family saw an unmarked NYPD cruiser hit a Black teenager. He tried to find out how it happened, and instead found all of the ways the NYPD is shielded from accountability.

Dame Magazine, June 23, 2020:

How a Traumatized Nation Can Cope

By Erin Biba

As blogger Jason Kottke put it: “…many people are experiencing trauma on an individual level as well as together on a collective level. Erin Biba interviewed psychologist Dr. Renée Lertzman, an expert on large scale trauma, about what we can do to address how we’re feeling…”

Vox, June 5, 2020:

Ta-Nehisi Coates on George Floyd, police protests, and hope.

Ezra Klein, founder of Vox, interviewed author Ta-Nehisi Coates for his podcast; the title above links to the podcast and a partial transcript. “The first question I asked Ta-Nehisi Coates, in this episode, was broad: What does he see right now, as he looks out at the country? “I can’t believe I’m gonna say this,” he replied, “but I see hope. I see progress right now.”

Rolling Stone Magazine, June 24, 2020:

‘This Might Just Be the First Chapter’: A New York Doctor on Her Experience With COVID-19

By Tessa Stuart

“One doctor’s story of being on the front lines of the pandemic, and why she never thought this would happen in America.”

 —

Today’s FreshDirect delivery was made to Rangel Houses. From there the 500 10-lb food boxes were distributed to Polo Grounds, as well as Harlem River I & II Houses, with the help of my staff and the local Tenants’ Associations.

There will be no FreshDirect delivery tomorrow.

A happy Fourth to you and your loved ones.

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.