Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (9/17)


It’s Thursday, September 17, 2020. Welcome to the weekly edition of my COVID newsletter.

At press time, nonprofit news site’s COVID-19 tracker shows Manhattan has 32,835 confirmed cases and 3,177 deaths; New York City as a whole has 238,625 cases and 23,762 deaths. There were 252 new cases citywide Tuesday (9/15), compared to last Tuesday’s (9/8) 213 cases, a rise of 18% (albeit on a fairly low base).

Nationwide, we are within hours of hitting a milestone of 200,000 deaths. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington– which has been tracking outbreaks globally since the beginning– projects that,  under current conditions, the number of projected deaths by December 31, 2020 will reach 400,000. If mask use were to rise to 95% of the population within the next seven days, it could save 100,000 lives by year’s end. (Alternately, if mandates are never reimposed in response to data, the death toll is estimated to reach 600,000.)

–Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow (9/18) at sundown, 
so I wish all who celebrate a healthy and sweet New Year! 
See my list of online and virtual holiday celebrations
under the “Events” heading below–


The Mayor delayed Monday’s start of in-person instruction (except for 3k, pre-k and District 75 students) until Tuesday 9/29, when K-5 and K-8 schools will start. Then, later that week on Thursday, 10/1 middle and high school students start. (Fully remote instruction started yesterday, 9/16, and will continue until “blended learning” starts.)

So my first-day-of-school “Day of Action,” originally scheduled for this Monday’s start of in-person school, will now occur on 9/29. Every year, my staff and volunteers distribute useful information to families arriving for the first day of school. This year, we’ll be distributing “COVID kits” (including masks and hand sanitizer) on the first day (9/29) of this most unusual school year.

Volunteer online here to help us distribute kits at your nearest public school (or call my office 212-669-8300 if you lack internet).

If you’ve already signed up to volunteer, THANK YOU! My interns will contact you to confirm the new details.

(Traditionally we’ve hosted a thank-you brunch after our early-morning work; when we can all gather in person again, I will host a very special one!)

Meanwhile, if you’re a parent or student having trouble obtaining or using a device for remote learning, call the Dept. of Education Service Desk at 718-935-5100. If you can’t get help, call my staff at 212-669-8300.

Interested in changing a life? This school year, especially, so many students need help in math, reading and writing. The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan is recruiting virtual tutors for one or more 40-minute sessions each week (at various times each day) with students performing below grade level in grades K-12; tutors can be 14 or older and are vetted by the Dept. of Education.

This past summer, as a direct result of my encouragement, the JCC piloted a virtual tutoring program with 260 tutors helping students in nine public elementary schools who needed to catch up/keep up with academic skills during the period when students usually suffer the “summer slide.”

Complete the JCC’s school year registration form here. Orientation sessions will be offered via Zoom during the week of 9/28, and tutoring will begin 10/14. For additional information, please email Judy Gross, Director of Literacy and Math Programs at the JCC (

Also of note, elementary and middle school principals of economically disadvantaged schools can partner with the Stuyvesant Study Society for free tutoring programs. Stuyvesant High School students volunteer to tutor in English, Bengali, Mandarin or Spanish. Contact for more information.

The Chai Spot at 156 Mott St. in Little Italy was one of the winners of my “Manhattan’s Most Charming Outdoor Dining” competition, and last night (9/16) I got the “tea” straight from them. They have delicious chai and samosas, and their beautiful outdoor barriers were inspired by Pakistani trucks, of all things. They are also selling handmade crafts that support women’s and children’s empowerment initiatives in Pakistan. Thank you, Khalida and David, for a wonderful time and warm welcome! Stay tuned for another winner in the next few weeks!



NYC & Company launched “All In NYC,” with over 100 ways for local New Yorkers to save when they visit local cultural institutions, restaurants, hotels, museums, and tours across the city. Included in the initiative is an offer from MasterCard that offers $10 back on every $20 spent on the experiences– or $25 back on every $100 spent on hotels– for up to $100 in statement credits per cardholder (while supplies last); visit

Call the City’s new COVID hotline (212-COVID-19) to speak with a clinician about COVID and discuss self-quarantine options and travel restrictions, available in English and Spanish.

The renovated Audubon Playground in Washington Heights opens Monday (9/21) after two years of construction, thanks to the NYC Dept. of Parks, the Community Parks Initiative, Community Board 12 and the steadfast grassroots activism of local families. This is a significant investment ($7 million) in a heavily used playground. I’m glad the playground will open just in time for the youngest students to return to in-person learning, and I hope the space can be used for socially distanced learning and exercise.

Manhattan has over 100 public restrooms, and my fantastic team of interns has compiled a map of where to, well, go in Manhattan. The map lists hours and accessibility information.

Yesterday (9/16) the City Council passed a bill to allow restaurants to charge a COVID surcharge of up to 10% of the total check price for in-person dining (whether outdoor or indoor) at restaurants that feel it’s necessary (until 90 days after full indoor dining is restored). The Mayor plans to sign the legislation.

The Council also approved a bill requiring the Dept. of Buildings to study the feasibility of using drones to inspect building façades. On Tuesday (9/16), my staff observed the FDNY making use of drones to assist firefighters in their high-angle rescue of two window washers at 78th St. and Broadway. I have long supported further City use of this technology to address building safety and the scourge of scaffolding.

When I was a Council member, one of my proudest moments was writing and passing the City’s Open Data Law. Yesterday (9/16), the Mayor released the FY20 Open Data Annual Report. The Open Data Portal and the work of the Open Data Team have become indispensable tools for oversight and transparency during the pandemic. New Yorkers have had easy access to information on open streets, outdoor dining, parks and food programs, and soon we’ll have information on storefront vacancies across the city as well.

Gov. Cuomo removed California, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and the Northern Mariana Islands from the self-quarantine list if their residents visit New York State.

This week Gov. Cuomo announced that $9 million was awarded to 66 New York State businesses, community colleges and community-based organizations to fund skills training for 3,600 New Yorkers as part of his $175 million Workforce Development Initiative. There’s still time to apply for a grant; visit this website:


The NYC League of Women Voters sent this postcard to 35,000 Manhattanites who’ve requested an absentee ballot be sent to an address outside NYC (as of early September), in a continuing effort to boost Manhattan’s underperforming Census response rate. (It falls on the heels of my office’s postcard sent to 280,000 households in the 100 worst-performing Census tracts in Manhattan this summer.)

The hard-to-count Census map shows that Manhattan currently has a response rate of 61% (compared to 2010’s final response of 66.2%).

There are two court cases challenging the Administration’s Census shenanigans.

Earlier this month U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Census Bureau’s plan to end its count one month earlier than planned, on September 30 instead of October 30, preventing them from winding down Census operations. Today (9/17) Koh is hearing that case, brought by the Brennan Center on behalf of plaintiffs led by the National Urban League, arguing that an earlier shutdown virtually guarantees a distorted and inadequate count.

Another injunction was granted last week in a case challenging the President’s plan to not allow immigrants to be counted in redistricting numbers, and the Administration announced an appeal to the Supreme Court. (The first injunction against winding down operations early is more difficult for an appeal, since the TRO and deadline have occurred before the Supreme Court resumes its sessions in the first week of October.)

Gov. Cuomo, at my urging, has designated Census workers as essential during the pandemic.

Monday (9/21) at 6 pm, I’m cosponsoring GMHC’s virtual “Get Out the Count Census Town Hall.” Drag Queen Cacophony Daniels will MC, and we’ll have a panel about best organizing practices for the final days of Census completion. Register here.

Regardless of whether the Census deadline is September 30 or October 30, please– PLEASE!–  complete your Census form, based on your usual residence as of April 1, 2020, at or call 844-330-2020.


Five new Open Streets: Restaurants locations have opened in Manhattan, Fridays through Sundays:

  • Duane St. (btwn Hudson and W. Broadway)
  • Reade St. (btwn W. Broadway and Greenwich St.)
  • Rivington St. (btwn Chrystie St. and Bowery)
  • St. Marks Pl. (btwn 1st Ave. and Ave. A)
  • W. 47th St. (btwn Broadway and 8th Ave.)

In addition there will be weekday hours added to many of the streets in the Open Streets program, including many in the East Village, Chinatown, FiDi, the Lower East Side, NoLiTa and Times Square. See the complete list here.

Manhattan Borough Historian Dr. Robert Snyder joined the Washington Heights episode of the podcast “Rediscovering New York with Jeff Goodman.” Click the title to listen.

Minority small business owners can apply for grants of $10,000 from LISC NYC’s Small Business Relief & Recovery Fund for payroll, overhead, training, technology and infrastructure upgrade costs. Click the link above or email Ibrahima Souare, LISC Community Development Officer.

The Aspen Policy Acceleration Partnership Grant will fund city, county and state agencies who can extend services and supports to help college students who are parents. Attend an online information session 10/1 at 3 pm and apply by 12/11 for a $150,000 grant.

Visual, literary and performing artists ages 15-18 can apply by 10/16 to win financial awards and creative development opportunities through the YoungArts National Arts Competition.

Adopt an Upper West Side block to clean up twice a week through OneBlock UWS, a volunteer-based response to City Dept. of Sanitation service cuts.

The Federal Trade Commission has published guidelines to avoid COVID-related scams.

The “City Without People” photo exhibition by Giles Ashford is now online at the Municipal Art Society of New York. He captured unusually empty New York spots during the height of COVID.

Get “Fit to Row” through Harlem River Community Rowing’s new at-home exercise series. Workout with the first episode here.



Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow (9/18) at sundown, so I wish all who celebrate a healthy and sweet New Year.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, staff at the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management Street Activity Permit Office as well as City Hall and NYPD for working with my staff to assist congregations seeking outdoor space permits for this year’s observances.

Below is a list of free holiday events across Manhattan:

UJA Federation of New York has compiled a list of schedules and links to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services and programs. It includes information for a wide variety of denominations and Shofar in the Streets, on Manhattan’s Upper West and Upper East Sides. Find the schedule and format here.

The Jewish Learning Center is offering virtual pre-High Holiday events. Find streaming information here.

My Jewish Learning has compiled a list of shofar blowings.

Chabad Centers across Manhattan are hosting socially distanced worship and programming. Click here for locations, schedule and registration information.

The Shul of New York High Holidays will host virtual events, services and programs with sign language interpreters. Click here for the schedule.

Tomorrow (9/18) at 5 pm, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan hosts a “Virtual Rosh Hashanah Seder for Families with School-Age Children.”

Tomorrow (9/18) at 7 pm, the JCC will host a virtual “Awake & Renew: Rosh Hashanah Shabbat” for twenty- and thirty-somethings.

Tonight (9/17) at 6 pm, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams hosts “Homeless in New York: Falling Through the Cracks” to discuss homelessness in one of the world’s wealthiest cities. Click the title to register.

Register here for tonight’s (9/17) 6:30 pm program by China Institute and Poster House, “The Evolution of Chinese Fashion.” Tomorrow (9/18) at noon, practice Mandarin and read Chinese poetry during China Institute’s monthly Lunch and Learn. Register here.

Tonight (9/17) at 7 pm, State Senator Liz Krueger hosts a “Making Your Vote Count” town hall about positive changes to NYS election laws and ways to vote in the 11/3 General Election. Click the title to register.

Tonight (9/17) at 7:30 pm the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance continues its Thursdays with NoMAA series with musician Emi Antonio. Watch on Zoom or Facebook.

Tonight (9/17) at 8 pm, the City Parks Foundation’s annual SummerStage Jubilee will have stories and music from guests including Billie Jean King, Leslie Odom Jr. and Norah Jones. Stream on Instagram, YouTube or Facebook.

Tomorrow (9/18) from noon to 2 pm, Manhattan Youth hosts a back-to-school mask giveaway at 120 Warren St.

Tomorrow (9/18) at 8 pm, La MaMa kicks off its 59th season with a series of online arts performances, “Downtown Variety.” After Friday’s opening, there will be a virtual launch party. Register here.

Saturday (9/19) at 10 am, Harlem School of the Arts hosts a virtual open house to showcase upcoming studio and performing arts classes. Click the link to register.

Saturday (9/19) from 2 – 9 pm, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute’s virtual AfriBembé Festival celebrates the African Diaspora through music and dance. Stream at

Monday (9/21) is the start of Climate Week NYC, an annual climate summit to build a better future. We’ve never needed to observe it more. Click here for events.

Mondays and Thursdays at 7 pm, join “Mind Body Wellness: Harlem,” a virtual series about healthy lifestyles, sponsored by the Harlem and Columbia Wellness Centers and me. Register at or 212-853-1146.

Tuesday (9/22) at noon, join my friends at Civic Hall for “Pathways Through the Portal: A Field Scan of Emerging Technologies in the Public Interest,” as their team of researchers present their findings on key ways to ensure emerging tech best serves the public. Click the title to register.

Tuesday (9/22) at 1 pm, small business owners are invited by Pace University’s Small Business Development Center to a webinar titled “Internal Controls – Detecting Fraud in Your Small Business.” Next Thursday (9/24) at 1 pm, entrepreneurs can attend Pace’s “Selling Physical Products Online” webinar.

Tuesday (9/22) at 3:30 pm, kids can learn how to make East African chapati during Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance’s virtual Traveling Kitchen for Kids.

Tuesday (9/22) at 6 pm, I’m cosponsoring a virtual town hall with 16 groups, “Domestic Violence and COVID-19: What the Community Needs to Know.” Click the title to register.

Wednesday (9/23) at 10 am, the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services hosts a webinar for restaurants about indoor dining regulations and best practices. Indoor dining can resume at 25% of capacity on 9/30. Click the title to register.

Wednesday (9/23) at 5 pm, John Jay College of Criminal Justice hosts “Census Final Push: Get Counted Info-Session.” Register here.

Wednesday (9/23) at 5 pm, attend “Virtual Rat Academy” and learn safe and effective rat prevention methods for your building and neighborhood, hosted by the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene and Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Click the title to register.

Wednesday (9/23) at 6 pm, the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and artist Doris Rodriguez host “Monocorde,” a virtual exhibition of drawings inspired by COVID first responders in the Dominican Republic.

Next Thursday (9/24) from 11 am until supplies run out, Lincoln Center and the Food Bank for NYC will distribute free food. Bring your own cart.

Next Thursday (9/24) at 11 am, Hudson River Park’s SUBMERGE Marine Science Festival celebrates NYC’s coastal waters by bringing marine science to life. Stream on Facebook.

Next Thursday (9/24) at 12:30 pm, the Climate Museum hosts “Covid’s Lessons for Climate and Inequality: from Sacrifice Zones to Justice,” a discussion with climate experts. Click the title to register.

Next Thursday (9/24) at 1 pm, sew clear masks and then donate them during Virtual Sewing Fest, hosted by Adaptive Design Association. Find information about registering, getting mask-making materials and donating the masks you sew here.

Daily FreshDirect deliveries continued this week at NYCHA developments all across the borough. Thank you to my staff and local Tenants’ Associations for all your help on this amazing project.

Stay Safe