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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (9/24)


It’s Thursday, September 24, 2020. Welcome to the weekly edition of my COVID newsletter.

At press time, nonprofit news site’s COVID-19 tracker shows Manhattan has 33,237 confirmed cases and 3,174 deaths; New York City as a whole has 241,511 cases and 23,785 deaths. There were 424 new cases citywide yesterday (9/23), compared to last Wednesday’s (9/16) 333 cases, a rise of 27%.

We have less than a week left to complete the Census, so please– PLEASE– fill it out now (, and get everyone you know to do the same. Only 62.5% of Manhattanites have filled out the Census, compared to final rate of 66.2% for the 2010 Census. Your response helps to direct billions of dollars in federal funds to our local communities for schools, roads and other public services and also determines the number of seats New York has in Congress and political district boundaries at all levels of government.

Counting All Queens: A Drag Borough Battle” is a citywide competition mobilizing drag queens in the five boroughs to raise the LGBTQ community’s low Census self-response rates. The queen whose borough ends the week with the highest self-response rate increase will be crowned the “Census Queen.” Manhattan’s queen, Pixie Aventura, has been working hard on Instagram and Twitter to get out the count (Last week I had a blast at GMHC’s Drag event with Cacophony Daniels.)

I placed a newspaper ad in the East Hampton Star today to urge those city dwellers riding out the pandemic in the East End to complete their Census forms using their “usual residence” as of April 1, as the Census Bureau advises. My office has also distributed funds to a host of community groups to conduct outreach and mailed 280,000 postcards to households in the lowest-performing census tracts.


A Manhattan Supreme Court judge Monday halted the City’s plans for a new jail in Lower Manhattan, voiding land-use approvals issued in 2019 by the City Planning Commission and the City Council for the new facility on White St. in Chinatown. The administration plans to appeal. For my part, I have always fought for community engagement in this process and will continue to, as this saga continues.

The status of technology in schools is a mess, at a time when students, teachers and staff have never needed technology more. Both Gothamist (“‘Absolutely Inundated’: Teachers Say Demands Of Remote Learning Are Overwhelming NYC DOE Tech Support”) and Chalkbeat (“NYC schools scramble to help students who lack devices as online learning ramps up again”) have explored aspects of this, and last week I wrote to Chancellor Carranza and SCA chief Grillo about the status of tech purchasing contracts within the bowels of their agencies, which have been dead silent about the ability of schools to purchase devices for remote learning. Read my letter here.

My appeal for volunteers to help with my office’s first-day-of-school “Day of Action” this Tuesday (9/29) was a smashing success. Over 80 volunteers– enough for a presence at a majority of Manhattan elementary schools– will help us distribute “COVID kits” (including masks and hand sanitizer) at K-5 and K-8 schools’ opening day on Tuesday (middle and high schools open next Thursday 9/1).

Yesterday morning (9/23) a service was held for Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court, and her casket was then moved to the steps of the Supreme Court building for the public to view for two days before she is moved again, to become the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.

The House that Ruth Built,” from the journal Democracy, describes her journey from unemployed law school graduate to ACLU lawyer to Supreme Court Justice in the form of a review of Ginsburg’s collection, “My Own Words.” (The best quote, from 2016: “I can’t imagine what the country would be with Donald Trump as our president…. For the country, it could be four years,” she continued. “For the court, it could be—I don’t even want to contemplate that.”)

I testified before the NYC Council Committee on Aging Monday (9/21) about the future of senior centers after COVID. Read my testimony here.


Since the COVID pandemic began, FreshDirect has really stepped up, first by volunteering to distribute 500 10-lb. boxes of food to Manhattan NYCHA residents as part of their month-long “Five Borough Food Drive” and, since 4/27, under contract to distribute those boxes. But the contract will end next Wednesday (9/30), and I can’t thank FreshDirect enough for their civic-spirited efforts.


I want to thank David McInerney, CEO at FreshDirect, and Larry Scott Blackmon, Vice President of Public Affairs at the company; Mayor de Blasio and Food Czar Kathryn Garcia also stepped up to contract with the company to pay to continue their deliveries after the Five Borough Food Drive ended.

In particular, FreshDirect drivers Luis Yanes-Bustos and Sergio Hernandez, and all the NYCHA staff– maintenance, drivers, managers– and the NYCHA tenant leaders listed in the graphic above all deserve huge thanks for their amazing work, week after week.

NYU Langone Health Center is recruiting adults age 18+ to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, especially those who are more likely to be exposed and vulnerable, including people with underlying medical conditions, seniors, those who could be exposed in their workplace (including elder-care facility residents or workers, and jail or prison workers) and Black, Latinx and Native American adults. Sign up at NYU Langone’s online registry at (that url is a little odd, but it is correct!). For more information about COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in general, visit

Enroll in Weill Cornell Medicine’s free, online Community Research Academy to learn about scientific research and expand the research process’ engagement with often-overlooked community members. Classes are Wednesday, 10:45 am – 12 pm, 9/30 – 12/2. Send an email to with the subject line “CRA Enrollment” and include your name in the body of the email.

Election logistics: First, if you’re NOT registered to vote in New York City, the deadline to register is October 9, 2020. Not sure if you’re registered? Check here.

Once you are registered, you may vote three ways:

Early voting is a great option to avoid mail-in ballot delays and potentially long lines on Election Day (11/3). Absentee voting is best if you’re not comfortable going to the polls.

GrowNYC has reopened some Greenmarket food scrap drop-off locations across Manhattan:

  • Tompkins Sq. (Sun, 8 am – 5 pm)
  • Stuy Town (Sun, 9:30 am – 1:30 pm)
  • Union Sq. (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat, 8 am – 5 pm)
  • 97th St. (Fri, 8 am – 12:30 pm)
  • Inwood (Sat, 8 am – 2 pm)

NYS will begin enforcing the 5-cent fee charged to customers who choose to use store-provided bags on 10/19. The NYS Supreme Court upheld the ban in August. Take reusable bags with you when shopping and avoid the fee (and help save the environment!).

The federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development has allocated $122 million in rent and mortgage relief for NYC, part of the nearly $2 billion allocated nationwide through the CARES Act this month. The City and State haven’t yet announced how or when funds will be dispersed, but rental assistance is very much needed, and we must get these funds out ASAP to New Yorkers who need help the most.

My staff and I read widely to keep up with things during the pandemic. Below are a few recent links to things we’ve read.

New York City’s Former Top Health Official on Its Covid-19 Response by Melanie Grayce West
9/23, Wall St. Journal

The N95 shortage America can’t seem to fix by Jessica Contrera
9/21, Washington Post

How We Survive the Winter by James Hamblin
9/18, The Atlantic
Subhead: The coming months of the pandemic could be catastrophic. The U.S. still has ways to prepare.

NYC Parents: Top Ten Ways to Protect IEP Services in Blended and Remote Learning by Jenn Choi

Small Businesses Need Rent Breaks. But Landlords Are in Crisis, Too. by Mihir Zaveri
9/19, New York Times

“…‘Demanding that small businesses pay 100 percent of their rent in the worst pandemic in 100 years and the worst recession since the Great Depression hardly seems like a winning business proposition,’ Mr. Ehrenberg said.”

These Unsung Heroes of Public School Kitchens Have Fed Millions by Elizabeth G. Dunn
9/15, New York Times

Not trusting the FDA, Black doctors’ group creates panel to vet Covid-19 vaccines by Eric Boodman

Tofu sales skyrocket during the pandemic, as consumers search for affordable meat alternatives by Kristen Hartke
9/21, Washington Post

How New York City Might Begin to Revive Its Decimated Tourism Industry by Afia Eama
9/13, Gotham Gazette

Does Wearing Glasses Protect You From Coronavirus? by Tara Parker Pope
9/16, New York Times



I’m cosponsoring a free flu shot clinic at Lenox Health Greenwich Village (30 7th Ave.). Find the full list of dates here, beginning with Tuesday (9/29), 4 – 7 pm. To schedule an appointment, contact or 347-802-7400.

Poets House, the national literary center in Battery Park City, and the Battery Park City Authority are launching a “Poetry Path” starting outside their front door at 10 River Terrace in BPC, featuring over 40 poetry fragments reproduced on bench slats, banners, pavers, pathways and signs.

Tomorrow (9/25), the virtual opening celebrates Poets House’s 10th anniversary and features the launch of in-depth Poetry Path web resources and a series of virtual events. Free and open to the public, the Poetry Path will run through 2021.

New York Foundation for Senior Citizens’ Home Sharing Program matches adults 60+ who have an extra bedroom with adult “guests,” making housing more affordable for participants. Apply to be a host or a guest, or call 212-962-7559.

Common Denominator offers free, virtual math tutoring to students in grades 5 – 8. Apply for a tutor here.

The Chinatown Rotary Club and Careers Made Possible are conducting a recovery and reopening survey of Chinatown small businesses. Fill out the English, simplified Chinese or traditional Chinese version.

Latinx-owned and -operated small businesses can apply ASAP for a $5,000 grant and business coaching from, the PowerUp Fund and Eureeka. Apply here.

NYCxDesign’s Design Corps: Small Business Reopening Network connects restaurant owners to volunteer design professionals who can help them enroll in the City’s Open Restaurants program, ensure compliance or improve their outdoor dining spaces. Click the above link to offer or request design services.

College and technical school students living in affordable housing developments can apply by 10/1 for a scholarship up to $12,500 from the Cannon Heyman and Weiss Scholarship Fund.

Artists can apply by Wednesday (9/30) to design artwork for vacant storefronts’ windows along Columbus Ave., through Art on the Avenue.

The Hispanic Society Museum & Library’s free “Treasures on the Terrace” outdoor exhibition is now open through 12/6.

Stream the NYC Ballet’s free repertory performances, beginning Tuesday (9/29). New performances will be posted weekly. Watch on Facebook, Youtube or

Stream weekly episodes of “Inwood Art Works On Air,” a hyper-local podcast featuring Inwood artists. Today’s (9/24) episode spotlights actor David Anzuelo. Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Blubrry.

Every Manhattan senator and Congress member supports the federal Save Our Stages Act, but there are stages, performers and arts workers across America who need help coping with the economic fallout of the pandemic. Urge your friends in other locations to use this link to contact their elected officials in Washington to support this important legislation.

Submit comments by Monday (9/28) to the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) about the proposed rules regarding post-employment restrictions for City employees. The COIB is proposing rules governing the issuance of waivers of the post-employment restrictions. Submit comments to Watch the hearing on these changes Monday (9/28) at 11 am on Zoom.



Tonight (9/24) at 6 pm, Nazareth Housing and the NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development host a virtual tenant resource fair, discussing rent protection, tenants’ rights and HPD’s “Housing Connect” affordable housing lottery. Register here.

Tonight (9/24) at 6:30 pm, the New York Urban League, Harlem Boys & Girls Club and I host “Census Town Hall: The Final Countdown.” Click the title to register.

Tonight (9/24) at 8 pm, screen the documentary “Capturing the Flag” and attend a virtual town hall about it and the 2020 election. Register here.

Tomorrow (9/25) and Monday (9/28), NYCHA residents can enter to win a $50 Visa gift card by filling out the Census through Goddard Riverside. Tomorrow from 3 – 6 pm, visit Wise Towers Plaza (near 117 W. 90th St.) to fill out the Census and enter to win; Monday from 3 – 6 pm, visit 250 W. 65th St.

Tomorrow (9/25) at 3 pm, Inwood Art Works screens the short film “Ebb Tide,” from the Inwood Film Festival. Monday (9/25) at 10 am, IAW hosts Musical Storytime with “You are my Sunshine.” Stream both on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Saturday (9/26) all day, the Madison Avenue Business Improve District hosts “Welcome Back Saturdays,” featuring the shops on Madison Ave. between E. 67th – 77th Sts.

Saturday (9/26) at 11 am, cycle for the Census through Chinatown and the Lower East Side, hosted by the Asian American Federation, Chinese-American Planning Council, Asian Americans for Equality and Council Members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera. Non-bikers can assist at Census pop-up sites along the route, where residents can fill out their Census. Meet at Columbus Park Pavilion (on Bayard St.). Register here.

Saturday (9/26) at 6:30 pm, Manhattan’s only drive-in (cars-only!) movie theater, Sol Cinema Cafe, hosts a screening of “Sonic the Hedgehog” at East River Plaza, 517 E. 117th St. Arrive at 5:30 pm to get a parking spot. Register at the above link.

Saturdays at 7 pm through mid-October, the Open Street at E. 101st St. and Lexington Ave. screens film shorts from the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival.

Saturday (9/26) at 8 pm, Metropolitan Playhouse screens a reading of “A Woman’s Honor,” by Susan Glaspell, followed by a talkback. Watch on YouTube.

Tuesday (9/29) at 3:30 pm, kids can learn how to make seasoned corn flatbread during Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance’s virtual Traveling Kitchen for Kids.

I’m offering three trainings next week with the NYC Commission on Human Rights. Register in advance by clicking the links.

Tuesday (9/29) at 6 pm, “Working with Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Communities

Wednesday (9/30) at 6 pm, “Understanding Muslim Experiences and Combating Islamophobia

Next Thursday (10/1) at 6 pm, “Human Rights Law and Protections Against Discrimination Based on Race and Color

Tuesday (9/29) at 6 pm, Community Voices Heard and I host a virtual Census Town Hall to discuss how the Census impacts education, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP benefits and transportation. Click the link to register.

Tuesday (9/29) at 6 pm, Animal Care Centers of NYC hosts a webinar, “How ACC Helps Pet Owners in Need.” Register here.

Next Thursday (10/1) at 1 pm, the Climate Museum hosts “Reimagining Museums for Climate Action,” a virtual discussion about how the cultural sector can meet the demands of the climate emergency. Click the title to register.

Stay Safe.