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COVID Newsletters

Weekly COVID newsletter (9/3)


It’s Thursday, September 3, 2020. Welcome to the weekly edition of my COVID newsletter. Buckle up, this week’s edition is a long one!

At press time, nonprofit news site’s COVID-19 tracker shows Manhattan has 32,251 confirmed cases and 3,170 deaths; New York City as a whole has 235,110 cases and 23,710 deaths. There were 304 new cases citywide yesterday (9/2), compared to last Wednesday’s (8/26) 315 cases, a fall of 3%.

Census countdown English

Census countdown Spanish

The City’s Census Subway Series, and effort to boost Census response rates, pits Manhattan’s Upper East Side against Midwood, Brooklyn. The current UES Census response rate is 49.6%, while Midwood’s is 54.7%. (Check for yourself at The neighborhood that boosts its response rate the most by THIS SUNDAY (9/6) wins!  If you completed the Census in the spring with a temporary, non-NYC address, you may fill it out again with your permanent Manhattan address; the Census Bureau has a process to de-duplicate responses.

And any New Yorker who fills out the Census before 9/21 is eligible to win a $1,000 Seamless gift card, a $50 Lyft credit and an annual CitiBike membership or an annual membership to the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1. Enter by uploading a photo of your Census completion page here.


I was glad to learn that the 9/10 school opening has been delayed until 9/16 for virtual classes and 9/21 for in-person school instruction by the Mayor, under an agreement with the school labor unions.

Teachers will still report to school on 9/8 to prepare, and before reopening their buildings, schools will have to pass an extensive safety checklist created by the United Federation of Teachers.

Teachers, students and school-based staff will have priority COVID testing at 34 sites, with results in 24-48 hours, and are strongly encouraged to get tested before returning to school. Teachers, students and school staff can schedule a prioritized test here and use password doecovidtest2020.

Yesterday, I sent a letter in support of schools requesting streets next to their building be used for outdoor instruction and recreation to Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

This morning (9/3), I testified before of the City Council Committee on Education about schools reopening. I spoke about building safety, PPE, custodial support, remote learning, outdoor space approval and the City’s withholding of $12 million I allocated from my own budget last year for school upgrades. See my letter on the topic.

Infection rates as schools reopen will be watched carefully, and rightly so. But meanwhile the restaurant industry is concerned about the state of their businesses as the cold weather approaches and indoor dining continues to be banned even as schools reopen. And while I totally agree that schools should be the higher priority, the city’s restaurant and bar businesses used to employ an estimated 315,000 people.

But even as the City is proud of the 10,000 restaurants in the outdoor dining program, it could extend its success by extending the outdoor dining program from 10/31 – 11/30– and do it now to allow restaurant owners to plan for colder weather operations by obtaining heaters, etc. (a little notice goes a long way).

City shopping malls can reopen next Wednesday (9/9) at 50% capacity; casinos can return the same day at 25% capacity (with enhanced air filtration systems in place); and over 300 New York City restaurants have joined a class-action lawsuit against the City and State, seeking $2 billion in damages over the ongoing indoor dining ban.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson this week called outright for indoor dining to reopen; Gov. Cuomo responded by inviting Johnson to submit a plan for some sort of NYPD task force on compliance. “My opinion is restaurants should open. The question is how,” Gov. Cuomo said, implying that the ball is in the City’s court due to a lack of adequate social-distancing enforcement in the city, despite lacking evidence that the city has a unique compliance problem. (Let’s not forget that Long Island and Westchester have reopened indoor dining, and and New Jersey is about to.)

This week New York Magazine published “Can Anyone Really Solve New York City’s Indoor-Dining Problem?” which explains the hesitation of the City to open restaurant doors…

“…In states that have reopened indoor dining, COVID-19 outbreaks have been repeatedly traced back to bars and restaurants. Los Angeles County allowed restaurants to reopen, only to reclose them one month later as case numbers climbed and we learned more about where the virus spreads most effectively: in crowdedpoorly ventilated places with lots of unmasked people talking. (…)  There is a very real possibility that it will get much worse in the fall. The news from Spain, currently undergoing a second wave of infections, is not promising.”

But the piece also made the case for the City to communicate some kind of process and plan for the sector’s future this winter, quoting Tren’ness Woods-Black, the third-generation owner of Sylvia’s in Harlem: “… I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m not an air-filtration specialist.” If reopening dining rooms isn’t possible this year, then okay, she says. But “I don’t want to feel beat up because I’m asking.”

Landlords could do their part as well. New York had earlier this month published the story of Delores Tronco-DePierro, the owner of The Banty Rooster (“How Much Worse Will It Get for New York’s Restaurants?”), who offered her landlord a percentage-of-sales rent proposal. The landlord reportedly refused, and the piece parenthetically asks, “(The economic fallout is going to get worse– it just is– so where do landlords think their new, moneyed, rent-paying tenants will come from?)”

The winners of my “Manhattan’s most charming outdoor dining sites” contest are Little Italy’s The Chai Spot (156 Mott St.) whose outdoor barrier was inspired by trucks in Pakistan; Morningside Heights’ Tartina, where you can dine in the shadow of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; and Inwood’s Tannat Wine & Cheese.

Yesterday (9/2), I released survey findings of barricades at police precincts in Manhattan, which block public access to streets and sidewalks. I’ve called on NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea to remove the barricades, which are relics of the NYPD response to protests earlier this summer. Review the survey here.

The other Borough Presidents and I sent a letter to the Mayor about the City not reimbursing contracted human service providers as agreed under the Indirect Cost Rate Funding Initiative. These organizations often provided direct services during the pandemic, and the City should fully fund their work as promised for FY20 and into FY21, including pandemic-related costs.

To accommodate socially distanced worship during the upcoming Jewish High Holidays, I’ve reached out to the City’s Parks, Education and Transportation departments about allowing outdoor space for services. Congregations interested in applying for open space should submit a Street Activity Permit application here. My staff and I are working closely with the Jewish Community Relations Council to facilitate; please contact Shula Warren Puder in my office at with any questions.

Did you know Tuesday (9/1) was National Poll Worker Recruitment Day and that *voting* itself will begin in New York City in late October? Hard to believe, but with the political party conventions completed and Labor Day approaching, the start of the fall election season begins in earnest.

The City’s Board of Elections (BOE) is hiring poll workers– both “election inspectors” and interpreters– even with the expected crush of mailed-in absentee ballots.

If you’re comfortable working with a mask and gloves in a socially distanced workplace, please consider applying.

It’s not clear from this BOE hiring link what the deadline to apply is, so do apply right now (or forward to someone you know). If past practice holds, training sessions begin in late September.

The BOE will pay you for their four-hour training class ($100) as well as for Election Day ($200, which begins at 5 am) and for early voting locations (hours vary). The BOE says on their information page that those working up to 10 days could earn up to $2,800.

(If you have friends in other states who have the time, ask them to apply in their locations, too.)

A collective of Black athletes and artists headed by LeBron James, More Than a Vote, is recruiting poll workers in majority-African-American districts; Starbucks is encouraging its employees to work the polls; and California’s Secretary of State has partnered with Drag Out the Vote to staff sites with drag queens.

The voting mess in Milwaukee during Wisconsin’s Presidential Primary in April was due to only 175 poll workers showing up for polling place training in the early days of the pandemic– when they actually needed 2,000 workers to staff 180 polling sites. (That’s why they closed 175 of those sites, which yielded only five open polling locations for the entire city of Milwaukee, and hours-long lines.)

My friend Prof. Esther Fuchs’ wonderful website, clearly explains the several ways you can request an absentee ballot, and the many ways you can return the completed ballot. Follow the link above to go straight to the explanation.

Short version? You can download an application at or by calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC (1-866-868-3692). Absentee ballots will start being sent 9/18. Return it by mail, with the back of the envelope signed, postmarked no later than 10/27, or return it by hand to the Manhattan BOE offices (200 Varick St.) during business hours before 11/2, or before 9 pm on Election Day 11/3.

MIT’s biology department is offering a new online class called “COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and the Pandemic.” The class begins Tuesday (9/8) and will be livestreamed and open to the public each Tuesday thereafter from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm, but only enrolled MIT students will be able to ask questions. (The livestreams will be posted a few days later with closed captions). Here’s the course description, syllabus (PDF) and livestream link.

This week the Centers for Disease Control issued a nationwide moratorium on evictions until the end of the year for renters unable to pay rent and earning less than $99,000 a year. This new regulation replaces the eviction ban, which expired along with the $600 per week COVID unemployment payments on August 1. While significant, this action kicks the can down the road when all the back rent will be due. It’s a measure that delays, but doesn’t prevent, evictions. Congress must include emergency rent assistance– and renewed unemployment payments, transit aid and so much else– in any new COVID relief bill.

The New York Public Library is adding Grab & Go service to 50 locations (10 in Manhattan). Reserve items online or by phone (917-275-6975), and you’ll receive an email when your items are ready for contactless pick-up at your designated branch, open Mon, Tue, Thu 11 am – 6pm; Wed 12 – 7 pm; Fri, Sat 11 am – 5 pm. The new Manhattan branches are:

The NYC Dept. of Parks will begin the permit request period on 9/15 for youth baseball, softball, non-contact lacrosse, cricket, soccer and flag football leagues wishing to use park spaces. It’s unclear how fast the permits will be granted. Apply for permits here.

Frederick Douglass Blvd. (btwn 110th and 120th Sts.) will now participate in Open Streets: Restaurants Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays thanks to the FDB Alliance. Note that the M10 bus will be rerouted to Manhattan Ave. during FDB Open Streets.

Gov. Cuomo this week added Alaska and Montana to the self-quarantine list if their residents visit New York State. While Labor Day weekend travel to any states on the self-quarantine list isn’t advised, if you must visit them, fill out the NYS Traveler Health Form and quarantine for 14 days when you return to NYC.

The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure will resume 9/14, per a mayoral executive order.

Late last month, the NYS Supreme Court upheld the State’s plastic bag ban. The State will advise stores 30 days before beginning enforcement of the 5-cent fee charged to customers who choose to use store-provided bags. Avoid the fee and help save the environment by bringing reusable bags.

Gov. Cuomo has extended the Child Victims Acts statute of limitations through August 2021 so that survivors of child sexual abuse may file civil charges against abusers regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

“Disasters Don’t Wait, Make Your Plan Today” is this year’s National Emergency Preparedness Month theme. During September, the NYC Emergency Management Dept. will host events to prepare for emergencies.

The NYC Dept. of Sanitation will resume Zero Waste Schools organics collection at all Manhattan public schools and at other boroughs’ schools that previously participated in the program.

NYC gyms are allowed to reopen after owners submit a Gym and Fitness Facility Inspection Request and Attestation Form and pass an inspection. Join a webinar about gym reopening guidelines on Thursday (9/10) at 11:30 am, hosted by the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services.

The State’s Dept. of Homes and Community Renewal has updated the following policy statements and fact sheets to reflect the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019: “Application of the Treble Damages Penalty,” “Rent Stabilization and Rent Control,” “Vacancy Leases in Rent Stabilized Apartments,” “Collecting Overcharges in Rent Stabilized Apartments in New York City” and “Guide to Rent Increases for Rent Stabilized Apartments.”


Don’t forget the $420 Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) cards, scheduled to be sent to families of public school students last month. For families who already have EBT, the amount will be added to the existing accounts; if not, they will be sent a card in the mail (look for the envelope!). If you don’t need those benefits, you can share them with food-insecure families. Find out more at

Paint a mural or design a Black Lives Matter art installation for the Roosevelt Island Fall for Arts Festival. Submit sketches by 9/11 to

Submit voting-themed artwork by 9/25 to be featured on LinkNYC’s 1,700 kiosks this election season.

Submit comments by 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 to establish rules governing the issuance of waivers of the post-employment restrictions and the definition of terms related to those restrictions. Submit comments to

Visit the MTA Mobile Sales Vans in Manhattan using this September schedule. Apply for Reduced Fare MetroCards (and replacements), MetroCard balance transfers and other MetroCard issues.

Visit #SoWeCanVote, a voter education campaign and celebration of suffragists, created by the American Theatre Wing and WP Theater.

Community Board 4, covering Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, has created a small business support survey to understand re-opening concerns and learn what business owners need.

Seniors in Northern Manhattan can be paired with new friends of all ages through WH SeniorLink. Leave a message at 917-740-2194 or complete an interest form.

Volunteer for DOROT’s Rosh Hashanah Package Delivery and 9/11 Day of Service and connect with Upper West Side seniors. Register here.

Ryan Health | Adair’s dental services have reopened. Make an appointment here or call 212-749-1820.

Enroll in free online ESL classes with Women for Afghan Women, open to all NYC immigrant women. Classes are 9/8 – 12/18, 10:30 am – 1:30 pm. Choose from beginner (Mon, Tue, Wed), high beginner (Thu, Fri) or intermediate (Mon, Tue, Wed) classes. Register at 646-494-4054 or

Veterans and reservists can earn a free M.S. in mathematics education through Mercy College’s Veterans to Math Teachers Scholarship Program. Contact for more information.

Manhattanville Houses, Grant Houses and Northern Manhattan residents can audit Columbia University classes for free. Apply here.

Nominate your organization for an amNY Top Workplaces award by 10/30.

Volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, no prior art history background required. Email to learn more.

Watch the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process Artists’ new virtual commissions every Sunday and Monday at 7:30 pm on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Be An #ArtsHero will host an Arts Workers Unite Day of Action Monday (9/7) to call on the Senate to pass an arts and culture relief package. The largest demonstration will take place in Times Square as arts workers and Broadway luminaries sing “Will I” from Rent.

Add your art to the fence at Grand and Lafayette Sts., a project Soho artist Wendy Friedman is spearheading.


Tonight (9/3) at 7:30 pm, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance continues its Thursdays with NoMAA series with musician Stefan Paolini. Watch on Zoom or Facebook.

Tonight (9/3) at 8 pm, Arts for Art will host its weekly FreeJazz Works in a Time of Crisis On_Line Salon Series. Register here.

Saturday (9/5) at 2 pm, watch Theater for the New City’s “LIBERTY Or JUST US, A City Parks Story,” an oratorio that honors NYC parks for being sites of activism. Livestream on the Theater’s website or Facebook page.

Sunday (9/6) at 8 pm, join the National Alliance for Domestic Workers for “The Tribute to Essential Workers,” featuring personal stories of essential workers.

Monday (9/7), Arts for Art will host “Artists for a Free World” at La Plaza at the Clemente (107 Suffolk St.). Events will be at 2:30 pm, 3:45 pm and 4:30 pm.

Tuesday (9/8) at 6 pm, join me and Solar One for “Solar for New Yorkers,” a webinar about home and commercial solar technology. Register here.

Tuesday (9/8) at 6 pm, New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine continue their virtual lecture series with “Stroke Tips.” RSVP to or 212-312-5165.

Wednesday (9/9) at 10 am, learn about becoming certified as a minority- or woman-owned business at a NYC Dept. of Small Business Services webinar.

Wednesday (9/9) at 10 am, join “Laying the Groundwork for a Tourism Recovery in NYC,” a Center for an Urban Future virtual policy symposium.

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.

Have a good Labor Day weekend.

Stay Safe