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COVID Newsletters

Weekly newsletter (7/1)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, July 1, 2021. Welcome to my weekly COVID-19 newsletter.

NYC’s seven-day positivity average is 0.69% (up from 0.53% last week). My COVID page lists vaccine sites, vaccination perks, and vaccine appointment resources. Those interested in the statistics can check the data at the NYC Dept. of Health website or thecity.nyc’s COVID tracker.


NEW FACTS/INFO

Surveying 53 of Manhattan’s cooling centers during the heat wave this week, my staff and interns found significant issues.

One in four centers listed as open were actually closed. And most sites lacked clear signage labelling themselves as “cooling centers” or their correct days and times of operation (let alone matching what was listed online). What’s more, there’s a lack of staffing, and some centers actually have air conditioning that needs replacement!

The City clearly needs to do a better job. It would be maddening to travel to a cooling center that is actually closed (or working!).

Only the centers that will be open should be advertised; hyper-visible signage with hours and days of operation should be posted in multiple languages in the days preceding an expected heatwave; and hours of operation should be uniform across all sites.

As New York City faces a warmer future, cooling centers are one of the tools the City uses​, and it’s important that we get it right.

Applications are now open for my annual Manhattan Community Award Program, small awards to nonprofit organizations and public schools. We’re especially seeking innovative proposals that will address things like gun violence, anti-hate initiatives, community-police relations, and racial justice. Community Awards enhance the work of local nonprofits and schools and enrich and improve neighborhoods.

Award Size: One-time contracts ranging from $3,500-$7,500

Deadline: 5:00 pm, August 20, 2021

Find out more: (with links to application) bit.ly/MCAP2022

For questions, contact my Budget Unit:

Vanessa Diaz-Lopez, 212-669-4814, vdiaz-lopez@manhattanbp.nyc.gov

Nelson S. Andino, 212-669 8145, nandino@manhattanbp.nyc.gov 

James Thomas, 212-669-1851, jthomas@manhattanbp.nyc.gov 

The new City budget was announced yesterday (6/30) at $98.7 billion, and here are the highlights my staff and I have been able to identify quickly. I already have some concerns and will update you in next week’s edition. (Read my budget priorities letter from 6/23.)

AGING

  • Nearly $10 million was added in funding for senior programs

  • $1 million in new funding for NORCs, case management, and senior center enhancements

  • Restoration of Borough Presidents’ aging discretionary funds

ANIMALS

  • Adds $3 million for the Animal Cares Center of NYC

BASELINE REMEDIATION PROGRAMS

  • Restores $1.7 million from FY21, but supporting students in “moving more quickly into credit bearing coursework” does not eradicate the need for high school graduates who have matriculated into CUNY to take noncredit coursework, thereby wasting credit hours and (at times) financial resources

CHILD CARE

  • Continual investments in 3K availability, but no allocation of City resources to building out extended-day or -year seats

COMMUNITY BOARDS

  • Adds $440,000 to community boards

COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

  • $9 million to make community schools whole

  • $5 million to designate 10 existing schools for the community schools program with expanded education, social, and health services

  • Every school should be a community school, and the City should fund a sustainable plan for realizing this

DEVICES FOR ALL STUDENTS

  • Elected officials made significant investments in technology and technology upgrades at the individual school level

  • Oversight is needed to ensure universal access to devices for students in grades 6-12 in order to address student achievement disparities

NEW INITIATIVES

  • A new $4 million Asian American and Pacific Islander Community Support Initiative to fund mental health services, racial literacy programs, anti-bias and hate crime work

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

  • It’s difficult to identify the Adopted Budget’s investment in expanding restorative justice programming beyond $12 million to fund restorative justice for social emotional learning at middle and high schools. The budget also allocates $10 million in education equity curriculum. More funding is needed to proactively deconstruct systemic mechanisms that negatively and disproportionately impact students of color.

SANITATION

  • Reinstate residential organics collection and $7 million to increase organics drop-off sites

  • $4 million to fully fund the Commercial Waste Zone program

  • $4 million for in-house security at Dept. of Sanitation facilities

  • $451,000 for syringe collection

  • $2.6 million for special waste collection program

  • $1 million for the Zero Waste education programs at schools

SMALL BUSINESS

  • $5.2 million to expand the Commercial Lease Assistance Program

  • $500,000 for the Five Borough Chamber Alliance to support free support and tech assistance for reopening/restarting businesses

  • $2.38 million for Chamber on the Go and Small Business Assistance to help reach business owners

  • $11 million for “NYC Business Quick Start,” a program that will help slash red tape and help guide small businesses through City regulations

  • $6.5 million for a new CUNY Career Initiative to deliver short-term training in high-demand fields leading to job placement

SOCIAL WORKERS

  • $81.1 million for 650 positions to fund school access to mental health professionals. I’ve long supported additional funding for increasing mental health services and thank Speaker Corey Johnson and Education Chair Mark Treyger for their leadership on this issue.

    According to a May 2021 report from the NYC Independent Budget Office, issued at my request, it would cost approximately $85 million to bring a full-time social worker into every school in Districts 1-32 and 75, so this new budget number is still falling short of funding at least one full-time, school-based social worker in every school that doesn’t have currently have one.

For the first time since February, 2020, the Manhattan Borough Board (made up of our Council members and Community Boards) will meet in person on Thursday, July 15, 2021 at 8:30 am in my conference room at 1 Centre St., 19th Floor (South Entrance). We’ll be observing the space’s capacity limits, so we may need attendees to wait in the hall before testifying. The meeting will also be livestreamed on my Facebook. On the agenda are four public hearings:

Save the date. As part of the official ULURP process in my office, we will hold a public hearing on Monday, July 12 from 6-8 pm (at a location TBD) on the New York Blood Center’s application for a rezoning of its property on E. 67th St. (in Community Board 8, which started the ULURP process by voting to recommend that the application be denied at its May 25, 2021 meeting). The technical language:

Private application by the New York Blood Center for (1) a map amendment to rezone midblock from R8B to C2-7,  (2) a text amendment to Section 74-48 to allow an increase in commercial FAR and mods to use, bulk, signage, and (3) a special permit pursuant to Section 74-48 (4) map MIH.

The final Community Board 2 hearing for the SoHo/NoHo Rezoning proposal is next Thursday (7/8) at 6:30 pm; register here. On Wednesday, 7/14 the full Board will meet and is expected to vote on the rezoning; register to watch that session here. (I attended the first hearing in person last Wednesday, 6/23.)

More resources are available to help low- and middle-income New Yorkers apply for the New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which helps those who have fallen behind in rent payments. They’re listed here on my new ERAP information webpage. Many have services in multiple languages. (If you would like your organization listed, please contact MBPOstaff09@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.)

During my weekly Manhattan Recovery and Reopening Task Force, we heard from Carol Goodman, the head of employment law at Herrick, Feinstein, as well as her colleague Liz Holtzman, about the legality of requiring that employees and visitors of workplaces be vaccinated. You can watch the recording here.

The State has increased the WIC Cash Value Benefit for purchasing fruits and vegetables to $35/participant each month through 9/30/21 (up from $9-11/participant). The expansion is thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan passed this March. To find out if you’re eligible for WIC, visit signupwic.com.

All New York Public Library branches reopen with near-full service on Tuesday (7/6), including seating, unlimited browsing, and computer access.

COVID News Clippings

Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated
By Carla K. Johnson and Mike Stobbe, Associated Press, June 24, 2021

Why The Delta Variant Matters If You’re Vaccinated Or Unvaccinated
By Nsikan Akpan, Gothamist.com, June 28, 2021

Where Did the Coronavirus Come From? What We Already Know Is Troubling.
By Zeynep Tufekci, NY Times Opinion Guest Essay, June 25, 2021.

On The Origins of the Pandemic
Zeynep Tufekci’s newsletter with outtakes from the NYT essay, June 25, 2021


ANNOUNCEMENTS

Shakespeare in the Park returns for free performances 7/6 – 9/18 with “Merry Wives” in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. The show is a 12-actor, intermission-free version of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” set in Harlem and imagining Falstaff as a Black man seeking to woo two married women who are immigrants from West Africa. It was written by Jocelyn Bioh, is directed by Saheem Ali, and is presented by the Public Theater. Seating will be split into a full capacity section for attendees who are vaccinated and a physically distanced section for those who aren’t vaccinated; everyone must wear a mask.

Get tickets through the new digital lottery each Tuesday and Friday, one week prior to the next week’s scheduled performances (instead of the previous day-of, in-person lines). The lottery reopens tomorrow (7/2) for performances 7/8-10. There will also be a day-of standby “line” conducted via text– learn more here.

Free virtual math, literacy, and science tutoring is available through nonprofit Hearts of Gold in partnership with the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. From 7/6 – 8/19, students can receive 40-minute, one-on-one tutoring sessions multiple times a week. Register here.

East Harlemites, give your input about the neighborhood’s greatest needs and budget priorities for the next fiscal year by filling out Community Board 11’s survey, which closes Sunday, 8/22.

Mid-career arts professionals of color have until tomorrow (7/2) at 6 pm to apply for the virtual Innovative Cultural Advocacy fellowship from the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute. The fellowship trains participants to become leaders in cultural arts, public policy, and advocacy over the course of five sessions. Apply here.

Small businesses uptown can apply to Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone’s Hybrid Microloan Program for a loan of up to $50,000. Applicants must have a storefront/office either north of 110th St. (if west of 5th Ave.) or north of 96th St. (if east of 5th Ave.). Applications close Tuesday, 8/31 or earlier if all funds are exhausted. Click the link above to apply.

The National Endowment for the Arts is offering grants up to $150,000 for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and local arts agencies. Learn more here.

The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute is offering a yearlong postdoctoral fellowship with priority given to research focusing on Dominican or Latinx people in education, history, women, gender, and sexuality studies. Apply ASAP here.

Youth 18-30 years old are invited to apply to an 11-week agricultural technology training program that starts Monday, 7/19. Participants will design and build a local smart farm, earn safety and technology certifications, and be matched with a 3-6-month paid internship. To apply, join a Zoom info session Mondays or Wednesdays at 10 am (meeting ID 951 5238 1566), hosted by workforce development nonprofit STRIVE.

Asian American youth ages 13-24 are invited to apply for the Asian American Student Advocacy Project’s 2021-2022 cohort. Participants discuss their experiences and the issues they see in their communities, learn the skills needed to create systemic change, and lead their own policy advocacy campaigns. Apply here by Monday (7/5).

The Madison Square Park Conservancy is seeking volunteers to assist with photography and gardening in the park. Apply here.


EVENTS

Tonight (7/1) at 7:30 pm, meet the winner of the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance’s Uptown Arts Stroll poster contest, Marta Blair. Join the Zoom here.

Volunteer to plant shrubs and flowers in the Financial District’s Manhatta Park on Friday (7/2) at 10 am with Downtown Alliance. Sign up here.

See free performances of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “The Winter’s Tale” from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting (no RSVP required):

  • Friday (7/2) at noon on Fort Tryon Park’s Linden Terrace – “Hamlet”

  • Friday (7/2) at 6 pm in the semi-circle lawn behind the Museum for Jewish Heritage in Battery Park – “The Winter’s Tale”

  • Tuesday (7/6) at noon in Isham Park – “The Winter’s Tale”

  • Tuesday (7/6) in the semi-circle lawn behind the Museum for Jewish Heritage in Battery Park – “Hamlet”

  • Friday (7/9) at noon in Isham Park – “Hamlet”

Tuesday (7/6) at 6:30 pm, learn about your rights as a tenant and how to organize with your neighbors during a virtual training hosted by Right to Counsel. Spanish interpretation will be available. Join the Zoom (meeting ID 815 0316 6269, passcode 385725).

Tuesdays through Sundays at 8:30 pm from 7/6-29, the Classical Theatre of Harlem mounts “Seize the King,” a reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park (enter at 124th St. and 5th Ave. and walk south to venue). Entry is free, and tickets aren’t required. Prior to Friday performances, Jazzmobile will give a concert at 7 pm.

Wednesdays at 6 pm through 8/11 are free concerts in Madison Square Park, in partnership with Carnegie Hall. See the schedule here.

Next Thursday (7/8) at 1 pm, NYCHA residents are invited to a discussion about the future of recycling and sustainability at NYCHA with the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens Solid Waste Advisory Boards and special guests like Marcia Fudge, secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Join the conversation at 90 Paladino Ave. on the eastern side of the Wagner Houses.

Next Thursday (7/8) from 4-10 pm, the Uptown Night Market debuts at the Riverside Dr. underpass near 12th Ave. and W. 133rd St. The market features local food vendors and artists and returns every second Thursday of the month through November.

Stay safe.