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COVID Newsletters

Weekly newsletter (7/8)

Friends,

It’s Thursday, July 8, 2021. Welcome to my weekly newsletter.

NYC’s seven-day positivity average is 1.06% (up from 0.69% last week). But NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi says, “Test positivity is becoming a little less valuable”– New Yorkers are getting tested at half the rate they were in April, and vaccinated people tend to get tested less. So the COVID hospitalization and death rates, which Dr. Chokshi says are holding steady, may be more telling indicators. Those interested in the statistics can check the data at the NYC Dept. of Health website or thecity.nyc’s COVID tracker.

My website lists vaccine sites, vaccination perks, and vaccine appointment resources. Two changes to note: Due to Tropical Storm Elsa, City-run mobile vaccine sites are closed today and Friday (7/8-9) and reopen Saturday (7/10). Also, tomorrow (Friday, 7/9) is the Javits Center’s last day as a mass vaccination site as the State pivots to more local, smaller-scale vaccination efforts.


COMMENT

After my initial investigation of Manhattan cooling centers last week– which found issues with nearly every site– NYC Office of Emergency Management Commissioner John Scrivani reached out to me to discuss how the department could address the issues. Since then, OEM has sent hyper-visible, multilingual signage for every cooling center to post outside their site.

During this week’s heat wave, my staff found that the City’s online cooling center finder listed incorrect hours for the majority of libraries above 96th St. and that one site had a broken HVAC system. We shared this with OEM, who quickly corrected the information and is addressing the broken HVAC issue.

I’ll continue to follow up, and keep you posted. To find a cooling center, click here (this online finder is only active when there’s a heat wave).

This week, my Manhattan Vaccine and Recovery Task Force heard from Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University about the Delta coronavirus variant and the new pandemic research lab the university is starting. (Dr. El-Sadr is quoted in today’s NY Times story about the drop in testing.) Also, NYC Deputy Comptroller for Budget Preston Niblack spoke about the recently passed City budget, how some of the federal stimulus money was allocated, and the stimulus funds tracker the Comptroller’s office will establish this summer. If you’d like to join these weekly discussions on Tuesdays at 3 pm about vaccines and reopening, email info@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.

For the first time since February, 2020, the Manhattan Borough Board (made up of Manhattan Council members and Community Boards) will meet in person next Thursday (7/15) at 8:30 am in my office conference room at 1 Centre St., 19th Floor (South entrance). The meeting will also be livestreamed on my Facebook. On the agenda are four public hearings:

We’ll be observing the space’s limited capacity, so we may need attendees to wait in the hall before testifying. If you can’t make it in person, submit written testimony to info@manhattanbp.nyc.gov by Thursday (7/15).

Save the date. As part of the official ULURP process in my office, we will hold an in-person public hearing on the New York Blood Center’s application for a rezoning of its property on E. 67th St. this Monday (7/12) from 6-8 pm (doors open at 5 pm) at Hunter College’s Assembly Hall (enter via the Loewe Plaza on 68th St. btwn Park and Lexington Ave.); attendees will be asked to fill out a health screening. If you can’t make it in person, you can watch on Zoom (register here for the meeting ID) or on my Facebook page. Written testimony can be submitted to info@manhattanbp.nyc.gov until Friday, 7/23.

The rezoning proposal is in Community Board 8, which started the ULURP process by voting to recommend that the application be denied at its May 25, 2021 meeting.

Tonight (7/8) at 6:30 pm is the final Community Board 2 hearing for the SoHo/NoHo Rezoning proposal; register here. On Wednesday (7/14), is a business session about the proposal (the public can listen but can’t speak); register here. (I attended the first hearing in person on Wednesday, 6/23.)

I’m among the cosponsors for New York State’s Empire State Development Corporation Virtual Town Hall that will discuss the proposed Empire Station Complex project around Penn Station, next Thursday (7/15) at 6 pm. Register for the Zoom here or call 646-518-9805 and use meeting ID 923 4649 1166.

The Summer Rising program is supposed to be the crux of a season of learning and healing for NYC school children. So it’s unacceptable that the Dept. of Education is still not providing round-trip transportation for those Summer Rising students in temporary housing or with a disability who stay for extended-day programming. Instead, the DOE says it will reimburse cab fare for trips home– but these are the families least likely to be able to front the money for cabs while waiting for the DOE to cut a check, and there’s a significant lack of accessible cabs on the streets. These students will be shut out of the program if they don’t have a way to get home. Alongside INCLUDEnyc and Advocates for Children, I’m calling on the Mayor and the DOE to provide a real solution ASAP.

The NYPD has developed a new way to select new Precinct Commanding Officers that incorporates more community involvement. My office puts together panels, comprised of precinct community council members, community board members, as well as residents and business owners. These eight-person panels interview the three or four finalist candidates, determined by the NYPD. Panel members then indicate their preference to the NYPD Commissioner.

So far, we have held panels for the 32nd and 33rd Precincts, with PSAs 4 and 5 coming up. While the process is not perfect, I agree that more community input into the hiring of NYPD Commanding Officers is important.

Scaffolding over sidewalks is necessary for public safety, but that safety comes at the cost of blocking visibility and access to storefront businesses, and is often up too long for the purposes of public safety. I just wrote to the NYC Dept. of Buildings about a particularly egregious example at 51 W. 86th St., which has had scaffolding at its location for FIFTEEN YEARS. I’m calling on DOB to review how it tracks long-term scaffolding and to step up enforcement against building owners.

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 on rent payments. They’re listed here on my ERAP information webpage. Many have services in multiple languages. (If you would like your organization listed, please contact MBPOstaff09@manhattanbp.nyc.gov.)

Applications are now open for my annual Manhattan Community Award Program, which gives small awards to nonprofit organizations and public schools through the Depts. of Aging, Correction, Education, and Health. 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 neighborhoods.

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

Deadline: 5 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

My guests at yesterday’s (7/7) Hometown Heroes parade were staff members from my local drug store, Ivan Pharmacy, Nicole Vasquez and Anthony Rondon. Like so many essential workers, they kept our city running throughout the pandemic. Anthony had never seen City Hall before and told me what an honor it was to march alongside the people who served New York in its darkest hour. The parade marked how far the city has come since the beginning of the pandemic.


NEW FACTS/INFO

Applications are now open through Tuesday, 7/20 for round two of the NYC Artist Corps, which gives 3,000 artists $5,000 grants to support a creative activity that engages with the public. The third and final round of applications will be open from 7/27 – 8/10.

The City Cleanup Corps is still hiring workers to remove graffiti, pressure wash sidewalks, design murals, tend to community gardens, maintain Open Streets, beautify public spaces, and work with community organizations to clean their neighborhoods. Apply here.

Apply ASAP to one of the 60 new positions in the Mayor’s Home Support Unit to help residents facing eviction or experiencing homelessness to take advantage of the expanded emergency housing voucher program. Apply to become an outreach specialist (51 temporary positions) or a project lead (9 positions).

The City is seeking public input about the NYC Streets Plan, the five-year plan to improve streets’ safety, accessibility, and quality. Fill out this survey or attend a virtual meeting. The first is Tuesday (7/13) at 6 pm (for people working or living below West 110th St. or below East 96th St.), and the second meeting (for people uptown) is next Thursday (7/15) at 2 pm. Click the dates to register.

Employers can still sign up to host youth ages 14-24 for the City’s 2021 Summer Youth Employment Program. Fill out this form.

Free “grab and go” breakfast and lunch in this year’s “Summer Meals” program are available to all New Yorkers at about 400 sites on weekdays from 9 am – 1 pm. My office mapped the NYC Dept. of Education’s list of locations here. More details are available here.

Mini pools operated by the Parks Dept. will now be closed on Tuesdays to allow better staffing at larger pools. Find a list of Manhattan’s mini pools here.

COVID News Clippings

How the Delta variant is altering the course of the pandemic
The delta variant has made Covid-19 more dangerous than ever for unvaccinated people.
By Umair Irfan, vox.com,  June 30, 2021

The 3 Simple Rules That Underscore the Danger of Delta
Vaccines are still beating the variants, but the unvaccinated world is being pummeled.
By Ed Yong, The Atlantic, July 1, 2021

The US health system was already falling short. Then Covid-19 happened.
Covid-19 put American health care even further behind other wealthy nations.
By Dylan Scott, vox.com  July 6, 2021

Vaccines door-to-door: Immunization push goes granular as delta variant looms
By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Tyler Pager, Washington Post, July 6, 2021

As Delta Risk Looms, New York City Scales Back Covid Monitoring
The positive test rate in the city has crept up near 1 percent in recent days.
By Sharon Otterman, NY Times, July 7, 2021

The GOP’s very stubborn vaccine skepticism
By Aaron Blake, Washington Post, July 7, 2021

Non-COVID News Clippings

We Are Living in a Climate Emergency, and We’re Going to Say So
It’s time to use a term that more than 13,000 scientists agree is needed
By Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, April 12, 2021

How big business exploits small business
Companies like Facebook and Uber say they’re supporting small businesses while squashing them.
By Emily Stewart, vox.com, June 30, 2021

New York Rent Relief Application Snags Frustrate Landlords and Tenants
By Greg David, thecity.nyc, June 27, 2021

New York’s Fiscal Watchdog Sues to End Mayor’s Pandemic Spending Powers
The city comptroller, Scott Stringer, wants to regain oversight of the city’s pandemic spending, which he said has been characterized by “overpayment and overpurchasing.”
By Luis Ferré-Sadurní, NY Times, July 6, 2021


ANNOUNCEMENTS

West Harlem nonprofits have until Friday, 7/23 to apply for the $2 million in Community Benefit Grants available from the West Harlem Development Corporation.

WHDC is also inviting West Harlem artists to participate in their logo design contest, offering prizes up to $1,250. Submit logos by Saturday, 7/31.

Applications are open for the second round of the East Harlem Small Business Grant. The grant of up to $20,000 covers up to three months of owed business expenses, sponsored by my office, Council Member Diana Ayala, Union Settlement’s Business Development Center, and the NYC Economic Development Corporation. Only businesses that didn’t participate in the first round are eligible. Learn more and apply at the link above by Friday, 8/20.

Educators, teaching artists, and arts leaders are invited to workshops about “radical welcoming”– the intentional effort to make people feel welcome– in performance spaces, studios, classrooms, and Zoom rooms. The workshops are both in person and virtual from 7/12-16, hosted by Lincoln Center Activate; register here.

Read the new report from the Community Service Society, “The Gig Is Up: An Overview Of New York City’s App-based Gig Workforce During COVID-19.” The report takes a deep dive into this workforce, the debate over worker misclassification and labor protections and benefits, insights into the hardships this workforce has faced during the pandemic, and recommendations for policymakers.

The Skyscraper Museum reopens next Thursday (7/15) with free timed-entry reservations on Thursdays-Saturdays, noon – 6 pm. The gallery reopens with the exhibition “Supertall 2021!,” a survey of 58 skyscrapers worldwide that are taller than the Empire State Building.

The virtual lottery is now open for Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell’s summer performances at Lincoln Center’s Restart StagesEnter the lottery for free tickets for performances 7/21-23 or 8/12-14 at 8 pm.


EVENTS

Catch a free outdoor movie during the “Movies Under the Stars” series across the city, also featuring screenings of the 3rd Annual Public School Film Festival. Click the link above to see the schedule.

Summer on the Hudson continues to host events at Riverside Park South and West Harlem Piers Park, such as fitness classes, arts events, and activities for kids, hosted by Riverside Park Conservancy. See the schedule here.

Thursdays-Sundays at 6:30 pm through 7/25, Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is performed behind the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Riverside Park (W. 89th St. and Riverside Dr.) by the Hudson Classical Theater Company (no RSVP required). To request wheelchair accommodation, email lee@hudsonclassicaltheatercompany.org.

Friday (7/9) at noon is the final performance of “Hamlet” at Isham Park performed by the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, no RSVP required.

Saturday (7/10) from noon – 7 pm is a “roller jam” and the closing party for the Grandscale Mural Project at the Uptown Grand Central Underpass (124th and Park Street). Rent roller skates, check out a half-mile of murals designed by over 100 artists, and take a guided tour of the murals at 3 pm (register here).

Monday-Friday (7/12-16), artists and arts organizations are invited to a series of webinars about funding opportunities from the NYS Council on the Arts. Click here to see the schedule and register for webinars and office hours with NYSCA staff.

Upper Manhattan small business professionals are invited to free webinars to develop various skills. Click the webinar names to register for the courses, hosted by the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services’ Business Solutions Center:

Next Thursday (7/15) from noon – 1:30 pm, veterans and their spouses are invited to a virtual job fair. Featured fields include health care, social work, arts and entertainment, maintenance, security, and technology, presented by the City’s Workforce1 Career Centers and the New York Public Library. Register here.

Next Friday (7/16) from noon – 8 pm, I’m co-sponsoring a walk-in vaccine site at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (130 W. 113th St.). Then, on Friday. 7/23 from noon – 8 pm, we’ll have another walk-in vaccine site at the Masjid Aqsa-Salam (23 E. 115th St.).

Stay safe.