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COVID Newsletters

Weekly update 9/16


It’s Thursday, September 16, 2021. Welcome to my weekly update.

Where we are. New York City’s COVID positivity rate is now 2.96%, down from 3.31% last week. Those interested in diving more deeply into COVID statistics can check the NYC Dept. of Health website or’s COVID tracker. If you’re not yet vaccinated, find a vaccine site here.

The Washington Post reported yesterday (9/15) another grim milestone has been reached: one in 500 Americans have now died of COVID-19. The details are just as devastating: People older than 85 make up a quarter of the total death toll (but only 2% of the population). One in 35 people 85 or older died of COVID, compared with 1 in 780 people between age 40 to 64. New York State has a rate of one death per 360 people, the fourth-highest rate in the nation (exceeded only by Mississippi, New Jersey, and Louisiana).

Where we’re going. Both the State and City’s vaccine mandates (that lack religious exemptions) have been suspended pending court arguments next week.

Tomorrow (9/17) the FDA committee charged with deciding whether to authorize a booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will start discussions.

It’s become a real debate; the White House announced earlier in the summer that boosters would definitely be available– before the FDA or CDC approved such a thing– seemingly on the basis of data from Israel (The New England Journal of Medicine this week published the now peer-reviewed Israeli study) showing a significant drop in efficacy of the vaccines after six months among those over 60, and a significant increase after receiving a booster.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, initially supported the White House announcement but has since walked that back. Two high-level FDA employees overseeing vaccine regulation decided to leave the agency, in part because of disagreement over the booster shot announcement.

briefing document by FDA staff issued this week for the review committee looked at the Israeli data and other studies and took a neutral position on the need for boosters, finding that an additional shot did increase immune response but also that the current dosage still provided strong protection from severe illness and death.

Many find the drive for vaccine boosters by first-world countries unseemly, as hundreds of millions of people in the rest of the world lack access to even a first shot. Read more here about the vaccine booster debate.


Friday (9/17) beginning at 10 am, I’m testifying in favor of the Storefront Bill of Rights (Int. 2299), legislation that I introduced with Council Member Helen Rosenthal and is co-sponsored by Council Members Stephen Levin, Vanessa Gibson, Farah Louis, Laurie Cumbo, Carlos Menchaca, Daniel Dromm, Margaret Chin, Diana Ayala, Adrienne Adams, Selvena Brooks-Powers, Deborah Rose, Karen Koslowitz, Justin Brannan, Kevin Riley, Ben Kallos, Eric Dinowitz and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. The bill proposes more structured and transparent commercial leases and establishes a “right to renew,” making it easier for small businesses to stay in their spaces. The bill is based on recommendations that came from my Small Business Task Force. The hearing can be accessed here.

Tuesday (9/21) at 3 pm is my weekly Manhattan Vaccine and Recovery Task Force, sharing excellent information about the pandemic and New York City’s reopening. To join the Zoom, email

This month’s Manhattan Borough Board meeting is next Thursday (9/23) at 8:30 am (a week later than the usual third Thursday, due to Yom Kippur). Representatives from the NYC Dept. of City Planning will present on the Open Restaurants Text Amendment, and the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission will explain the timeline of their process. (This from the Times explains more about that process.) Register for the Zoom here.

My Land Use department is hard at work– we have 14 projects in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) pipeline throughout Manhattan:

  • Disposition of Seaport Properties (ULURP No. N210444PPM) – CB1

  • SoHo/NoHo (ULURP No. N210423ZRM) – CB2

  • 260 Madison Ave. (ULURP No. TBD) – CB5

  • 415 Madison Ave. (ULURP No. C210454ZSM) – CB5

  • Macy’s Redevelopment – CB5

  • New Providence Women’s Shelter (ULURP No. TBD) – CB6

  • Special Lincoln Square District Extension – CB7

  • 3 E. 89th St. (CEQR No. 21DCP188M) – CB8

  • Lenox Hill Hospital (ULURP No. TBD) – CB8

  • NY Blood Center (ULURP No. C210351ZMM, N210352ZRM, C210353ZSM) – CB8

  • One 45/Museum of Civil Rights (ULURP No. TBD) – CB10

  • Malcolm Shabazz Vendor’s Market (ULURP No. TBD) – CB10

  • 107-111 E. 123rd St., Castle III (ULURP No. 220060HAM, 220059ZSM) – CB11

  • Open Restaurants (ULURP No. N210434ZRY) – citywide

The MTA is beginning to hold virtual public hearings about the proposed congestion pricing plan (read more about calls for a Manhattan member of the Traffic Mobility Review Board). Join me in testifying about this important issue. The MTA hearings can be watched via this Zoom link.

  • Thursday, 9/23 at 6 pm – for people living and/or working on 60th St. and below (the proposed tolling zone); register to testify or request accommodations here.

  • Wednesday, 10/6 at 6 pm – for people living and/or working on 61st St. and above; register to testify or request accommodations here.

On another front, as part of the federal approval process the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority will hold public information outreach meetings for environmental justice communities– together with the MTA, the City and State Depts. of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration. New York’s hearing will be Thursday, 10/7 from 6–8 pm. Registration is required for those who want to speak; click that link to register online or call 646-252-6777. The meetings will be livestreamed at

My Manhattan Arts Survey is open until Thursday, 9/30, providing artists and organizations an opportunity to share experiences with relief, reopening, and pandemic recovery efforts. We welcome recommendations for how City resources can better support work in the arts. Respond here by Thursday, 9/30.


The Biden administration notified governors and mayors this week the initial number of Afghan evacuees their locality is expected to receive in the coming weeks; NYS is slated to receive about 1,100 settlers, with about 240 headed to NYC, in the next six months. The administration has requested funding from Congress to help resettle 65,000 Afghans in the U.S. by the end of this month and 95,000 by September 2022.

Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have joined to support Welcome.US, a clearinghouse providing Afghan refugees with housing and legal aid and helping people sponsor an Afghan family.

A Times story about efforts to welcome all the Afghans who are now settling in the U.S. (“Americans Stretch Across Political Divides to Welcome Afghan Refugees”) reminded us of Women for Afghan Women, the large refugee assistance organization in New York (with a community center in Fresh Meadows, home to 90% of the city’s Afghans). If you’d like to help their efforts, visit this link.

Health officials have confirmed a cluster of COVID cases at the Electric Zoo Festival on Randall’s Island over Labor Day Weekend. If you attended or have been in contact with anyone who did, it’s recommended that you get tested regardless of vaccination status. Find testing sites here. (I’ve heard about increasingly long lines and turnaround times for COVID tests at privately run sites, but City-run sites continue to have short lines and return PCR test results within 48 hours.)

Public school students 12+ must get vaccinated by Monday, 9/27 to participate in high-risk extracurriculars, including chorus, band, and musical theater.

There are several updates to the State’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides a year’s worth of owed rent and utilities:

NYCHA will now apply to ERAP on behalf of residents, who no longer have to fill out the full online application. Residents who haven’t yet applied for ERAP can consent to NYCHA applying on their behalf via the Authority’s Self-Service Portal (see a how-to guide here). NYCHA residents who have already submitted an ERAP application should send their ERAP application number, first and last name, date of birth, development name, and nine-digit account number to so that NYCHA can complete the application with the State.

New Yorkers who make 80–120% of area median income (up to $131,230 for a family of four, see all household sizes here) may now apply to ERAP. My ERAP webpage lists organizations offering application assistance, in addition to my Northern Manhattan office (212-531-1609).

Manhattan small businesses damaged by Hurricane Ida are eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. For help applying, visit the SBA’s Business Recovery Center (Medgar Evers College, 231 Crown St., Brooklyn), open daily from 8 am – 8 pm. For help with other Ida-related issues, visit the Manhattan Human Service Center (IS 88, 215 W. 114th St.). open for in-person assistance daily from 8 am – 8 pm. State and City agencies and nonprofits provide help with storm-related paperwork, food assistance referrals, and mental health services.


School families can call the Advocates for Children of New York Education Helpline with questions about the NYC education system: 866-427-6033, open Monday–Thursday from 10 am – 4 pm in all languages.

The free Bloomingdale Family Program has space for children born in 2017 in its 4’s classrooms. For more information and to apply, call 212-665-4631 or email

Families with babies and toddlers can join free virtual “Learn and Play” sessions from the Children’s Storefront, led by coaches who use music, movement, stories, brain-building activities, and provide support for families. The program runs through December; see the schedule. Register here.

East Harlem nonprofit Youth Action is recruiting young adults for two free workforce development programs.

  • YouthBuild offers high school equivalency exam training, paid internships, vocational training, community service, leadership development, and career/continuing education follow-up support; apply here.

  • NextGen trains students to become certified wireless network technicians to build out 5G networks across the city; submit an interest form here.

Youth services organization the Brotherhood Sister Sol is hiring several full-time youth workers and a director of communications and events. See the openings and apply here.

Mark DeGarmo Dance is hiring part-time teaching artists to work with students from pre-K to 5th grade. Learn more and apply here.

Organizations can get funding for their initiative to improve the health of New Yorkers through the New York State Health Foundation’s 2022 Special Projects Fund RFP. Applications close Thursday, 10/7.

On view through Wednesday (9/22), “In the Heights: From University to Silver Screen” features over 50 images tracing the development of the award-winning musical from its first showing at Wesleyan University through the Broadway productions and the major motion picture. See it for free at the Hispanic Society Museum and Library East Building Gallery (613 W. 155th St.).

Visual storytelling event “Photoville” kicks off Friday (9/18) and runs through 12/1. Photo exhibits will be all over the city; find Manhattan’s here.


Until 8 pm tonight (9/16) get vaccinated outside these restaurants participating in the Restaurant Day of Action, and get a $100 voucher:

  • Dear Mama, 308 E. 109th St. and 611 W. 129th St.

  • MamaSushi, 237 Dyckman St.

  • Dallas BBQ, 3956 Broadway (at 166th St.)

  • Safari, 219 W. 116th St.

Check out this round-up of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, including live performances, art exhibits, and virtual events.

Through Tuesday (9/21), celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with the Museum of Chinese in America’s family activities, including at-home art and baking workshops and an in-person celebration at MOCA (215 Centre St.) on Saturday (9/19) from 1–4 pm. Get free tickets here.

Friday (9/17), there will be COVID vaccines on site at every public middle and high school for students 12+, families, and community members; see the hours of when each school is offering vaccines. For students younger than 18, a parent or guardian must fill out a consent form, available here.

Friday (9/17), OATS (Older Adults Technology Services)/Senior Planet is holding free one-on-one tech tutoring sessions. To register, email with your name, phone number, and the tech issue you would like to be helped with. Senior Planet also hosts free virtual events every week, including tech classes, fitness classes, and discussion groups.

Friday (9/17) from 10 am – 4 pm at 104-106 E. 126th St. is a job fair for open positions at New York Harm Reduction Educators and the Washington Heights CORNER Project, including in outreach, clinical work, and operations. Bring your resume and references’ information.

Friday (9/17) from 11 am – 2 pm, stop by the NYPL Aguilar branch (174 E. 110th St.) to celebrate Constitution Day, and get a free pocket-sized Constitution, register to vote, and learn about the ballot proposals regarding same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting that are on the 11/2 general election ballot, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the City of New York.

Friday (9/17) from 11 am – 3 pm at 1727 Amsterdam Ave. (at 145th St.), get free health screenings, snacks, and giveaways during the Emma L. Bowen Community Health Fair.

Friday (9/17) at 1 pm, virtual town hall “Innovation and Growth in Emergency Feeding” is hosted by West Side Campaign Against Hunger. Click the title to register.

Friday (9/17), Council Member Ben Kallos and the Parks Dept. are hosting two events:

Saturday (9/18) from 10 am – 1 pm, help remove litter from Riverside Park and the Hudson River shoreline with the Riverside Park Conservancy. Sign up to volunteer at one of five locations from W. 68th–163rd St. here.

Saturday (9/18) from 10 am – 4 pm at E. 123rd St. and 3rd Ave., the Boriken Annual Community Health Fair has free dental, health, and eye screenings, health resources, children’s activities, music, giveaways, and raffles.

Saturday (9/18) from 11 am – 5 pm in Jackie Robinson Park, the “Block and Park Party” features dance classes, horses, arts and crafts, games, and poetry performances, hosted by Community Board 10, the Parks Department, Street Corner Resources, the National Dance Institute, and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday (9/18) from noon – 6:30 pm on the Amsterdam Ave. Open Boulevard (btwn 109th–110th St.), the Amsterdam Eco/Arts Festival features artistic performances, fitness workshops, family games, and a community planting. See the jam-packed schedule here.

This Saturday and next Saturday (9/18 and 9/25) at 1 pm, Inwood and Washington Heights residents can get free tickets to the first two home games of Columbia University’s football season. Get tickets for the games against Marist College and Georgetown University here.

Saturday (9/18) from 4–6 pm on the Hispanic Society Museum and Library Audubon Terrace (Broadway btwn 155th–156th St.) is a Hispanic Heritage Month family day, featuring Latin jazz, refreshments, and a papel picado art making activity.

Sunday (9/19), anyone 12+ can get vaccinated uptown at two drop-in pop-ups hosted by Altagracia Faith and Justice WorksCommunity Healthcare Network, and Stop the Spread:

  • Church of St. Jude (3815 10th Ave. at 204th St.) from 9 am – 4 pm

  • Our Lady Queen of Martyrs (91 Arden St.) from 9 am – 3 pm

Sunday (9/19) from 9 am – 4:30 pm at 545 Grand St., get a free mammogram and breast cancer screening, hosted by Council Member Carlina Rivera and sponsored by the American-Italian Cancer Foundation. Appointments are open to those ages 40–79 who haven’t had a mammogram in the last year. Pre-registration is required: 212-860-1950 or 1-877-628-9090.

Sunday (9/19) at 10 am is the NYC Walk4Hearing, hosted by the Hearing Loss Association of America NYC Chapter. Join either in Riverside Park at 83rd St. or virtually here.

Sunday (9/19) at noon is the virtual 52nd annual African American Day Parade. Find out how to watch the parade here.

Sunday (9/19) at noon, volunteer for a community clean-up with the Hell’s Kitchen Litter Legion, and get free Italian ice. Meet at DeWitt Clinton Park (52nd St. and 11th Ave). Register here.

Sunday (9/19) from noon – 2 pm, drop off school supplies at the Church of the Epiphany’s Msgr. Farricker Parish Hall (red doors at E. 22nd St. and 2nd Ave.). Suggested donations include backpacks, child-sized face masks, hand sanitizer, notebooks, binders, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, erasers, rulers, safety scissors, glue sticks, stickers, art pads, and pencil cases.

Sunday (9/19) at 3 pm, attend the free reading of the play “My Bedsit Window” at James Cagney Way (91st St. btwn 2nd–3rd Ave.). The play is the first in a new reading series sponsored by Community Board 8 and Origin Theatre Company.

Sunday (9/19) at 6:30 pm on Riverside Park’s Locomotive Lawn (at 61st St.), roving music and dance piece “Search(Light)” will be performed by the Kinesis Project Dance Theatre. Learn more and register here.

Monday (9/20) at 4 pm, join a Q&A about school reopening with NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter and NYC Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. Submit your questions in advance and register to watch here. The webinar is hosted by the Fund for Public Schools and the Fund for Public Health NYC.

Wednesday (9/22) from 8:45 am – 12:30 pm, virtual policy symposium “How to Revive NYC’s Economy, Spark Good Jobs, and Build a More Equitable City” features brief, high-energy idea pitches; one-on-one fireside chats; a moderated discussion with some of the city’s leading thinkers; and a session soliciting ideas from audience members. Click the title to register for the event, hosted by the Center for an Urban Future.

Wednesday (9/22) at 6 pm, webinar “Arthritis: The Basics” explores the differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, lifestyle ways to address them, how to improve quality of life and manage the pain, and treatment options, hosted by Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech. Click the title to register.

Wednesday (9/22) at 6:30 pm, the webinar “The 97th Street Greenmarket: Changes and Challenges” is about one of the most popular and longest-running greenmarkets in the city, presented by the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group. A link to the program will be available here in the coming days.

Wednesday (9/22) at 7 pm, watch the virtual town hall “COVID-19 Updates: Delta, Vaccinations, and Other Mitigations,” featuring an NYU infectious disease specialist discussing the Delta variant, breakthrough cases, the authorization status of booster shots and vaccinations for children under 12, important safety practices, and what might come next as the pandemic progresses. Click the title to register and submit questions for the event, hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger.

Wednesday (9/22) from 8–11 pm, the Uptown Wagon will be distributing free school supplies, books, toys, and PPE at my Northern Manhattan office (431 W. 125th St.). If you’d like to donate items, you can drop them off at my Northern Manhattan office starting at 10 am that day.

Next Thursday (9/23) at 10 am, virtual workshop “Strengthening Social Independence” focuses on tools and techniques to help support people’s independence in social situations, hosted by disability services nonprofit YAI. Click the title to register.

Next Thursday (9/23) from 11 am – 2 pm in Bryant Park, catch the free 106.7 LITE “Broadway in Bryant Park,” featuring performances from “The Lion King,” “Waitress,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and other shows.

Next Thursday (9/23) at 1 pm, virtual workshop “The Right to Counsel (RTC): Fighting Eviction in New York City” discusses the history of the RTC movement, who is eligible for legal representation in housing court under the law, and how to get a lawyer, hosted by the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY. Click the title to register.

Next Thursday (9/23) from 6–8 pm on the High Line (enter at 14th St. and 10th Ave.) is a community resource fair hosted by Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Free health resources (COVID vaccines, flu shots, COVID tests, blood pressure tests) and help with affordable housing, SCRIE/DRIE applications, senior information, and volunteer opportunities will be available. Register here.

News Clippings

The Plan to Stop Every Respiratory Virus at Once
The benefits of ventilation reach far beyond the coronavirus. What if we stop taking colds and flus for granted, too?
By Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, Sept. 7, 2021

Pfizer and BioNTech will soon seek clearance for vaccine use in children 5 years and over.
By Christopher F. Schuetze, NY Times, Sept. 10, 2021

Unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of covid-19, CDC report finds
Moderna vaccine is most effective, says another study, the largest to date in U.S. to assess real-world effectiveness
By Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2021

NY Releases Data On COVID Breakthrough Infections
Unvaccinated Make Up 21 Times More Hospitalizations
By Gwynne Hogan and Nsikan Akpan, Sept. 10, 2021

The J.&J. Conundrum
A guide to whether Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients should get a booster shot
By David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, NY Times The Morning newsletter, Sept. 13, 2021

Data shows Covid booster shots are ‘not appropriate’ at this time, U.S. and international scientists conclude
This story references this letter published in the British medical journal The Lancet.
By Berkeley Lovelace Jr.,, Sept. 13, 2021

Yes, you can get a covid booster and a flu shot together. Here’s what you need to know.
By Allyson Chiu, Washington Post, Sept. 13, 2021

6 Questions to Ask About Covid and Air Quality at Work
Ventilation improvements, adding portable air cleaners and simply opening windows can lower the risk of infection in the office.
By Tara Parker-Pope, NY Times, Sept. 13, 2021

Here’s Where To Get A COVID Test In NYC—And How Much It Will Cost
By Caroline Lewis,, Sept. 14, 2021

Covid Hospitalizations Hit Crisis Levels in Southern I.C.U.s
By Charlie Smart, NY Times, Sept. 14, 2021

As always, get in touch if you have a problem or concern we can help address: 212-669-8300 or