MBP Harlem/Uptown News: This Week’s Update From Gale Brewer

MBP Gale Brewer sent this on Thursday, January 20, 2022; we thought those of you who didn’t get a chance to read it this past Thursday might welcome the chance to get up to date.

First, the COVID news:

The federal government opened the free COVID test website this week. People can enter their address and receive four at-home COVID rapid tests within a week or two (“7 to 12 days” officially). There haven’t been many complaints about it, which itself is a small victory.

For those who don’t have access to a computer or an internet connection, or are receiving an error message, visit the USPS FAQ page or call the federal government’s vaccine hotline to place an order by phone: 1-800-232-0233. My office is also here to help! Call us at 212-873-0282.

On Wednesday 1/26 at 5pm and until supplies run out, my office is giving away free at-home COVID-19 tests and KN95 masks in front of our District Office: 563 Columbus Avenue between 87 Street and 88 Street. Each FlowFlex test kit contains one test. Limit two test kits per person. Each mask package contains 5 masks. Limit one mask package per person. For information, please contact my district office at 212.873.0282 or district6@council.nyc.gov.

COVID case infections have dropped in both the state and city. Absenteeism at the MTA has declined since early January– when one in five workers were out– and regular service is now restored to the B, Z, 6 and 7 trains; the W train is still suspended until more workers come back.

Health Commissioner Chokshi reports that the seven-day average of cases is under 20,000, down from the early-January peak of 43,000 cases; hospitalizations are also down, from the peak of 6,500 (on 1/11) to about 5,800 on Sunday (1/16). While this is good news, those numbers are still high and reflect widespread transmission of COVID.



And U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned last Sunday that the Omicron surge of coronavirus cases had not yet peaked nationally, saying that the next few weeks would be very difficult in many parts of the country as hospitalizations and deaths rise. And Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, also expressed concerns that the next several weeks would overwhelm hospitals and staff. “Right now we’re at about 150,000 people in the hospital with Covid. That’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect those numbers to get substantially higher.”

Zeynep Tufekci guested on Ezra Klein’s NY Times podcast on How to Prepare for the Pandemic’s Next Phase. Statnews.com reports that At Davos, a ‘good news, bad news’ message emerges about Covid-19. And Tomas Pueyo blogged, “Coronavirus: Game Over

It’s time to start living again” summarizing that vaccines reduce deaths by 90%, Omicron itself kills 90% less, and treatments save 90% of ppl– so these 3 factors stack to reduce COVID fatality rates by 99.9%– and after Omicron, most people will have some sort of immunity.

(But, see Murthy above, Omicron isn’t over yet!)

Top-quality masks are still somewhat hard to obtain. But the government is expected to offer free N-95 masks beginning next week at local pharmacies and community health centers, with the program fully up and running by early February. Here’s a good piece on How to Find a Quality Mask (and Avoid Counterfeits) from the Times.


City Council Committee Assignments

City Council committee assignments have been made and are posted here. I’m grateful to have been entrusted by Speaker Adrienne Adams and fellow council members with the responsibility that comes with leading the Oversight and Investigations Committee. This committee has a crucial role in ensuring that laws are implemented effectively, that agencies are managed well and with integrity, and that government truly works for all.


Participatory Budgeting and Fiscal Year ‘23 Budget

The deadline to submit ideas and suggestions for how to spend $1 million on projects in the 6th Council District—“Participatory Budgeting”— is this Sunday, January 23. The process is focused on capital funding—infrastructure projects that benefit the public, cost at least $50,000, and have a lifespan of at least 5 years. Suggestions can be made online here.

Participatory Budgeting is a way to involve more members of the community in the critical decision-making that can improve our neighborhoods. Ideas that come from the grassroots can be among the most innovative and effective in affecting our quality of life. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up this year.

The subsequent phase, in early February, involves submitting the ideas to appropriate city agencies and community-based organizations (CBOs) that will analyze and estimate the cost of the ideas. Then, participatory budgeting committees will review the responses from those agencies and CBOs and select final projects for the ballot, which residents of Council District 6 vote on in early April. The winning proposals for the $1 million in capital funding will then be included in District 6 appropriations for the city fiscal year that begins July 1, 2022.

Sanitation

On 1/14, I toured West 72 Street with DSNY Chiefs Stephen Harbin, James Leavy, & Ryan Dempsey and saw just how dirty it was. To their credit, DSNY workers with trucks and brooms cleaned the gutters and the street on the midnight to 4am shift. Now I am going with the Department door to door to the businesses to educate them on how to keep the street clean– which is the responsibility of stores and owners under city law.


Update on “Dark Stores”

The Department of Buildings, the City Planning Commission, and the Land Use Division of the City Council are all reviewing the question of whether or not “dark stores” – which I think are actually food warehouses, not stores – are legal under the zoning code.

Many “dark stores” cover their windows with paper or plastic. Is this legal? The transparency requirements along retail streets are pretty far-reaching. They include all wide streets (most Manhattan avenues) and also all narrow streets where a commercial district is mapped along the entire frontage of the building. And the regulations specify that “at least 50% of the surface area” between a height of 2 and 12 feet off the ground must be glazed with transparent materials. https://zr.planning.nyc.gov/article-iii/chapter-7/37-34.


Mayor’s Survey on Public Policy

Mayor Adams announced NYC Speaks, a six-month citywide engagement initiative designed to ensure that New Yorkers too often excluded from public decision-making help shape priorities and policies of the new mayoral administration. Take the survey here. Deadline is 1/28.


Reflections on Last Week

Melissa Go, the woman who was pushed to her death in the Times Square station, was a West Sider (W. 72nd St.). I attended the vigil for her held at the Red Steps in Father Duffy Square on Tuesday 1/18. It was a huge turnout to celebrate a woman who never should have been killed. The doorman whom she greeted that morning was perhaps the last person to speak to her, and he sang her praises. The AAPI community is extraordinary —thanks to Rep. Grace Meng, Chung Seto, and Benjamin Wei for organizing the vigil.

Reflecting on last week’s terrifying attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, I want to thank the countless trained professionals, volunteers and members of the NYPD who provide security to our city’s synagogues, day schools and community centers. To so many, it’s unimaginable that concrete barriers and security guards would be a normal part of attending religious services, dropping a child off to school or going to a swimming class; and yet this is the reality for Jews in our community and it impacts us all. I’m reading and recommend “Why So Many People Still Don’t Understand Anti-Semitism” by Yair Rosenberg in The Atlantic, on how Anti-Semitism threatens to rot the very foundations of our societies.


Join a Community Board!

The 2022 Community Board application is open now through 5pm on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Community Boards are the voices of their communities—the most grass-roots form of local government. The Boards are pivotal in shaping their communities and work to enhance and preserve the charter of the city’s many unique neighborhoods. Community Boards are composed of 50 volunteer members serving staggered two-year terms—thus, 25 members are appointed (or reappointed) each year.

Related:  Harlem Congressman Adriano Espaillat Statement On Decision To end TPS For Salvadorans

Schools

The deadline to apply to Kindergarten is 1/21; the deadline to apply to Middle School is 2/28. The high school application will open during the week of 1/24 and the deadline to apply will be 3/1/2022.

Many public school websites are kind of… terrible; I’m looking to connect talented developers with schools in our district to help improve them. Help me be a matchmaker! Contact me at gbrewer@council.nyc.gov.


Improving pedestrian safety

Mayor Adams announced the redesign of 1,000 intersections citywide and increased NYPD enforcement of failure-to-yield violations in a new effort to improve pedestrian safety under a new tagline “Stop, Let Them Cross” to inform drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians of the new rule.


Citi Bike raises prices

Starting 1/28, Citi Bike rides will increase to $3.99 for 30 minutes (up from $3.50) and annual memberships will now cost $185 (up from $179). Citi Bike is in the midst of expanding its fleet from 25,000 bikes to 40,000 by the end of 2023. Lyft manages Citi Bike until 2029 under a contract from the City.

Citi Bike also announced free rides for health care workers for the next 60 days– the Citi Bike Medical Workers Program. Public and private hospital employees, including custodial workers and other support staff, can sign up  through their place of employment until 2/7/2022.


Housing

Last Saturday, 1/15, New York State’s eviction moratorium expired. If you or someone you know is facing eviction, there is assistance available. Call 3-1-1 to get connected to a Right to Counsel lawyer, or the Met Council’s hotline at 212-979-0611. The ERAP emergency assistance program is reopened for applications, and applying may help protect you from evictions. Apply here. Please also call us at 212-873-0282 if you have questions.

I wrote a letter to the Governor in support of good cause eviction legislation which is pending in the NYS Legislature:

With Goddard Riverside’s Law Project & TakeRoot Justice, I co-host monthly Housing Clinics on the first Wednesday of every month at 6 pm (2/2, 3/2, 4/6. 5/4, and 6/1 are the next five dates). There is a briefing on a current topic and then constituents can meet with an attorney. To sign up for the next session, click here.


Good Things to Know

Hudson River Park Estuary 2022 Virtual Field Trips – learn about the Hudson River and its ecosystem. I have participated in the in-person class and loved it. It is cool to see what is alive in the Hudson River! The virtual classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 am, and there are 3 classes per program.

Questions? education@htpt.ny.gov. The fee is $100 per program but all Title I schools are waived, and any public school is eligible for a waiver if needed. Register here.

For over 20 years, the New York Theatre Workshop has sponsored a fellowship program for emerging, early-career theatre-makers, cultivating an artistic community that challenges dominant paradigms and amplifying those whose experiences are not often heard. These fellowships have taken many forms, supporting playwrights, directors, designers and administrators. Apply for the 2050 Artistic Fellowship here by 12 noon, 2/3.

Check out the official Central Park Conservancy Winter Guide.

With the tragic fire in the Bronx fresh in our minds, it’s worth remembering that the Fire Department of New York’s Fire Safety Education Program educates youth and families with life-saving fire prevention strategies. They’re available for classroom presentations of 30-45 minutes covering the importance of calling 911, having and testing working smoke/CO2 alarms, practicing an escape plan, and giveaways for students. To request a Fire Safety Educator for your school please complete the registration form.

Perhaps the most common New Year’s resolution is to exercise more and lose weight—but it’s awfully hard to keep this resolution. That’s why the Six Weeks to Fitness virtual exercise program was created by BodySculpt, in partnership with the UFT. The free program will include twice-weekly online exercise classes and healthy eating and cooking tips starting from January 26 (through March 5). Register through Eventbrite here.


Help with summonses from OATH

Many individuals or business owners who have received a summons from a City enforcement agency do not have an attorney. They can benefit from a free, neutral, one-on-one help session with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings’ (OATH) team of Procedural Justice Coordinators. These help sessions provide information about the hearing process, the options available, and answer questions. In order to schedule an appointment with one of these individuals, please use the OATH Help Center Online Contact Form or call (212) 436-0845.


Free MEND NYC mediation program

Free mediation and conflict resolution services are available from MEND NYC, launched by OATH with the partnership of the NYC Office of Nightlife, that addresses quality-of-life issues for residents like excessive sound, sidewalk obstruction, and trash and pests; lease renegotiations/renewals, and resolving rent arrears between commercial tenants and landlords; and business-to-business misunderstandings around crowds, trash, and use of space.

This program opens the lines of communication and compromise, establishing relationships that help neighbors and businesses co-exist peacefully while ensuring that small businesses thrive. The mediations are conducted by experienced, neutral third-party mediators.

Submit a request here or email MendNYC@oath.nyc.gov. Visit the MEND NYC website for more information.


Events that I know are happening:

Monday, 1/24 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm – Watch the New York African Chorus Ensemble’s 13th Annual NYC Multicultural Festival Virtual Edition. This year’s theme “The Healing,” highlights Italy with I Giullari di Piazza, South Italian Folk Music & Dance. Italian-born and award-winning percussionist, singer, dancer and actress Alessandra Belloni will perform.

Monday, 1/24 at 8:30 pm – District Attorney Alvin Bragg participates in a conversation with the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. Watch live on YouTube.

Tuesday, 1/25 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm – Planned Parenthood of Greater NY is hosting a de-escalation training led by the Center for Anti-Violence Education. This training will focus on de-escalation tactics, upstander strategies, and basic physical defense skills. RSVP here.

Thursday, 1/27 at 7 pm – my colleague Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell is hosting a virtual panel in recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, focused on Why Memory Matters. RSVP here or email odonnelld@nyassembly.gov. This timely discussion will address both how we can keep the stories of the Holocaust alive, and how we can fight hate and antisemitism in our world today. He will be joined by esteemed speakers and leaders, including:

Thursday, 1/27 from 4 to 6 pm – the NYC Department of Health is hosting a free Rat Academy Virtual Training. Learn about rat prevention methods.

Saturday, 1/29 from 11 am to 3 pm – CUNY Citizenship Now! Is holding a virtual Citizenship screening event. Constituents will be provided a private consultation in a confidential Zoom breakout room with legal staff and will be screened on their eligibility for citizenship. You must call for an appointment time slot in advance of 1/29: 646-664-9400 or 212-652-2071.

Sunday, 1/30 & Monday, 1/31 – Participate in DOROT’s Winter Package Delivery, which brings hundreds of older adults and volunteers together to share warmth and companionship. Join you neighbors and volunteer in Manhattan to deliver a thoughtful, seasonal care package and connect by phone with an older neighbor!

Wednesday, 2/2 from 4 pm to 5 pm – My office and the Citizens Committee for NYC are co-hosting an info session on community and small businesses grants. Community groups can receive up to $5K and grants for small business owners are for up to $10k. Email District6@council.nyc.gov to sign up.


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