July 14, 2020

The threat of eviction looms over New York City. There’s no sugarcoating the bottom line from a lot of folks we talked to this week. 

From food insecurity to a housing crisis: As Covid-19 hit New York City, Thahitun Mariam saw her neighbors in the Bronx suffering. They needed help with unemployment forms, burial costs and, most importantly, groceries to feed their families.

“It’s a bit crazy to me that we’re living in New York, and people are worried about if they are going to be able to afford food,” she told us.

Building on 15 years as a community organizer, Mariam, 29, began helping people individually. She created a Facebook group where community members post volunteer opportunities, fundraisers and extra clothing they want to donate. As demand grew, she streamlined the process by creating a mutual aid network. Working with organizations such as the Gambian Youth Organization and the Bangladesh Academy of Fine Arts, Mariam set up distribution centers in the Bronx where people could come get groceries and other household necessities.

But now: People can’t make rent, so Bronx Mutual Aid plans to switch to a model of smaller financial grants, favoring undocumented families and those unable to receive any government aid. The group welcomes donations to meet a $100,000 goal. 

“I think mutual aid is so important in these moments of vulnerability for a community,” Mariam said, “because then we are able to just really care for one another.”

That’s a message we can get behind — and it’s at the core of this network we hope to build, too. Please help us grow efforts and ask your friends and neighbors to subscribe
 

Your impact: TheSt. Mark’s food pantry in Jackson Heights, Queens reported giving out 239 grocery bags this past weekend. And a cardiologist offers masks: “We would love to donate 100 N95-grade, reusable (can be laundered and reused up to five times) masks.” Any takers? Write to us and we can connect you to her. 

How to deal with your landlord: Arm yourself with knowledge if you feel at risk of being evicted. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins Jamaal Bowman, the presumptive nominee in a nearby congressional seat, and organizers from Housing Justice for All in a virtual workshop covering defense strategies to avoid eviction on Wednesday, July 15, at 7 p.m. Sign up.

WILD RIDE

We asked for your questions and concerns about riding the subways (we still welcome them) as safety and comfort seem a key part of returning to work, school or play. Derrick Richard, whose Twitter feed trumps garbled subway announcements and helps us get where we need to go, provided answers. 

Epicenter: How do you protect yourself from the eventuality that you might be stepping into a subway car where someone might have coughed or sneezed recently? Or what if someone sneezes or coughs in your vicinity and you can’t really walk out?

Richard: Make sure before going on the train that you use gloves and have a mask on. I’ve seen some people having a piece of paper towel or napkin and you can wrap it around the train pole to hold on. Also carry hand sanitizer and once you leave the train, use the hand sanitizer to sanitize your hands.

Epicenter: Let’s talk capacity. In a large elevator you have floor markings. Will they do similar things for subway cars? Is there a maximum capacity to watch out for?

Richard: At some stations around the city, there are floor markings that are 6 feet apart telling passengers to social distance from one another on the platform. If a train car is too crowded, you can go to the next train car or wait for the next train that would be less crowded. The best way to avoid being on a crowded subway car is to ride during the off-peak hours. That’s 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

GET AND GIVE HELP

We are not OK. The Asian American Federation is sponsoring two programs for the community to help connect and process everything, including losing loved ones and dealing with racism. Tickets are a pay-what-you-want donation. The Grief, Gratitude, & Courage Gathering is on July 14;  Storytelling & Movement is on July 23.

It’s quiet Midtown. The release of the film version of “Hamilton” made us miss Broadway and wonder how casts and crews cope as shows remain dark. The Actor’s Fund is fielding donations. And Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has launched a Covid-19 Emergency Assistance Fund. An actor currently on furlough adds two ways to help: “Political advocacy for extending the extra $600 a week unemployment would go a long way toward helping Broadway actors, crew, etc. from going under financially.” And he asks we support artists as they host podcasts, pivot to teach camps and classes in yoga, theater and dance. 

All dressed up to stay in: Starting Saturday, July 18, the Metropolitan Opera will begin live streaming recitals from around the world, kicking off with Jonas Kaufmann in Bavaria. The performances will feature popular material and some of Met Opera’s biggest stars. Plus, it’s a great excuse to break out the formal wear. Tickets are $20. Check out the schedule to buy tickets.

Dancing for a cause: The Fire Island Dance Festival, which raises money for the fight against AIDS, is going virtual for the first time in its 26-year history this Friday, July 17. The festival features numbers by tap dancer Ayodele Casel and Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet member Christopher D’Ariano (both of whom happen to be Bronxites). The festival is free (donations accepted). You must register in advance. 

OUT & ABOUT

Locavore: Coronavirus triggered a wave of self-reliance: bread, vegetable gardens and more. Consider going next level with “Wildman” Steve Brill, who has led foraging tours in New York City for nearly three decades. 

City parks are full of edibles: hairy bittercress (spicy), chickweed (tastes like corn on the cob), daylilies (garlicky) and dozens more. His next tour is Saturday, July 18, in Central Park. Suggested donation is $20 per adult and $10 per child. Here’s the schedule.

Pasta on the patio: Beloved (and woman-owned) Italian restaurant Lilia has reopened for outdoor dining in Williamsburg. You can’t go wrong with the focaccia and the mafaldini with pink peppercorns is transcendent. Hours: Café open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner served Wednesday through Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations can be a bit hard to come by. Pro tip: log on at 10 a.m. to the restaurant’s website to book 30 days out.

 

HOUSE CALLS

You can’t cut your own hair forever. Entrepreneurs are banking on that — and changing their business models. Here are three pros ready to serve you in the comfort and safety (if you wear a mask, go outside or open windows, limit conversation) of your own home.

Hair! Not the musical: A mask might cover the ‘stache but that unibrow… Hope wants to come to your rescue. She has 16 years of experience as a wax technician and is making house calls around the city. She offers customers a personal wax kit to keep things extra sanitary at no additional charge (just mention Epicenter). Email her for pricing and appointments.  

Also the hair on your head: Let master barber David Abad come to you. Haircuts in your home range from $70 to $100, depending on where you live. Check out his work on Instagram and call (646) 322-3771 to make an appointment.

Overdue for a massage: Human touch. Stress relief. Need we say more? Tony’s a traveling masseuse with expertise in Chinese massage and cupping. Call him at (347) 493-9918 for more info and rates.

Are you a small business now making house calls? We’d love to hear about it (and your safety protocols, too) and help you get the word out. Email us.

LEARN

What the news means: Understand how health insurance works during the double whammy of a pandemic and joblessness. How can foreign students avoid deportation if their universities shift to online learning? Make sense of recent headlines with profound policy implications. March for Science NYC hosts a virtual panel of experts and community organizers every Tuesday at 6 p.m. Check out the schedule and sign up.

Back to school? The situation remains fluid. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says before schools can begin in-person learning, their region must be in Phase IV of reopening and have a daily infection rate of 5% or lower over a 14-day average. The NYC Department of Education says classroom learning will be limited to one to three days per week. Parents can opt their kids into an all-virtual routine. Sign-up for remote-only learning opens Wednesday, July 15, and closes August 7. Learn more. And feel free to ask us your questions or share concerns as you’re deciding. Email us at hello@epicenter-nyc.com.

DAY TRIP

Sumathi Reddy, of Forest Hills, writes: 

As trails in popular Cold Spring and Beacon closed temporarily from Covid-19, we discovered a new local gem: Harriman State Park. Spread over Rockland and Orange counties, Harriman is vast, with sparkling lakes, more than 200 miles of rugged trails and even a few beaches. This is real hiking so watch out for bears, snakes and various other critters. Download hikes on the AllTrails app so you can track your path. There may be parking restrictions in place so get there early, and if you dare to park on the side of the street you might come back to a ticket. Three favorites:

Bald Rocks Shelter via Kanawauke Road: This is an out-and-back trail, about 2.7 miles round trip. Rather than a straight ascent, it’s up and down and rocky with lots of exposed rock that gives it a Mars-like appearance. You know you’re near the end when you see a shelter on the right (apparently closed now due to bear sightings!). Fewer crowds on this one.

Reeves Brook Trail: There is a long and short version of this, and we did the short version, a 2.7-mile out-and-back that follows a lovely stream and small waterfall into the forest and ends with a straight-up, vertical scramble for the rock climber in you. The reward is a sweet mountain-top view. This trail is very popular and the parking lot fills up early so try it on a weekday if you can.

Sterling Lake Loop: For a less intense hike try the 4-mile loop around lovely Sterling Lake. Go counterclockwise. About halfway around out you will hit the shoreline. Signs warn not to swim (ignored if it’s hot). A little beyond the shoreline you will see large rocks jutting out. Bushwhack to them and you have found yourself the perfect lunch or snack spot. This one is popular so arrive in the morning if you want to snag a parking spot. 

Side trip: Head to Bellvale Farms Creamery in nearby Warwick for a post-hike treat.

LAST WORD

We want to see, hear, feel, support your art and response to this moment. To submit a poem, short story, artwork, photograph or any shareable experience, email us at hello@epicenter.com.

 

This week, we welcome Bruce E. Whitacre, for his poem “Station Square,” recently published on North of Oxford. His work has appeared in Cagibi, HIV Here and Now by Indolent Books, Poets Wear Prada and World Literature Today.  He holds an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is an activist and advocate for the arts and social justice.  Check out his website and follow him on Instagram, where he publishes a daily haiku.
 

Station Square


I will walk to Station Square

Though I won’t take the train

Or check out new cocktails at the bar.

I won’t worry about departures or arrivals,

Weather delays or locked waiting rooms.

I haven’t looked at a schedule for weeks.

Tickets crumple in my pocket.

The trackside trees are leafing out without me.

The funny man who pees all the time

Is no longer a comfort station customer.

The pushy lady who grabs the first seat

Must now roll easily from kitchen chair to couch,

I suppose. 

We gaze at screens, not out the windows

Of the empty trains passing by without us

Through a region frozen in emergency,

Of seething hospitals and blinded shops.

Trains clack over the heads of parents juggling children

And accounts unaided and without success:

Too much out of reach; too much passed them by;

Too many cash-earners gone.

Their losses will pull the spikes from all our rails,

Knock the train from the trestle,

And there will be nothing to wait for

Coming round the bend.

I turn back down the silent streets

And walk home from Station Square.




This newsletter was assembled by Danielle Hyams, S. Mitra Kalita, Nitin Mukul, Sumathi Reddy and Derrick Richard. Did you like it or find it useful? Tell a friend to sign up here. Support our vendors, freelancers and efforts by making a donation to our tip jar.