Sa’dia Rehman, Cut Away, 2020, cutout watercolor paper on black velvet

Dear Neighbor,

The US presidential election is in 56 days. That’s soon. Here’s what you need to know to get your voting plan together:

It takes five minutes to register to voteThe deadline is Oct. 9.

The scoop on absentee ballots

How: You can request an absentee ballot here, email your request to or call 866-VOTE-NYC. Absentee ballot requests must be completed by Oct. 27, or Nov. 2 if filing in person, but as with all things voting, the earlier the better.

When: The Board of Elections will begin sending out absentee ballots on Sept. 18 on a rolling basis. You must send in your absentee ballot by Nov. 3, and it must be received by Nov. 10. You can also drop off your absentee ballot early at your local poll site or Board of Elections office, which will help you bypass the postal service saga gripping the country and avoid crowds.

Why: When asked to list your reason for requesting an absentee ballot, select “temporary illness or disability,” which covers the risk of Covid-19.

But… If you request an absentee ballot and change your mind and decide to vote in person, that’s OK, too.

Bonus: The NYC Board of Elections recently introduced a new program to track your absentee ballot.

What’s the deal with early voting? Early voting is really about convenience: Avoid long lines, weather issues, stress, that sort of thing. Anybody in NYC can cast their ballot early, from Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. Find your early voting location here.

The poll worker predicament: To operate, polling stations must be staffed by poll workers. In the 2016 election, of the 900,000-plus poll workers, roughly half of them were over the age of 60. This age group is more vulnerable to coronavirus, leading many would-be poll workers to sit out this election for safety reasons. Now there is a nationwide shortage, and officials are scrambling. An inadequate number of poll workers can lead to long lines, chaos and even the shuttering of polling stations in certain neighborhoods.

What do poll workers do? A little bit of everything: They set up and close down polling places, check in voters, make sure voting machines are working, distribute those lovely “I voted” stickers, ensure social distancing measures are being followed and just generally keep Election Day running smoothly.

What you can do: Become a poll worker! You will get trained, be paid — up to $2,800 for 10 days — and depending on your employer, get paid time off. You must be a registered voter, unless you are working as a translator. You will truly be performing a vital civic duty.

Please help us grow this community by hitting forward on this newsletter, spreading word about its existence in your networks and asking folks to subscribe. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We also seek donations to pay our vendors and freelancers. 

Photo: Queens Perennial


Honor lives lost: This Friday marks the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which claimed the lives of over 2,600 New Yorkers. The 9/11 Memorial Museum will reopen on Friday for family members of victims, and the following day to the public. The museum is also offering live virtual tours, which cost $25 per household. Tickets for in-person visits must be reserved in advance.

Where art and tech collide: Located in the boiler room space under the Chelsea Market, Artechouse NYC is dedicated to experiential multimedia art exhibits. The space, which reopened last week, is currently featuring “Intangible Forms,” a multisensory exhibit by Japanese artist Shohei Fujimoto. Book your ticket here.

Local flowers: Queens Perennial has partnered with local immigrant-owned Luna Family Farm to create a CSA just for flowers. For the next five weeks, customers can pick up their bouquets in Astoria for a total of $75. The first delivery will be on September 16. We love seeing local businesses come together! Sign up.

The life of Audre Lorde: The 92nd Street Y is celebrating the life of self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde, in honor of the release of her posthumously published volume of poetry, “The Selected Works of Audre Lorde.” Editor Roxane Gay will join Mahogany L. Browne, Saeed Jones and Porsha Olayiwola for a virtual discussion about Lorde’s life and legacy this Thursday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15; reserve in advance.

A delightful internet rabbit hole: What did your building look like in 1940? Between 1939 and 1941, the Works Progress Administration and the New York City Department of Taxation collected photos of every building throughout the five boroughs. The NYC Municipal Archives digitized the photos in 2018, and software engineer and NYC resident Julien Boilen created this interactive map. It’s fascinating: Look up your apartment, your favorite bar or your local supermarket to see how much (or little) your neighborhood has changed over the last 80 years.

A Chinatown food crawl: Last month, we wrote about how businesses in New York City’s many Chinatowns were suffering financially due to Covid-19 fallout. One of the organizations we spoke with, Send Chinatown Love, created a food crawl in Manhattan’s Chinatown, which runs through September. The self-guided experience highlights 13 unique restaurants, bakeries and cafes. Download the map here.

A reason to go to Times Square: For the rest of September, Times Square Arts will be featuring an exhibit by Brooklyn-born artist Kambui Olujimi. In his work “In Your Absence the Skies Are All the Same,” Olujimi combines footage of skies from all over the world to create a central kaleidoscopic image. The work speaks to a universal longing for human connection in a time of distance and shifting possibilities, which is something we can probably all relate to right now. To see the exhibit, you’ve gotta go to Times Square at midnight. Learn more.

Chelsea Flea is back: The vintage market is reopening this weekend for in-person shopping at its West 25th Street location every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The market is also accepting applications for new vendors.

Courtesy Angelina Harper’s Facebook page


We were floored by the response to our idea of a schools-related newsletter. You all seem to want one! Stay tuned and keep letting us know what you’d like to see. While we’re ramping it up, we offer this section to help prep for the return to school, whether that’s IRL or virtual. We turned to an especially crafty mom (she fixes computers, bakes cakes, tailors clothing and upholsters furniture) for advice. Veronica DuBoise’s two children attend a charter school in Queens and are fully remote from their home in East Elmhurst. Her tips:

  • I got them secondhand desks so each has their own space.
  • I put them in separate rooms so they can’t hear each other.
  • I bought noise-canceling headphones.

  • I made a Google sheet with all of their classes by hour and then made each one linkable so they just have to click on the time and login — without searching.

Then I sent a Google doc to each of my kids and printed it out and put it up on the desk so that they know what’s next without searching through Google Classroom.

  • Because space is tight, I also picked up dry-erase boards so my kids can do calculations/notes without having too much paper and clutter in their space.
  • If people don’t have the space for a desk, they can use a trifold poster board to create a space with a calendar and a few file folders taped into it. Kids can decorate their area and maybe that will let them feel they have some control over their learning space. Then when the day is over, you can just close it up and put it away.

Thanks, Veronica!

A few other items on our back-to-school list:

Besides offering better lighting, this webcam reduces background noise.

Teachers or instructors facing larger groups of pupils might want to consider a voice amplifier. The mic can tuck under your mask and the speaker can be clipped or hang around your neck. No more muffled projecting!

And planners. Some kids must write things down to make them real. We also bought some old-school 12-month family calendars to put up around the house to share important dates and milestones.

If you make a purchase via any of the links above, Epicenter receives revenue to support our freelancers and vendors.

NYCB in George Balanchine’s “Serenade”, photo: dancersofnycb


A back-to-school swap: Have a bunch of old clothing, shoes and books lying around? Brooklyn nonprofit Town Square is hosting a swap this Saturday, Sept. 12, from 12 to 3 p.m. Bring what you can, take what you need; everything left will be donated to a Bowery Residents’ Committee shelter. See the Facebook event for details.

Support the ballet: The city’s arts scene and artists have been decimated by coronavirus safety measures. With one of the New York City Ballet’s biggest moneymakers — “The Nutcracker” — canceled, and the ballet itself not planning to return until 2021, dancers are struggling. In response, they started a fundraiser to help sustain themselves until they can return to the stage. Support them here.

Low-cost health care available in all five boroughs: NYC Care, which offers no- and low-cost services to New Yorkers regardless of their immigration status, has expanded into Manhattan and Queens. There are no monthly fees or premiums; users pay a reduced rate for the care they receive based on their family size and income. To apply, call 646-NYC-CARE. All languages are spoken, and confidentiality is guaranteed. The ability of a program like this to be successful hinges on outreach and letting people know of its existence. Even if you’re not eligible, spread the word to those who you think might be. Learn more.

Winter gear wanted: Yep, it’s almost that time of the year again. Astoria Mutual Aid Network and the People’s Bodega are hosting a winter gear drive, this Friday, Sept. 11, at 6 p.m. at the Shillelagh Tavern at 47-22 30th Avenue. Live music by the Astoria Music Collective.


A beach day in Little Odessa: The year 2020 may feel cruelly long, but that hasn’t stopped summer, as it always does, from flying by. The beaches are sure to be crowded the next few weeks, while we city dwellers soak up as much sun as we can, as if somehow we can store the vitamin D for the uncertain winter that lies ahead. Brighton Beach, however, never gets as much attention as trendier strips of coast, like Rockaway, Coney Island and Jones. The commute is easy, albeit a bit long depending on where you start your journey. Just get on the Q or B train and ride, and ride.

No need to schlep snacks, as Brighton Beach, also known as Little Odessa for its heavily former Soviet population, is a culinary haven. Pop into Tashkent Supermarket, just off the subway, its namesake Uzbekistan’s capital, and select from the endless array of premade salads (and samosas and khachapuri and desserts and …), which make for the perfect beach picnic.

Let’s be honest, New York City doesn’t boast world-class swimming beaches. What Brighton can offer you instead is the feeling of being transported abroad. Russian is the language of choice, and you’ll often find that signage is in Cyrillic. Stroll the boardwalk and relish in the excellent people watching. Sit down for a meal before heading home; your options are endless. Tatiana’s on the boardwalk is iconic, gaudy, endearingly ’90s and the place to see and be seen. For something a bit more out of the way, there is Kashkar Cafe, an Uzbeki-Uighur restaurant specializing in hand-pulled lagman noodles with a liberal BYOB policy.


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

Even the Persians are now Showing Signs of Demanding a Constitutional Government, 2019, velvet, Islamic prayer mats, artist’s and artist’s sister’s jeans on gessoed drop cloth, 90 x 59 inches (Photo credit: Grace E Bowen)
Flower Girl and Fallen Man, 2016, charcoal, white paint and ink, 101 x 96 inches, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

This week, we welcome Sa’dia Rehman. Rehman’s work explores how contemporary and historical images communicate, consolidate and contest ideas about race, power and gender. Through techniques such as wall drawing, cutouts and assemblage, Rehman pulls apart and puts together images from family photographs, historical records and mass media to interrogate their resonances.

Rehman has presented her work at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Columbus Museum, Kentler International Drawing Space and Queens Museum. She has been awarded residencies at the Abrons Arts Center, NARS Foundation, Edward Albee Foundation, Byrdcliffe Woodstock, Vermont Studio Center, Rasquache Residency, Artists Summer Institute/Lower Manhattan Cultural Council & Creative Capital and AIM Bronx Museum of Arts. Check out more of Rehman’s work on her Instagram and website.


This newsletter was written by Danielle Hyams. Photographs and design by Nitin Mukul and editing by Robin Cabana and Faye Chiu. Did you like it or find it useful? Tell a friend to sign up. Support our vendors, freelancers and efforts by making a donation to our tip jar.

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