Not only is indoor dining resuming tomorrow, Mayor de Blasio has declared outdoor dining here to stay. Love the latter. Confess to being a bit ambivalent on the former. We reached out to Ellie Davis, 24, who serves and bartends at a Midtown restaurant to get the scoop. We first chatted with Davis in July, when she advised our readers how to be respectful while dining out during the Covid pandemic.
It’s been over six months since Governor Cuomo originally ordered restaurants to close their doors. What’s the consensus among your coworkers about the return to indoor dining? Some of my coworkers are completely comfortable serving and don’t feel their health is at risk. Some of my coworkers have been financially strong-armed into returning. Unemployment assistance is low and unreliable. So while some of us are happy to be back, many of us have no choice.
For now, restaurants can only operate at 25% capacity — what exactly does that mean? From my perspective, 25% is a line that will be blurred. With masks off at tables and people moving freely through the restaurant, I almost think it’s kind of pointless to limit capacity. Everybody dining out right now is willingly exposing themselves, and I think that’s their right, so long as they are responsible with who they come into contact with in their daily lives. As for profit, even in a high-turnover establishment, operating at that limited of a capacity is a huge loss for everybody involved in providing the dining experience.
Is there a silver lining? My hope is that people will have a new respect for service workers and what we’re putting at risk for your experience — which pays our bills — and we are essential in our own way. We create environments for your celebrations and memories. You’ve missed us — don’t forget how much.
What would you like to say to guests? Some people are working under great duress. Some of us have buried our loved ones and dealt with depression and loneliness and hardship, just like you. Many of us lost health insurance. Some of us have no choice. Keep that in mind when you decide whether or not to go out to eat again (indoors). Be prepared to tip extra, wait longer and abide by rules you may not like.
In this new reality, what has been particularly trying? Outdoor dining is uncomfortable and hot and challenging for servers to maneuver, so why are you all bringing your dog? Enough of that, please, unless it’s a service animal.
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OUT & ABOUT
The New Yorker Festival: Yes, it’s virtual, but there is a seriously good speaker lineup: Jerry Seinfeld, AOC, Margaret Atwood, Anthony Fauci, Chris Rock. If you live in the five boroughs, you can order in a meal curated specially for the occasion by Harlem-based chefs Pierre Thiam and JJ Johnson. And what’s an event these days without a drive-in movie? The stateside premiere of Regina King’s directorial debut, “One Night in Miami,” will take place in Queens on October 11. The festival runs October 5-11. Learn more and reserve tickets.
Must love dogs: Next time you find yourself in the garment district, make sure you check out artist Will Kurtz’s colorful dog sculptures. The exhibit, “Doggy Bags,” features five canines (Maisy, a pug; Harriet, an English bulldog; Gomer, a bull mastiff; Daphne, a vizsla; and Stanley, a basset hound) made entirely out of recycled material, including single-use plastic bags. The work is showing on Broadway between 41st Street and 36th Street through November 20.
Local art: The Brooklyn Museum is hosting a pop-up market on Sundays through November 1. The market features items from over 20 local artisan vendors. Learn more.
Eat Burmese: While you can’t go more than a few city blocks without passing a Thai restaurant, it’s nearly impossible to find Burmese food in New York City (yes, we know about the Queens Night Market). Check out Yun Cafe & Asian Mart, right inside the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station. It’s only fitting that the restaurant is located in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the world. Our recommendations: try laphet thoke, a tangy, garlicky and complex salad featuring fermented tea leaves. Round out the meal with a bowl of mohinga — rice noodles in a hearty fish broth — the country’s national dish.
Broadway at the drive-in: The music of the night, indeed. Radial Park in Astoria will be screening musicals with live performances by Broadway actors, starting with “Phantom of the Opera” this Thursday, October 1, running through October 11. For those without cars, worry not: You can rent a picnic table. For a complete experience, there will be theater-style snacks available for purchase. Tickets start at $100 per vehicle or picnic table; reserve here.
SIGN UP FOR … THE UNMUTED
NYC schools are finally getting started, but they’re still a hot mess. After Mayor Bill de Blasio twice delayed the start of in-person classes, the situation continued to devolve. School administrators are at wits end, and on Sunday the executive board of their union cast a unanimous vote of no confidence against Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. We have a feeling if parents got to vote, the results would look pretty similar.
Even if NYC schools do manage to resume in-person learning on schedule — high schoolers are set to return this Thursday — it’s unclear how long that will last. In the past, de Blasio has said schools will close if the virus positivity reaches and stays at 3% over seven days. On Tuesday, New York City’s positivity rate was over 3%, a significant jump over a matter of days.
In other schools news, Carranza on Thursday said that information about applying to gifted programs and specialized middle and high schools won’t be available until next month — after the city initially promised to release them this summer. This may leave many students in a time crunch, as the current deadline to apply to high school is December 4.
Parents, we know your heads are spinning. That’s why we’re launching another newsletter, The Unmuted, which will focus on everything schools. It will be written by two veteran education journalists who are going to accompany and guide you on this journey. It’s launching on October 15. Make sure you get on the subscriber list. And please, let us know how we can best help.
GIVE & GET HELP
Wtf is going on with absentee ballots? Social media was alight last night with NYC residents sharing horror stories about issues regarding their absentee ballots. Worrisome, as not only is the election in 35 days (!!), but President Trump has been actively trying to discredit mail-in voting. Some users received ballots labeled “military.” Others had their ballots mailed to the wrong address.
Crystal Hudson, who lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, received a DM from a neighbor she had never met before informing her that his wife had received her absentee ballot. Which Hudson found puzzling, as she had just received her ballot in the mail. Upon further inspection, Hudson realized that her ballot envelope contained her mother’s ballot, her partner’s envelope contained a different neighbor’s ballot and her mother’s envelope — you probably guessed it — had another neighbor’s ballot in it. Hers was not an isolated incident — there have been reports of absentee ballot mix-ups throughout Brooklyn.
If this happens to you, the Board of Elections recommends calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC or reaching out via email at Apply4absentee@boe.nyc, but there have been reports of long wait times. Hudson contacted an attorney who is inquiring with the BOE. We will keep you updated on the matter, but make sure you read your absentee ballot closely to, you know, make sure it’s really yours. And just a reminder — should you change your mind about casting an absentee ballot and decide to vote in-person, that’s totally allowed!
It’s the Brooklyn way: Support South Brooklyn Mutual Aid by snapping up one of its (very cool) newly designed T-shirts. They are $25 each, and 100% of proceeds will go back into the community.
Covid-19 testing updates: With coronavirus cases on the rise again, the city is now offering free rapid coronavirus tests, with results available in less than 24 hours. NYC Health + Hospitals is also offering free mobile Covid and antibody testing throughout the five boroughs through October 2. Check mobile locations here.
Check in with your local mutual aid network: We have seen a lot of pleas from mutual aid networks and local food kitchens lately who are desperately in need of more funding and nonperishable goods. Consider donating if you have the means. La Jornada, for example, has been feeding about 7,000 families per week since Covid-19 lockdown measures started. The Flushing-based food pantry had its federal funding, which came from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, abruptly cut last week. In many ways, the city seems to be coming back to life, but food insecurity among residents is still on the rise. Find your local mutual aid network here.
School lunch: Students who are doing fully remote or blended learning will be able to pick up free breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. No registration or ID required. See locations.
Amplifying BIPOC voices: Amplify Library is an NYC-based project centered on the belief that anti-racist work should be rooted in community. As part of its mission, it’s installing tiny library boxes around the city filled with books by BIPOC authors. To donate books, stop by its Jackson Heights location (80-02 Northern Blvd., next to the community fridge) or Manhattan location (76 Mott St.). You can also ship books directly to: Amplify Library, PO Box 770856, Woodside, NY 11377.
A 3.5-hour drive from the city, the bucolic and cow-dotted hamlet of Bovina, New York, offers weary New Yorkers sick of gazing at their screens a chance to take in well-manicured farmland, mountains and glimpses of the Delaware River. If you are willing to put up with spotty internet and no cell phone service, and really and truly disconnect, this is the place and pace to try for a while.
We spent a week at the Birdhouse in Bovina, a rustic cabin from the 1850s filled with original art that’s run by a former club owner and escapee from the city. Set in the middle of 100 sprawling acres, the Birdhouse is close to the villages of Andes and Delhi, both of which offer great hiking, farmers markets and ample opportunities to try the produce from local farms and wares from resident crafters.
Over several days last week, we hiked the Bramley Mountain Trail, the Shavertown Trail, where we picnicked overlooking spectacular views of the Pepacton Reservoir, and spent an afternoon walking the gentle and historic Andes Rail Trial that begins at the charming abandoned Andes Railway Station. With the threat of coronavirus still looming, we mostly ate at home, but still ventured out for a few excellent meals. At the rightly famous Wayside Cider, we loved the house-brewed alcoholic ciders (try the Catskill and the Half Wild!) and the smoked trout. Among other great local finds were goat’s-milk-based cheese and yogurt and crocodile bread from Dirty Girl Farm, and succulent grilled octopus at Trattoria Locale, all the way out in Margaretville.
When you go, don’t forget to stop by the farm stands that offer you a pick of fresh apples, eggs, peppers and jams, and leave cash in the old-fashioned honor system method. —Meera Nair
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.
This week, we welcome Olena Jennings. Jennings is the author of the poetry collection “Songs From an Apartment” and the chapbook “Memory Project.” Her translation from Ukrainian of Iryna Shuvalova’s poetry collection, “Pray to the Empty Wells,” in collaboration with the author, was released in 2019 by Lost Horse Press. Her translation with Oksana Lutsyshyna of Artem Chekh’s “Absolute Zero” was released in 2020 by Glagoslav. Her novel “Temporary Shelter” is forthcoming from Cervena Barva. She is the founder and curator of the Poets of Queens reading series. Visit her website for more.
he stopped writing
and then he could only write
in the abstract
like the light off the trumpet
in the underpass
prisms of color
we stopped looking
in the mirror
instead finding our reflections
in puddles of water
but forgetting ourselves
finding ourselves only in groups
her baby on her back
during the revolution
because she trusted and wasn’t
aware of any danger
focused on togetherness
in our tracks
during the revolution
and someone would continue
our footprints like we asked once
for someone to breathe for us
during the revolution she stayed home
having lost her sense of taste
and what pained her most was the loss of touch
she couldn’t reach them
those who once folded into her arms
This newsletter was written by Danielle Hyams, with contributions from Meera Nair, Joy Resmovits and Alia Wong. 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.