photo: Nitin Mukul

Dear Neighbor:


A recap since we last met:

– indoor dining is over (check out last week’s newsletter for ways to help the restaurant industry)
– the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use; NYC will receive roughly 72,000 doses of the vaccine, mainly for healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff, in the first shipment
– it’s Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate. (Still need your fix of latkes and matzo ball soup? Try Katz’s Deli’s Hanukkah dinner package.) Today also marks 10 days ’til Christmas.


If you love New York around the holidays and are feeling let down this year, lean into the spirit of the season. We’ve suggested some great local shops and marketplaces to find the perfect presents for your loved ones. Let’s not forget the neighbors, who might be more in need than ever. Here’s a list of local and citywide toy drives:


  • New York’s Statewide Toy Drive: Gov. Cuomo extended New York’s annual statewide holiday donation drive to this Friday, Dec. 18. In addition to new unwrapped toys, you can also donate coats and school supplies. Find a list of shipping and drop-off locations here.


  • Astoria Mutual Aid: The community organization is accepting toys until Thursday, Dec. 17 at the following locations:@rivercrestnyc (33-15 Ditmars Blvd.) Tuesday to Sunday, 3 to 11 p.m.@veronicasbar_36thave (34-04 36th Ave.) Tuesday to Sunday, 2 to 11 p.m.@astoriafoodpantry (28-14 Steinway St.) Tuesday, 6 to 8 p.m. and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.


  • Toys for Tots NYC: You can either virtually donate a toy or make a monetary contribution toward a Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan Toys for Tots organization. Learn more about making a donation here. You can give up until Christmas Day.


  • WCS Toy Drive at the Bronx Zoo: The Wildlife Conservation Society Toy Drive at the Bronx Zoo is accepting toy donations that have been purchased in their zoo or aquarium gift shops. Plus, every toy bought as a donation gets you a free voucher for one general admission ticket. You can make a donation until Dec. 31. Learn more here.


  • The John Theissen Children’s Foundation Toy Drive: Long Island radio stations WBAB and BLI are partnering with the John Theissen Children’s Foundation for their 29th annual Long Island Toy Drive. All toys donated will go to children within the borough. Find out where to send unwrapped gifts here.


  • Skaterobics “Let’s Roll for the Tots” Toy Drive: Skaterobics in Queens is holding its second holiday toy drive of the year on Sunday, Dec. 20 from 5 to 9 p.m. Toys will be given out on Monday, Dec. 21 by NYPD’s 103rd precinct during a sleigh ride through Queens. Buy tickets and learn more here.


  • Destined for Success & Flambé NYC Toy Drive: A children’s literacy program and a Brooklyn Caribbean restaurant are teaming up for their second annual toy drive. Each toy donated will go to the child of an incarcerated parent. You can drop off unwrapped gifts at Flambé NYC, 9007 Avenue A, Brooklyn until Dec. 25. For more information or to make a monetary donation, contact Destiny Jewel, the CEO & founder of Destined for Success, at @destinjewel on Instagram.


  • Bed-Stuy’s Winter Wonderland Holiday Market Toy Donation: The Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District is hosting a toy drive at the “Winter Wonderland” holiday market at Marcy Plaza. Anyone who brings a toy to Santa’s Village gets a free, contactless photo with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The drive will be open for its final weekend from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Sun. Dec. 20.


These organizations are taking monetary donations:


  • The Child Center of NY: Sponsor one of 3,500 children’s wish lists at the Child Center of NY with a donation this year. 100% of your donation will go toward purchasing a gift from a child’s wish list. Learn more and make a donation here.


  • The Family Center’s Gift Cards for Teens: Older kids may not write to Santa anymore, but they still love opening presents on Christmas morning. This year, the Family Center is taking gift card donations for their teen clients. Donate here.


If you’re in need of toys, here’s where you can get them:


  • Casa De Muñecas Med Spa: This Colombian beauty spa in Sunset Park is collaborating with other local businesses to hold a toy drive on Sun. Dec. 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. Children ages 2-12 can get a free toy with Santa and the Grinch at 53rd Street in Brooklyn. Unwrapped toy donations for the event will be accepted until Dec. 19.


  • The Society of St. Vincent de Paul: The Archdiocese of New York spans across multiple boroughs and helps low-income families, seniors, immigrants, and other communities. Fill out a contact form here.


If you’re in need of any other assistance, please call the NYC Clothing Bank referral line for resources at (718) 492-4015.


LOVELY READERS, this holiday season, all we ask is your help in growing this community by hitting forward on this newsletter, spreading cheer and the word about its existence in your networks. Ask folks to subscribe. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We also seek donations to pay our vendors and freelancers. 



photo: Nitin Mukul

Year of Uncertainty: An open call for artists-in-residence: The Queens Museum looking for artists to be part of its 12-month-long program, which is intended to bring together established and emerging artists, collectives, community organizations and specialists across disciplines in order to help the museum grow into a hub of research, collaboration and production. This experimental model will be centered around themes of care, repair, play, justice and the future. The deadline is Jan. 4. Apply to be an artist in residence.


Live music at MAD: The Museum of Arts and Design is hosting a series of live music performances to be enjoyed while visitors explore the various exhibits. Performances will take place on Saturdays between 2 and 5 p.m., with cellist Laura Metcalf and classical guitarist Rupert Boyd of Boyd Meets Girl on Dec. 19, Yulia Ziskel, first violinist of the New York Philharmonic on Dec. 26, and Lara St. John, international violin soloist on Jan. 2. Reserve tickets here.


photo: City Reliquary

Last-minute gifts, crafts and drag: Is there even a better combo? Get all three and support local artisans at the City Reliquary’s holiday bazaar at its location at 370 Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg this Sunday, Dec. 20, from 12 to 4 p.m.

A Conversation with the Queens Museum: Join Museum Director Sally Tallant and Nick Stillman of Prospect NOLA for a (virtual) as they discuss the upcoming 2021 triennial “Prospect 5 Yesterday we said tomorrow,” this Thursday, Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m. The exhibit, which will be displayed throughout the city, investigates how history informs the present, especially in relation to New Orleans, a city which is representative of many important issues and inequalities of our time. Register here.

Confetti wishes: Times Square won’t be hosting the usual New Year’s Eve revelers this year — but that won’t stop the ball from dropping or 2,000 pounds of confetti from being released. This year, the confetti will also contain notes bearing the hopes and wishes of people from around the world. To add your wish, visit the socially distant wishing wall, located in one of Times Square’s Broadway plazas between 42nd and 47th streets through Dec. 28. You can also submit a wish virtually.


photo: Industry City

Ice ice baby: Hit the rink at Industry City in Sunset Park and enjoy one of the iconic winter experiences available here in New York City. Tickets are $12 per person, and skate rental is $10. Purchase your tickets in advance here.


photo: Cameron Blaylock

Point of Action: Every year, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership selects an art installation to be displayed through the holidays. This year’s exhibit, “Point of Action,” was designed by the New York-based firm Studio Cooke John. “Point of Action” invites viewers to ponder the experience of seeing one another, as well as being seen, a particularly timely experience during this period of social distancing and isolation. “We are at a threshold during this pandemic. Now that our eyes have been opened to realities that have been with us all along, how do we move forward? My hope is that Point of Action makes people think about how we connect to the people we see every day so that we can move forward together,” said Nina Cooke John, founder of Studio Cooke John. The exhibit, which is on display through the end of the year, can be visited at the Flatiron Public Plazas on Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street.


Calling all Flatbush creatives: Flatbush Mixtape, a neighborhood coalition devoted to empowering its neighbors and providing mutual aid to the community, is gathering works of self-expression from the community in order to honor, amplify and celebrate shared lived experiences. The organization is collecting drawing, writing, photography, video performance pieces and other forms of self-expression through Friday, Dec. 18.  Learn more.


Our sister newsletter about schools, The Unmuted, is on winter break until next year. Anything you want our education reporter extraordinaire to answer in the meantime? Let us know!


#NYCOFFICEHOURS: Join Acting Deputy Chancellor Adrienne Austin and Senior Advisor for Public Health Dr. Jay Varma for a Q&A this Thursday, Dec. 17 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Come prepared with questions about Covid-19 testing or health and safety protocols in schools. Dial 1-800-280-9461 to join.


Learn more about elementary admissions: The Department of Education is hosting several virtual admissions events that will cover 3-K, pre-K, kindergarten and Gifted and Talented admissions. Check out the dates and register here. If your native language is Haitian Creole, register here.



photo: Nitin Mukul



Health insurance enrollment ends TODAY: If you need health coverage starting on Jan. 1, make sure to sign up for the Official Health Plan Marketplace and enroll by the end of the day. You can create an account on the New York State of Health website and get started here. Need help with the application or have questions? You can chat with a rep here or call the NYSH at 1-855-355-5777.


What does culture mean to you? The Brooklyn Public Library has released an art and society census that will help them determine new ways of sharing art and culture in public spaces that will serve the broadest collective possible. Based on its findings, the library will be hosting a series of free, public workshops about the changing role of the arts in public and personal life, and the most important cultural issues of our time. Fill out the census.


Give blood: Supplies are dangerously low, leading the New York Blood Center to put out an urgent call for healthy donors. Make an appointment to donate blood or find a mobile donation location here.


photo: @meganpiontkowski


A gift that gives: Local artist Megan Piontkowski is creating reusable totes from empty sacks of rice and beans from South Brooklyn Mutual Aid. The totes are ample-sized, at 14’ wide and 17’ tall. Each costs $25, with 100% of proceeds going to the mutual aid network. Order yours here.





Let it snow: As you’ve probably heard, a major snow storm is likely to hit the city this Wednesday, with the possibility of dumping more than a foot (!!) of snow on us. There’s always something exciting about the first snow storm, when even the cold seems tolerable in that magical holiday way, which seems to abruptly end on Jan. 1. Hence why for this week’s day trip, we recommend getting outside. Have you been to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve yet? With over 12,600 acres of water, salt marshes, fields and woods, the preserve makes for the perfect escape from the city that’s still … in the city — complete with a stunning view of Manhattan.



Kuldeep Singh, Rosa-Aquamarina Hybridata in Raag Kedar, oil on linen, 30 x 24 inches, 2020


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 artist Kuldeep Singh. Singh’s art practice is profoundly intensified through his decade-long and rigorous training in the Indian classical dance form of Odissi, its rich methodology of storytelling, gestures and myriad movement history, literature, along with an in-depth understanding of the human body. Its usage of Indian classical music and percussion additionally imparts a harvest of working knowledge of countless bygone generations.


Kuldeep Singh, Idolicus amorium, oil on canvas, 15.5 x 15  inches, 2019

All this provides Singh a thorough material and ground for deconstruction of components in immersive movement, while expanding the traditional sound design enmeshed with camp sound, engaging body politics layered with social anthropology. Into this he brings content from medieval Sanskrit literature (like the 2nd century AD Sanskrit dramaturgical tome – Nātyashāstra) and re-invented myths, incorporating to contemporary human situations. Pathos, confusion and wonder become the key emotive tones in my work, often leading to a hypnotic world charged with an undertone of sensuality and primitivism.

Kuldeep Singh, Combat of Love in Raag Tilang, oil on canvas, 28 x 24  inches, 2020

The Neo [queer] Rāgamāla paintings are a part of an ecosystem that integrates the emic approach to the study of South Asian music and visual art, along with immersive performance components – in finding inventive ways of representing queer male body, its limbs and parts to plural ecological elements. It aims at blurring the border between body, nature and eventually the spiritual itself. Thus questioning nature of the body, its genesis and defects, as well as systems of knowledge. The works bank on the historic rāgamāla paintings of courtly tradition of Central India (16th to 18th century CE, with their characteristic anthropomorphic representation of musical melodies along with abundant portrayal of nature) as an entry point. These new paintings eventually embody a contemporary interpretation of the concept, through a quasi-scientific trajectory with a social anthropologist’s quest.

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