photo: Nitin Mukul

Dear Neighbor,
We interrupt your attempts to get a vaccine with a very important reminder:


Besides the dozens (literally) of candidates for mayor, there are hundreds of candidates for City Council, borough president, comptroller, public advocate, among other big jobs. Because the future of New York City is in all of our hands, we really want to make sure we do all we can to help you make informed decisions.

In the meantime, the pandemic goes on and we’re in a race against time between the spread of new Covid variants and getting shots in arms. So starting next week, Epicenter will be adding a weekly newsletter that is more election focused (we’ll still occasionally throw in funky art, good hikes and the best momos, don’t worry) until the June 22 primary.

We’re able to do so thanks to URL Media, a Black and Brown network of which we are an inaugural member, and a grant from the Center for Cooperative Media. Felipe de la Hoz will be anchoring our coverage, and we’re thrilled to have him, his lens and smarts among us for the next few months. Epicenter Publisher and URL Media CEO S. Mitra Kalita asked him three questions to kick us off:
Mitra: Tell me your New York story.

Felipe: My New York story is that I first arrived in the city in 2013 to go to NYU after having been born in Colombia and lived in Mexico, Brazil, and exotic suburban Maryland. I started freelancing in college and have been a reporter here ever since, working for a year at Documented [also in the URL Media Network] and otherwise for several different publications. As of last year, I’m also a lecturer at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Mitra: Why should we care about the upcoming elections in NYC?

Felipe: The most important reason is that it’ll be the new leadership to guide the city through the fallout of the pandemic. While we’re still in the thick of it, even after we’re all vaccinated, there are going to be delicate, long-term social, economic, and health consequences to deal with, and who manages that crisis is crucially important.

Plus, this year’s elections are going to represent an even broader overhaul of city government than usual, as an abnormally large number of Council seats are open. It represents an opportunity for New Yorkers to set the political course of the city for the next decade.

Lastly, the NYC government handles a lot more than people might think, and tends to act as a model for the rest of the country. It’s not just cops and garbage collection, though those things are important. The NYC Care managed-care program for people without insurance, for example, is something that a city like New York can do because it has such a robust public hospital system, and is something that other municipalities have tried to emulate.

Mitra: What can we expect from you that’s different from so many other journalists covering this story right now?

Felipe: My approach will be one less focused on the who’s up/who’s down political coverage that you can find in mainstream political coverage, and more so on identifying and catering to constituencies whose voices tend to be less well-represented. The hope is to be very responsive to the readership — literally, in the sense that I want them to directly weigh in on the areas of focus. I will do a mix of analysis and reporting that will hope to represent issues and candidates in proper context.

You heard the man! Tell us what you want to see. Send us an email at

Ok, onto VACCINES. Here’s the deal:

As of this morning, New Yorkers over the age of 30 all qualify for the vaccine. Starting April 6, New Yorkers over the age of 16 are eligible. Some things to help:

How to register for a vaccine. Watch this instructional video from the Epicenter team. (And mark your calendars: We will hold another next Tuesday, April 6 at 8 p.m. on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.)

Make sure you have the right documentation. We await details on how NY will roll appointments out but some resources and recent coverage:

Walgreens says New Yorkers don’t need to show a doctor’s note — and other vaccine protocols

There also have been multiple reports of doctors’ notes requested at pharmacies even though New York State has repeatedly said self-attestation for an underlying illness is enough. At a pop-up at an independent pharmacy in Brooklyn on Sunday, four people were denied vaccines because they did not have required paperwork; two returned home to Queens and two waited until the end of the day and received leftover doses. A Queens restaurant worker was denied his vaccine recently at a pop-up clinic in Long Island City, despite having an IDNYC card, because the site wanted a license or other proof of New York State residency; he also had proof of employment.

Epicenter, which has registered thousands of people for vaccine appointments, has encountered these complaints regularly. In response, our volunteers created a public folder of documentation examples. This week, we asked the public relations departments of Walgreens and CVS to explain their protocols in New York State. Read the article here.
Have you run into the problem of a pharmacy denying you vaccine access because you provided self-attestation for an underlying illness and not a doctor’s note?  Our volunteers created this template for you to provide to the pharmacy. 

photo: Elena Tate

How to bring a vaccine pop-up to your neighborhood
Usually the term “pop-up” refers to something exceedingly trendy item that is only temporarily available. But in our new normal of the pandemic, the concept is being utilized to offer Covid-19 vaccines to vulnerable people who might not otherwise be able to access them.

Epicenter-NYC’s Elena Tate created this step-by-step guide for how you can bring a vaccine pop-up to your community.


This is an exciting time for Epicenter-NYC. 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. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to support the work we do? We accept donations to pay our vendors and freelancers. 



photo: @taleabeer

Visit NYC’s first women-owned brewery and taproom
As women’s history month comes to a close, consider a visit to Talea, the recently opened taproom by homebrewers Tara Hankinson and LeAnn Darland. Both women left corporate America to pursue their passion for brewing, with a focus on creating beers to be “easy to love,”  even to the non-beer drinker. The result? Fruit-forward low-bitterness beers like a raspberry gose and a tropicberry sour IPA. Talea opens at 8 a.m. seven days a week, serving coffee and tea in the morning, and is dog and kid friendly. Learn more and make reservations here.

photo: @xianfoods

Cook with Xi’an Famous Foods
The iconic restaurant chain’s president, Jason Wang, will be teaching aspiring chefs how to make Xi’an’s famous hand-ripped noodles and the special sauce that accompanies them. The virtual class, which is hosted by the 92nd Street Y, takes place tomorrow, March 31 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $20; reserve here.

A history lesson
Join Queens historian Jack Eichenbaum this Friday, April 2, at 8 p.m., for a virtual deep dive into the history of Flushing, Queens. The neighborhood is one the city’s most diverse and home to its largest Chinatown. RSVP.

photo: @veeray_da_dhaba

Chaat & Chai
This theme of food and beverage is unintentional this week but it’s fab. Join chef Binder Saini at his East Village restaurant, Veeray da Dhaba, for an in-person cooking class featuring Indian favorites chaat and chai. The classes take place on Saturdays and Sundays every other weekend at 1:30 p.m. and cost $35 per person. The next class is this Saturday, April 3. Call the restaurant at (212) 777-1420 to reserve your spot.



photo: @stop_asianhate

A neighbor in need
The Free Store Astoria seeks clothing and toys for a 2-year-old boy recently arrived from Ecuador. If you can help, send a direct message to its Instagram page.

Canned tuna, cooking oil, flour, sugar, coffee
These are high-need items at the Astoria Food Pantry. It is accept donations on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m. at 25-82 Steinway Street.

Stop Asian Hate
Join New Yorkers as they protest against anti-Asian hate crimes and racism tomorrow, March 31 at 12 p.m. at Queens Boulevard and 46th Street in Sunnyside, Queens.


Our sister newsletter is off this week for spring break (subscribe here) but some headlines for your fix: 

Here comes the money
New York City public schools could see some much-needed funding over the next three years if state lawmakers can agree on a $4.2 billion deal promised in the 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling. The court order required the state to prioritize millions in funding for schools through Foundation Aid, New York’s main source of school funding. Legislators have until Thursday, April 1 to make a decision.

Opt-in window booms
As of this past weekend, 25,000 families have signed up for in-person learning. The second (and final) window for remote students to return to classrooms ends Wednesday, April 7.

Attendance issues persist
The number of high-school students in classrooms last Tuesday was…underwhelming. While 55,000 families signed up, only 14,312 students showed. The New York City Department of Education releases attendance percentages from its public schools daily here but hasn’t responded to repeated calls to publish actual numbers.




Last week we sent you to the Bronx, and the previous week Rockaway Beach. In keeping with the spirit of exploring New York City, this week we’re sending you to Staten Island.

Travel via the Staten Island Ferry, which runs 24/7, free of charge. During the 25-minute ride, you’ll have great views of both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Pro tip: the ferry has wifi and a relaxed BYOB policy.

Just a short walk from the ferry terminals is “Postcards,” an outdoor sculpture by Masayuki Sono that honors the 274 Staten Island residents killed in the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

From there head to the National Lighthouse Museum, which is located on the grounds of the former U.S. Lighthouse Service “Super” Depot on the North Shore of Staten Island. Spend an hour or so learning about the history and purpose of lighthouses and those who watch over them.

We recommend enjoying the afternoon at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. Once a 19th century charitable rest home for sailors, the grounds have been converted into an arts center and public park, consisting of 14 distinct botanical gardens, wetlands and a two-acre urban farm.

photo: @newashasrilankanrestaurant

And of course, food. Staten Island is well known for its Italian cuisine, but did you know the borough is also home to a vibrant Sri Lankan population complete with a “Little Sri Lanka?” The area has drawn many foodies, including the late, great Anthony Bourdain. Our rec? Try New Asha for its reasonably priced roti and curries, the latter of which have been called “reason enough” to make the ferry commute.


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 Catherine B.

Catherine is one of the roughly 5,000 New Yorkers who have reached out to Epicenter-NYC for help scheduling their Covid-19 vaccine appointment. As a show of gratitude, the 73-year-old sent the volunteer who secured her an appointment a painting titled, “Girl in a row boat in spring.”

Catherine was born and raised in Paris, France, where she was a Montessori teacher and yoga instructor. She came to New York City in 1974 to study English and stayed for love, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen. Art is a hobby that provides Catherine great joy.

“I am grateful to the Epicenter volunteers and of course as  I am a retired senior citizen, I am vaccinated. Be safe.”

This newsletter was written by Danielle Hyams, Jade Stepenedy, S. Mitra Kalita and Elena Tate. Photographs and design by Nitin Mukul and editing by Robin Cabana. 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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