Photo by Nitin Mukul for Epicenter-NYC

Dear Neighbor,
We’re officially one year old! And oh, what a year it’s been. More on that in a letter from our publisher, S. Mitra Kalita. In honor of our birthday, we launched a membership program that will help sustain our ambitions, which include things like visiting artist fellowships, book and movie clubs, deeper neighborhood coverage and more resources in different formats for folks trying to navigate schools, healthcare and other institutions.

Support us by becoming one of the following:

  • NeighborThis membership level includes weekly virtual yoga for $4.99/month.
  • FriendThis membership level includes weekly virtual yoga, plus the donation of an insulated tote bag to a local food pantry for $9.99/month.
  • AuntieThis membership level includes the above, plus your choice of one of our curated tours of New York City for $299/year.

Join our community here.

Photo by Nitin Mukul for Epicenter-NYC

It’s not summer without a trip to the Queens Night Market. Epicenter co-founders and market regulars S. Mitra Kalita and Nitin Mukul share their tips:

Book in advance.
Currently the market, which runs through October, is requiring timed-entry tickets that must be booked in advance for $5 per person (children under 12 are free).

Go early.
This was the first year we did the Queens Night Market … in the daytime. We got tickets for 4 p.m., hoping to beat the lines. It was still crowded, but an unexpected benefit was being able to see our food, more easily find vendors and each other. We always have young children with us and we felt way more relaxed about them roaming about this year. (Pro tip: Dress the kids in bright colors, easier to find.)

Photo by Nitin Mukul for Epicenter-NYC

Try the places with no line.
We made a beeline for the familiar — but so did everyone else. After growing weary, we decided serendipity might serve us best. And that’s how a Flushing bagel shop’s hot pot became our favorite find. Oh, Bagel’s market debut offers an array of fish cakes, several types of mushrooms, kelp, broccoli and other vegetables soaked in broth; definitely ask for a dash of hot oil and cilantro on top. Bonus: Most of the items are just $1 per skewer. About those lines, going in big groups can help you divide and conquer — and share bites of each other’s food.

Change is inevitable.
There’s no more tea leaf salad. Let us know if things change in subsequent weeks and Burmese Bites brings this back. The Burmese stall always has one of the longest lines at the market and opening night was no exception. But this year, there was no tea leaf salad so we tried the keema palata and noodle salad instead. We were initially sad, but then remembered we have tea leaf salad closer to home. As we told you in September, Yun Cafe & Asian Mart, right inside the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station.

Photo by Nitin Mukul for Epicenter-NYC

Take the train.
We did find parking on the street right across from the New York Hall of Science, but our friends circled the lot for several minutes before squeezing into a questionable spot.

Timed entry doesn’t seem that strict.
We received a wristband when we arrived for our designated time (4 till 5:30), but overstayed till after 6 with no problems.

Know before you go.
Despite what we said about letting serendipity take over, do glance at the impressive list of vendors.

Eat dessert first.
Sam’s Fried Ice Cream greeted us upon entry. There was no line so we thought why not? The fried green tea ice cream is a pretty warm welcome.

Photo by Nitin Mukul for Epicenter-NYC

The people getting vaccinated now tell us what took so long

By Katherine Tam

Epicenter’s Katherine Tam recently attended a Juneteenth vaccination event where she spoke with people about their decision to get vaccinated. Here’s what some of them said:

  • At least two people said they want to travel again. One woman said she and her family want to travel upstate for the summer. Another man said he’s now retired, so he and his wife would like to go to Antigua for their wedding anniversary.
  • A teenage girl came in with her mother, who tells me that if her daughter was going to experience any side effects from her vaccination, they would prefer that her daughter deal with them now during the summer so that her daughter can get ready to return to school for in-person learning this fall.
Photo by Nitin Mukul for Epicenter-NYC
  • Another reason we hear over and over: More people have finally been convinced by family members and loved ones to get vaccinated. Several people mentioned that they saw how a loved one had previously been vaccinated. Another person said he had a talk with his mother, who was already vaccinated and finally convinced him to begin his vaccinations. One man also said that he decided to get vaccinated because his son had Covid-19; he has since recovered from it.
  • It might take weeks to convince people — but it’s possible. For months, there was a woman who kept visiting the vaccination clinic, but she wouldn’t get vaccinated, a CHN organizer told me. Then one day, while that organizer was doing check-ins, she looked up and saw that same woman looking at her: she decided it was time to begin her vaccinations. The other CHN organizer also noticed that they’re increasingly getting more walk-in visits. “We’ll keep coming here as long as the church asks us to,” he said.

Read the complete article here.

Keep reading for:

  • A review of the Brazilian film, “Bacurau,” which our critic describes as an eccentric mix of Western, horror and sci-fi genres
  • Stand-up comedy classes
  • A discussion on global vaccine apartheid
  • A day-trip guide to Governors Island

Lovely readers, please help us grow our community:

At your leisure … 

Every week, neighbor and acclaimed author Radha Vatsal will be providing her recommendations for what to read and watch throughout the summer. 


I’m drawn to films that challenge my view of the world and show me things I never knew or thought of before. Bacurau from Brazil does exactly that, and is unlike any other movie I’ve seen recently. At the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, co-directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Julian Dornelles described it as their protest against Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s right-wing president. “Brazil right now does feel like a dystopia in many, many everyday aspects,” Mendonça said. Although the project was in development for ten years, after Bolsonaro’s election, “it was almost like reality was catching up with the script.”

The film opens in a dusty, remote town, Bacurau, whose residents suddenly notice that the town’s name no longer appears on Google Maps. Then the town’s matriarch dies. Out of the blue, drones seem to be flying through the bleak landscape, cell phones stop working, and a group of foreigners show up. They appear to be hunters, but they’re not hunting game… they’re hunting the townspeople. They decide to fight back.

The cast of characters include a tough doctor played by the Brazilian star, Sônia Braga, and a villainous politician, Tony Jr. Part Western, part horror film, and part sci-fi, Bacurau is a weird and absorbing parable about political corruption, power and what happens in Brazil’s hinterlands. Or, as the Guardian review puts it, “It is a really strange film, beginning in a kind of ethno-anthropology and documentary style, becoming a poisoned-herd parable or fever dream and then a Jacobean-style bloodbath. It is an utterly distinctive film-making, executed with ruthless clarity and force.”

Bacurau is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel and can also be rented on Amazon for $3.99.


Photo of April Matthis by Josephine Caldwell. Photo courtesy of April Matthis.

The mayoral primary is … today. Need a last-minute refresher on ranked-choice voting? Check out our latest podcast for everything you need to know. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for our next episode, which features our publisher, S. Mitra Kalita, speaking with actor April Matthis about how she coped with the changes brought on by Covid-19 and what she thinks the future of theater in New York City looks like.


It’s primary day
Don’t know where your poll site is? Find it here. And, a word from our politics reporter, Felipe De La Hoz: “Everyone should remember that results reported in real time are unofficial and that this election won’t be decided on first count, as elections generally are!”

Dine at Les Halles
The French brasserie made famous by Anthony Bourdain may have closed in 2016, but it’s resurrecting some of its most popular dishes for a weekend-long popup event from July 9 through July 11. Reservations for the $96 three-course prix-fixe meal will go on sale on this Thursday, June 24, at 10 a.m. The event is meant to celebrate Bourdain’s life and legacy, and in honor of that, a donation will be made to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The Fight Continues
The city’s famous pride parade takes place this Sunday, June 27. This year’s Grand Marshals are Wilson Cruz, Ceyenne Doroshow, Menaka Guruswamy, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis and Aaron Rose Philip. The broadcast will air on ABC-7 from 12 to 3 p.m. and can also be viewed at

Ever thought about becoming a comedian?
Now’s your chance to test out those jokes: Q.E.D, a woman-owned venue in Astoria, is hosting a four-week comedy workshop taught by veteran comedian Carole Montgomery. The course will cover the basics, including how to come up with material and getting comfortable on stage. It will take place on Monday evenings throughout August, and can be attended in-person or virtually. The cost is $250; get tickets here.

Prospect Park: My Oasis in Brooklyn
Now through November you can view the work of Jamel Shabazz outside Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park. The Brooklyn-born photographer is recognized for his street photography throughout the city, particularly in the 1980s. The exhibit is the result of a partnership between the Prospect Park Alliance and Photoville. Learn more.

EBTB seasoning coming to LIC
If you know, you know. For everyone else, that’s “everything but the bagel” season, one of Trader Joe’s cult favorites. The beloved supermarket is opening a Long Island City outpost this Friday, June 25, at 22-43 Jackson Ave.

The Fresh Kids of Bel-Air
We’ve got to give credit where it’s due. Bel Aire diner in Astoria has been putting on great events since Covid-19 hit and it transformed its parking lot into a drive-in. This Thursday, June 24, six New York-based musicians will be performing a night of 90s hits. A full bar and menu will be available. Tickets start at $25. Learn more and RSVP here.

Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Resists
This public history project tells the story of how Black Brooklynites have responded in the face of systemic racism throughout generations. An outdoor exhibit will be on display at the Center for Brooklyn History through late September, located at the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton Streets. An online exhibit explores Brooklynites’ history of putting their bodies on the line to value Black lives, starting in the 1600s during Dutch rule. There will also be virtual events and panels, such as “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Black Lives Matter, the Pandemic, and the Future,” a discussion with historian Johanna Fernández, activist Zenat Begum and New York State Senator Jabari Brisport, moderated by The Intercept’s Akela Lacy on Wednesday, July 30. Register here.


Global Covid-19 vaccine apartheid
Join Elmhurst Global Health Institute and partners for a discussion on vaccine apartheid, using the Covid-19 response in Kenya as a case study. The session will take place Friday, June 25, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and cover the global implications of vaccine disparity and how you can advocate for more equity. RSVP.

Small business recovery grants
New York has launched an $800 million grant program to help small businesses — those with fewer than 100 employees — recover from pandemic-inflicted losses. Businesses that received money from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund are not eligible. Those that received loans of $100,000 or less through the Paycheck Protection Program are eligible. See a complete list of requirements and apply here. The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation is also providing application assistance. You can fill out this brief survey and schedule a time to speak with an expert.

Sign up for our education-focused newsletter, The Unmuted, here

Absent Teacher Reserve is here to stay
ATR is a group of educators without permanent positions — like substitute teachers — who are eligible for full benefits. The Department of Education (DOE) is trying to shrink the pool — they cost New York City about $136 million in 2018. Its latest effort included giving members year-long assignments during the pandemic –– and making them permanent. Parents are concerned over ATR members having low teaching ratings by principals. Still, the reserve is a safety net for the DOE during teacher shortages. Principals also have the option to remove permanently placed teachers, giving others an incentive to remain and join the group.

Last week of school
This school year was … a lot. But, we’re almost at the finish line. This summer, the schools section of Epicenter will run occasionally. If you haven’t already, subscribe to The Unmuted to keep up with us over the break.


Governors Island 

An island getaway just a 10-minutes ferry ride from the city? Sign us up! While it may be best known for its annual music festival (which takes place in September with headliners Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky and Post Malone, tickets here), the former military base has so much more to offer visitors.

Stop by the Arts Center at Governors Island, which recently reopened to the public with two large-scale, site-specific solo exhibitions by artists Meg Webster and Onyedika Chuke. Free timed-entry tickets must be booked in advance.

If you go on a weekend, be sure to visit Shantell Martin’s The May Room, a space dedicated to reflection, meditation and community, while aspiring urban farmers will enjoy GrowNYC’s 21,000-square-foot urban farm, which boasts vegetable beds made from recycled material, a high tunnel greenhouse, a rain garden and more.

The 172-acre car-free island also has seven miles of bike trails. You can bring your own or rent from Citi Bike or Blazing Saddles — the latter offers visitors the chance to borrow a bike for free for up to one hour on weekdays between 10 a.m. and noon. Those who just want to relax can head to hammock grove. We cannot overstate how relaxing hammocks are — a rarity in the city!

Food and drink options are aplenty. Taco Vista has been getting rave reviews from visitors, and we are big fans of Island Oyster for something a bit more upscale. Wherever you choose to eat, you are guaranteed unrivaled views of the city and Lady Liberty.

And as always, we leave you with an ice cream rec: Malai. The Brooklyn-based ice cream company focuses on South Asian ingredients (think lemon cardamom, sweet roti and ghee) and will exclusively be selling its ice cream bars on Governors Island this summer.


Cathy O’Keefe, Pink, mixed media monotype on canvas board, 10″ x 8″. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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.  If your work is selected, you will receive a $100 stipend and become part of our growing network of artists.

This week we welcome Cathy O’ Keefe. O’Keefe is an abstract expressionist painter who works primarily in oils, acrylics, and mixed media. She was born in Connecticut and raised there and in New York City. She first became interested in art as a child and created illustrations, paintings and sculptures as a teenager and young adult. Subsequently, O’Keefe worked as a technical writer for 20 years, returning to her first love, art, in 2012.

Sailing, mixed media monotype on paper, 10” x 8”. Photo courtesy of the artist Cathy O’Keefe.

She has taken courses at the Art Students League, Pratt, among other institutions, but is mainly self-taught. O’Keefe exhibits in galleries and other venues in the U.S., and her work is on public display in several non-profit organizations focused on social justice and mental health. She also produced a painting on commission for Yale University.

Fire in the Sky, acrylic on linen, 4” x 6”. Photo courtesy of the artist Cathy O’Keefe.

“I create with a mixture of abandon and focus. I choose my colors, knives, and brushes carefully before I start to paint. I then make marks, strokes, and drips, and let the painting emerge. I let it speak to me. Eventually, I work toward bringing the elements together into a cohesive, joyful whole.

Balloon, mixed media monotype on paper, 8.5″ x 11″. Photo courtesy of the artist Cathy O’Keefe.

I have a long history with oil paint. I love the silence I feel inside while painting. The paintings themselves seem to call out with dynamism and a variety of emotions. I appreciate that people who view my paintings all see, feel, and think something different.”

You can see more of her work on her website and instagram.

This newsletter was written by Danielle Hyams, Katherine Tam, S. Mitra Kalita, Nitin Mukul and Jade Stepeney. 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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