photo: Nitin Mukul

Dear Neighbor,

Andrew Cuomo’s survival? We’re more worried about yours. (Although the two are linked, we concede.)

For months, Epicenter-NYC has been scheduling neighbors for vaccines. If you know anyone in need, please have them fill in this form or email us.

More New Yorkers qualify and, thankfully, there are more slots than ever. Yet the need is greater too and we’re in a race against time on new variants of Covid. (Please double mask!) A Byzantine system — multiple portals, city and state sites with conflicting qualifications, confusing rules around documentation — greets the elderly, restaurant workers, disabled and others who might not have time to hit refresh refresh refresh.

We’re here to help. The secret of our sudden scale and efficiency are our volunteers, whose love of New York City and sense of purpose is inspiring. You’ll meet some soon.

But as promised, we start with a focus on YOU. So Epicenter-NYC writer Jade Stepeney spoke with seniors across Queens to see how it’s going. Her full story here. Excerpt:

photo: Stephanie Nechamkin

On the same day Stephanie Nechamkin got her Covid vaccine, her husband died.

Bronx-born and Queens-bred, Nechamkin is 70 years old. Her husband had dementia and she lived in fear of getting him sick. “There was no question,” she said. “I knew if I got it and he got it, it would be worse for him.”

She got her first dose at 12:30 p.m., got home by 2:30. At 3:30, he passed. She was able to be with him.

“I loved him a lot. He was an art therapist. I’m surrounded by his work and his presence.”

Her life advice: “I know that we’re going to get through this. If you can Zoom, do it. There is support out there.”


Kirsten Cunha

Speaking of support, we asked our volunteers a little more about themselves. They are “the real heart of the Epicenter” and you can read more here. Just one heartbreaking yet uplifting example:

Why I volunteer: My sister was on a ventilator for nine days in November with Covid. My dad was diagnosed with Covid on January 21 (just days before his vaccine appointment). He died on Valentine’s Day. That’s me and him, pictured above. The vaccine came too late for my dad (and for so many others). I want to do everything I can to help get the vaccine into as many arms as possible. Making all these appointments has been cathartic and comforting as I wade through my grief.

Vaccine strategy: I keep all the sites open on my screen and I relentlessly refresh. You have to be patient. I like the challenge of trying to schedule for people who can only do it on certain days or times.  It is very satisfying when that appointment finally pops up!

Favorite NYC spot:  Peak fall leaf season in Central Park.

More of our volunteers and their vaccine strategies (i.e. why they never take the first appointment that shows up) here.

We also want to give a special shout out to the NYU Studio 20 team for winning second place (first in our hearts) in the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s student competition for their work with us highlighting small businesses in Jackson Heights, Queens.

We also want to thank Squared Away, the virtual assistant service we use (and love), for donating hours to our volunteer efforts. Janelle Zagala has been keeping our spreadsheets, and so much else, sorted in between booking vaccine appointments.

DEAR READERS, please help us grow our 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: @kaws


WHAT PARTY: The Brooklyn Museum last week unveiled a new exhibition featuring the work of  KAWS. The Brooklyn-based artist, born Brian Donnelly, is known for his iconic cartoonish figures and creating pieces that bridge art, pop culture and commerce. The exhibit, “KAWS: WHAT PARTY,” runs through Sept. 5. Learn more and purchase tickets here.

Listen and meditate:  St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Jackson Heights hosts a weekly poetry reading and meditation event, the Red Door Series, every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Each week a different poet reads a single poem followed by a 10-minute meditation, followed by a second reading of the same poem. Tomorrow, Queens-based poet K.C. Trommer will read her poem, “Epicenter,” in honor of more than 500,000 American lives lost to Covid-19. You can participate in the Red Door Series in-person at the church, or join via its Facebook stream.

photo: @eastvillagewalls

Onward: That’s the (very fitting) name of a year of the ox-themed mural by artist BKFoxx in Chinatown. To visit, head to Dr. Sun Yat Middle School on the corner of Eldrige and Hester Streets. Consider dining at or ordering takeout from one of the neighborhood’s countless eateries while you’re there.

Grab your favorite snacks: Remember what it feels like to watch movies on the big screen? New York City theaters can officially reopen this Friday, March 5, at 25% capacity.

Youth Mayoral Forum: Teens Take Charge is hosting a conversation with the city’s next generation of voters and mayoral hopefuls Diane Morales, Kathyrn Garcia, Maya Wiley, Eric Adams, Paperboy Prince, Carlos Menchaca, Scott Stringer and Shaun Donovan this Thursday, March 4 at 5 p.m. Register here. Unable to attend? You can still submit a question.



photo: Nitin Mukul

Help for small businesses: Small businesses have suffered greatly during the pandemic and many have been unable to secure Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. In order to rectify that, loans will only be given to small businesses with fewer than 20 employees and sole proprietors now through March 9. If that applies to you, learn more and get matched with a lender here.

Keep the streets open: Covid-19 fundamentally changed the way New Yorkers eat out. With indoor dining banned for many months, restaurants were allowed to utilize sidewalks and streets to create outdoor dining areas. This initiative allowed restaurants to stay afloat and diners loved it, leading Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare that outdoor dining would become a permanent fixture in NYC. The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council is currently fundraising for the spring 2021 season of Open Streets. Is that your hood or one you enjoy dining out in? Consider contributing to its GoFundMe campaign. 

photo: @swma_nyc

Tortillas and peanut butter: Sunnyside and Woodside Mutual Aid are holding a non-perishable donation drive this Saturday, March 6, on 45th Street between Skillman Avenue and 43 Avenue in Queens. Its wish list includes: rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, tortillas, peanut butter, canned veggies, baby food and reusable bags.

Device drive: South Brooklyn Mutual Aid and Nurture BK are collecting new and used computers, tablets and phones for New York City students. You can drop off devices at the Southeast corner of Prospect Park at Ocean Avenue and Parkside Avenue this Sunday, March 7, from 8:30 to 11 a.m.


Make sure you are subscribed to our sister newsletter covering everything education, The Unmuted.

Richard Carranza is out: The city is pretty shocked. The NYC Schools Chancellor announced his resignation last week after three years of serving on the state’s Board of Education. The catalyst for this abrupt step down? Ongoing disagreements between Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio on school desegregation policies (yes, in 2021) and learning during Covid-19. Carranza came into his role dedicated to integrating classrooms to make them look like our city. Still, our public schools remain among the most segregated in the country. His resignation will be effective March 15.

Meisha Ross Porter is in: Porter will be the first Black woman to hold the title of NYC Schools Chancellor. Her tenure in education began as a teacher at the Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice, becoming the principal years later. Next was regional superintendent for Bronx District 11. Finally, it was Carranza who appointed Porter as one of the city’s executive superintendents. Oh, and she’s a South Jamaica native. She assumes the position on March 15.



Sol Lewitt wall painting, photo: Nitin Mukul

Back before the comparatively recent Mass MoCA Museum in North Adams put the Berkshires and Western New England on the museum destination map, there was the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. It has been there since 1844, making it the oldest continually operating museum in the United States.  An athenaeum by definition denotes an institution more akin to a library for literary or scientific study, so the Wad, as locals call it, by name can be easy to miss if you’re not aware of it. When I lived in Massachusetts, a record-breaking crowd was drawn there by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1989 show, “The Perfect Moment,” a flashpoint for attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts. Due to the exhibition including some homoerotic imagery, it was banned at the Corcoran Gallery in DC and led to the arrest of a museum director in Cincinatti on charges of obscenity.

Ali Banisadr, photo: Nitin Mukul

For the first time since then, I made a stop there last week to catch a show by the painter Ali Banisadr, an Iranian-born artist based in Brooklyn. I’m a big fan, and he hasn’t had a show in NYC since 2017. The show included selections from the museum’s collection that relate to his work. That collection is extremely impressive ranging from some of the best works of Salvador Dali outside Spain or St. Petersburg, to signature works from the Hudson River School.

A Yayoi Kusama was spotted, photo: Nitin Mukul

I was surprised to see one of the best single Sol Lewitt installations, rivaling his labyrinthine installation up at Mass MoCA. If you’re headed that way, make a pit stop for the famous ‘apizza’ spots in New Haven like Frank Pepe’s or Sally’s Apizza.

-Nitin Mukul



photo: @claireolivergallery

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.

Love Letters For Harlem: Claire Oliver curated this exhibit at her Harlem gallery as a way to highlight the neighborhood’s unique qualities and spirit of resilience through photographs. “Love Letters For Harlem” runs through March 27 and features the work of four local photographers, Shawn W. WalkerRuben Natal-San MiguelJeffrey Henson Scales and John Pinderhughes. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Salem United Methodist Church on 129th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, which serves more than 1,200 meals daily. Due to Covid-19 measures, visiting is by appointment only.



This newsletter was written by S. Mitra Kalita, Jade Stepeney and Danielle Hyams. It’s designed by Nitin Mukul and edited 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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