Dear Neighbor,

As we’re sure you’ve heard, the Covid-19 vaccine is being administered in New York City. But what exactly does that mean for you?

Are you eligible? The first people to receive the vaccine were high-risk hospital workers in the communities hardest-hit by Covid, as well as nursing home and long-term care residents. That group is known as 1A.

The phase for the category known as 1B, which started yesterday, is much broader, and includes people 75 and older, first responders, corrections officers, teachers and school staff, in-person college instructors, childcare workers, grocery store employees, transit workers and those living and working in homeless shelters. That group, however, totals more than 4 million people, and New York only receives 300,000 doses per week from the federal government, meaning the wait could be more than three months. You can check your eligibility and schedule an appointment (they’re required at the moment) to receive the vaccine with New York’s “Am I Eligible” app.

photo: Calvin Sun

We spoke with emergency room physician Calvin Sun (who runs the very informative @monsoondiaries Instagram account) and epidemiologist Jonathan Epstein of the Jackson Heights Science Communication Initiative to better understand the rollout. What are your questions? We’re going to be keeping up with this for a while so let us know.

What is it like receiving the vaccine? 

CS: The only side effect I felt after the first dose was cautious joy and an indescribable feeling of relief. Most negative side effects occur after the second dose — headaches and chills — usually nine to 12 hours after the second dose. This is especially true if you had Covid before; the response is stronger, which is understandable — your old antibodies are reacting to the new antibodies. I had mild chills after the second dose that lasted about 12 hours.

Can you get the vaccine in another state? Say your parents live in a state where vaccines are more readily available to the general population. Should you travel there to get it?

JE: No. Vaccines are provided to each state for its own residents. NY state residents, when eligible, should use local locations to receive the vaccine. While it’s been bumpy getting vaccines out in NYC, they’re opening new vaccine centers all the time and it should get better.

Is it true that you can get vaccinated by standing around clinics at the end of the day and hoping they have doses they don’t want to throw away? 

JE: No. While there are rumors, this is not true.

My mom is under 75 and my dad is older than 75. Does this mean they have to be vaccinated separately? 

JE: Yes, they must each be eligible to get vaccinated.

How should you act after you receive the vaccination? Do you still have to wear a mask? 

CS: Still wear your mask, still isolate, still take precautions. You never know if you are an asymptomatic carrier. We don’t have enough data to know if the vaccine prevents spreading it. We don’t know if the mutations pose an additional risk in the future. The vaccine, while better than nothing may not offer complete coverage.

How does this second wave compare to when New York City was initially hit in March? 

CS: We’re seeing more patients than we did in the first wave but at a much slower and more tolerable rate.  It’s a very slow burning second wave, unlike what we are seeing in California. New York City has always been punched many times over since the World Trade Center bombing, Hurricane Sandy, 9/11 and the financial crisis, we are always in the crosshairs. We respond well after we get punched. We are so accustomed to being traumatized we respond very quickly. We all wore masks, we all looked out for one another, we believe in science.

We want to check in — how are healthcare workers holding up?

CS: How do you think we feel after being thrown into the fire without Kevlar or armor.  It’s been disheartening since March to not have enough PPE as a frontline healthcare worker. We’ve been so inundated with PTSD, so morally injured. You can compare it to lambs being led to slaughter, and we’re just expected to take care of the world when we still have $300,000 of student loans to pay off.

 It’s unconscionable that for years, the healthcare system was not able to adequately fund the way it was supposed to. Most of the funding has relied on elective surgeries and when you cut that flow of money because of a pandemic, the money dries up. And hospitals, in preparation for a pandemic instead of staffing more in preparation of war, they decide to furlough and let go of PAs, NPs, doctors and nurses because they had no more money to pay for them anymore. Those elective surgeries aren’t just going to bounce back.

DEAR READERS, please help us start off the new year strong 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: @nowandthencomedy

Sweden meets Queens: At long last, the borough’s residents no longer have to schlep to Red Hook to shop at what may be the Nordic country’s most famous export: IKEA. The smaller format version of the furniture and home accessory store — it’s just 115,000 square feet — will feature thousands of products available to purchase and take home, while larger items can be delivered for a flat fee. And yes, there’s a food court, because a plate of Swedish meatballs is reason enough for a visit. Learn more.

Now & Then Comedy: We could probably all use a reason to laugh. Join NYC comics (from Comedy Central, “The Tonight Show” and more) this Thursday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. for a live show — in compliance with New York Covid restrictions, of course. Yes it’s cold outside, but we hear there will be mulled wine for sale. Tickets are $10. Checkout the lineup and purchase your tickets here.

Raised Voices: Classic Speeches from Feminist Pioneers: On the eve of a historic inauguration that will see the first woman of color sworn in as vice president, join the New York Public Library for a (virtual) celebration of the power of citizenship, the struggle for equality and the value of a vote. The event, which will take place Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m., will feature climate activist Xiye Bastida, actress Stephanie Hsu, writer Jiayang Fan and several others. Advance registration required.

The Time is Now: Forward! Join Queens College President Frank H. Wu and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards — the first Black man to hold the position — this Sunday, Jan. 17 at 3 p.m. for a virtual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and his powerful legacy. The event will highlight King’s speech at Queens College in 1965 and feature virtual performances, special guests and a livestream discussion. Register here.

photo: @sendchinatownlove

All of the lights: While restaurants throughout the city have suffered greatly due to Covid — it’s estimated that at least 1000 have closed since March — those in Chinatown also had to deal with xenophobia (Remember Trump’s “China virus” comments?). Local business owners have partnered with the organization Send Chinatown Love to create the Light Up Chinatown project, to install permanent light fixtures and traditional lanterns throughout the neighborhood. Come admire the lights and support a small business by ordering takeout.

Community art: The Community Arts Series is a student-organized five week-long virtual arts festival featuring online performances each Saturday through Feb. 13. All proceeds raised will be donated to various community organizations working with Covid relief. Tickets are pay-what-you-wish, with a minimum donation of $5.

This week, our sister newsletter about schools, The Unmuted, dives into the process of high school admissions. It’s stressful enough without a pandemic. Have any specific questions?  Let us know!

What’s next for schools? Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are determined to keep some schools open for in-person learning until the end of the school year. Jay Varma, de Blasio’s chief health adviser and head of the city’s school Covid plan, isn’t worried about community spread, for now. If the prevalence of infection in schools remains the same as or below the city’s, we can look forward to a lull in the open-close drama.

Teachers now eligible for vaccines: Cuomo approved the next phase of the state’s vaccine rollout, Phase 1B, effective Jan. 10. Five new vaccination sites have opened specifically for city workers, including educators: Taft High School (Bronx), Wingate High School (Brooklyn), Brandeis High School (Manhattan), John Adams High School (Queens) and Susan Wagner High School (Staten Island). Also included in Phase 1B are people 75+, public safety personnel and transit workers.

Make that some teachers: Both the city and teachers union have said that in-person educators in 3K through fifth grade and special education will have vaccination priority. There have been two problems with that policy so far. First, there’s no way to enforce it. Second, some remote teachers claim the state has prompted them to make vaccination appointments. Those teachers are being told to go by the “honor system” and refrain from scheduling appointments. Eligible educators can sign-up for a vaccination appointment here.


Everything you need to know about Ranked Choice Voting: In case you missed it, we published a special edition Epicenter-NYC newsletter last Friday that covers the upcoming special election in Queens District 24 and goes in-depth on NYC’s new system of voting. Check it out here.

NYC Civic Impact Funding: Nonprofits and community-based organizations involved in helping NYC residents during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic can apply for a one-time grant of up to $10,000 from the NYC Civil Impact Fund. Applications close this Friday, Jan 15 at 5 p.m. Learn more and begin the application here.

North Brooklyn Essentials: This new initiative from North Brooklyn Mutual Aid dedicated to helping unhoused neighbors living under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and elsewhere. Follow its Instagram page for ways to get involved.


photo: @groundsforsculpture

Grounds for Sculpture: It’s hard to get outside when it’s cold, we know. But the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton should be your exception to the rule. Located on what used to be the New Jersey state fairgrounds, the outdoor museum showcases over 300 sculptures married with nature across 42 acres of land. We guarantee that the artwork will distract you from the near-freezing temperatures.

Essential to your experience are the gardens, complete with over 100 species of trees and an abundance of other exotic plants and flowers. Fitting for the season is a Winter Garden, complete with Edgeworthia, Winterhazel and more.

While we encourage you to bring your family and friends of all ages, don’t be afraid to explore the exhibits alone. The earliest time slot is 10 a.m. Go early-ish and spend a peaceful morning immersed in art and nature – you deserve it.

If you want to grab a bite to eat, GFS has two French eateries: Rat’s Restaurant (named after the character in Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”) and Van Gogh Café. Before you book your trip, know that Rat’s is closed until the 15th and you’ll have to make a reservation before you arrive.

The Grounds are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Covid restrictions require buying tickets ahead of time. The good news: tickets are discounted at $10 until the end of March. Get them here. You can buy them up to two weeks in advance.


James Cullinane, Storm Tossed Banner, 2016, Ink and acrylic on paper on two wood panels, 32″ x 56″
James Cullinane, Bush Baby, 2015, Ink on paper, 39″ x 39″

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 James Cullinane, a visual artist and poet based in Jackson Heights. Cullinane received his BFA from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science in 1979. His work has been exhibited locally and nationally. In 2001 he was a resident at the Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI, a participant in the 2002 Artists in the Marketplace 22, Emerging Artist Program, at The Bronx Museum and in 2004 he was a resident at the Spaces World Artist Program in Cleveland, OH. He lives and maintains his studio in New York City.

James Cullinane, Border, 2017, Ink and acrylic on panel, 4 panels 24″ x 48″

Cullinane is interested in pattern as a product of process. In his works, “geometry and pattern are built up patiently until the edifice begins to topple…until process is built on top of process without concern for appearance of the thing. Then and only then after lying on wait for weeks or months, can you hope to escape down the labyrinthine path that geometry has created. A painting may begin to form if it’s not wrecked or compromised along the way.”

Cullinane is also the author of “Found a Little Jawbone,” a chapbook of poetry published in 2015 by soundBarn press ( )

Dies Irae

The passengerless jets descend toward the stricken city in slow arcs through the cloudless

cerulean sky.

Does the silent plague take 200 more today?

Do souls fly?

Does the Verdi I play

from the 8th floor drift toward

the reefer trailers outside Elmhurst Hospital

stacked with corpses gone viral?

Here in immigrant working class Queens

where even the handrail of the 7 train

is a death grip.

Kyrie Eleison.

Protect my child

for death is everywhere as

cardinals sing full throated

and magnolias bloom lushly

through the pestilent hush.

This is the empty Spring of a wounded Earth

as dolphins cavort in Venetian canals

now that the gondolas are gone.

This is the Spring of surgical masks

and daffodils and washing our hands

of all of it.

(NYC March 2020)

See more of his work on his Instagram page and website.

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