Dear Neighbor,

Teachers have been vaccine eligible for almost three months. And 65,000 of them have gotten vaccinated so far. Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending the two-case rule (meaning schools must shut down if they have that many Covid cases).

But we aren’t out of the woods yet.

Epicenter-NYC writer Jade Stepeney spoke with Ryan, a sixth-grade teacher at an independent school for students with language-based learning disabilities in Manhattan, about his vaccine experience. He discussed what it’s like teaching during the pandemic and why, at the center of it all, students’ and teachers’ well-being is paramount.

Ryan didn’t think twice about getting the vaccine. He booked his vaccine appointments through TurboVax, although not his first option. He tried going through official channels, but…

“It was difficult to navigate the government systems,” he said. (Tell us about it!)

It took a few tries for an appointment to stick. Ryan’s first two appointments, at the Javits Center and Bellevue Hospital, were canceled. Then, on March 3, teachers and school staff became eligible at pharmacies nationwide. His school said scheduling during work hours wouldn’t be a problem.

Ryan got his first Moderna shot the week later at a Duane Reade in Manhattan.

What was the verdict? 

“I was impressed,” he said. “They checked for documentation, I got the shot, and waited for 15 minutes.”

Tip: If you’re a teacher or school staff member getting vaccinated anywhere, be sure to bring your school ID and a piece of mail from the school with your current address. 

Staggered appointment times meant no line. Ryan was in and out in less than half an hour. Any side effects?

“I felt fine,” he said. “I went to the gym after [my appointment] and had a workout.” He may have overdone it, though. He was exhausted that evening, with a super sore arm. His second dose is tomorrow.

Ryan knew what to expect when getting his vaccine. Transitioning to remote learning? A whole different story. Read more here.

photo: Elena Tate

A garden grows in Brooklyn

Once a vacant lot strewn with syringes and trash, the space was transformed by neighbors into 6/15 Green, a garden that brightens South Park Slope with blossoms and a sense of community.

Nitza Wagoner, a garden member since 1992, created the Children’s Garden, which she describes as “a comfortable plot where adults can sit near the Ornamental Cherry Tree which provides shade for the kids and an atmosphere where children indulge in digging the soil and potting in two raised beds.” Wagoner also is the founder of the Open Air Gallery Project, which has provided 13 visiting artists with a platform to install their artwork and interact with the community during the annual Spring and Fall Festivals.

Hans Arrieta joined the garden when his son was born. “By age 2 he was planting carrots, tomatoes and kale. He always eats his vegetables because he is very proud of growing them.” The lush green zone also reminds him of his native Costa Rica right in the middle of New York City.

photo: Elena Tate

Stumbling upon the garden on an ordinary day, an unsuspecting visitor might be surprised to find such an idyllic patch of land in the middle of Brooklyn. They might encounter:

  • students reading under the willow tree
  • a yogi meditating by the fish pond
  • neighbors dropping off their compost
  • gardeners pruning rose bushes
  • children making mud pies.

The scene invokes Li Young Lee’s poem “From Blossoms”: “There are days we live / as if death were nowhere / in the background…”

Then there are days like last year, days of a pandemic spring, when we lived with death always upon us. Blossoms bloomed, but it was not the same. The garden’s open hours turned into closed hours. Morning glories entwined around a locked gate. Group projects had to be done individually. The great weeping willow wept for a grieving city.

photo: Elena Tate


…seeds were still planted, flowers still grew, butterflies still pollinated and vegetables still sown. There was even a new initiative to grow food to donate to neighbors affected by the crisis, distributed by South Brooklyn Mutual Aid. The Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Gardens land trust ensures that 6/15 Green and its four sister gardens will remain community gardens in perpetuity.

Now, with the end of the pandemic in sight, 6/15 Green is reopening, welcoming all to smell the roses again (through face masks). Artists are encouraged to submit work for consideration of display at the next festival; there are opportunities to become members, too. For more information on visiting, joining or showing artwork at 6/15 Green, please visit its website. 

                                                                                      —Elena Tate


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. 

Need help booking a vaccine? Join our livestream of tips and tricks tonight at 8 across our social channels. 


photo: @rutaoaxacamex

Hole mole
Corny, but we had to. We are super excited to see new restaurants opening, including Ruta Oaxaca Mexican Cuisine in Astoria, which based on the rave reviews is already becoming a neighborhood favorite. The restaurant highlights the world-famous cuisine of the southern Mexican state, Oaxaca, including rich moles, ceviche and  cochinita pibil — traditional slow roasted pork cooked in a banana leaf.

photo: @thetinycupboard

Rooftop comedy
The Tiny Cupboard is hosting live comedy shows in Brooklyn six days a week. Catch a performance indoors or outdoors. Prices range from free and donation-based to $10. Check out line-ups, locations and buy tickets here.

Slow art
This week, art institutes around the world  will celebrate the 11th annual Slow Art Day. The global event has a simple mission: help more people discover for themselves the joy of looking at and loving art. Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights is the only NYC location to be presenting Slow Art Day. The community is invited to come to the Plaza from 3 to 6 p.m. and view a small number of works on their own, followed by a group discussion of the viewing experience.

Get spacey
The Rose Center for Earth and Space will host “Worlds Beyond Earth,” an audio-visual experience of the cosmos. The Space Theater is wheelchair accessible. Translations are available in Chinese, Italian, German, French, Spanish and Japanese. Showtimes are every half hour from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets must be reserved online in advance.

Hello, Broadway
Live performance is back, baby! This Rooftop Concert series will feature live performances in NoHo by Broadway artists Ana Villafañe on Friday, April 16 and Bradley Gibson on Saturday, April 17. Shows are 16+ and masks are required. Single tickets are not available for purchase, so find a friend (or three) and buy them here.

Wear your seatbelt
A Million More: Stories by Seatbelt Survivors is an interactive initiative by Volvo Cars USA and Fotografiska New York. The project features portraits and recordings of survivors of car accidents, saved by the seat belt. Experience the exhibition here.


photo: @ihollagram


Join Main Street Patrol
This female-led initiative, started in Februaryprotects the Flushing, Queens community from anti-Asian racism through civilian patrol. Teams of three to four people are assigned routes in Downtown Flushing where they are ready to apply the 5D’s of bystander intervention: Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, and Direct. Main Street Patrol is also looking for remote help with community outreach, content creation , and graphic design Sign up to volunteer here.

Bystander intervention training
Speaking of, for those who are interested in learning more about bystander intervention, Hollerback!, a nonprofit working to end harassment, is offering several free training sessions this month focused on stopping anti-Asian harassment and xenophobia. The next is this Wednesday, April 7, from 3 to 4 p.m. Sign up.

photo: @cafemaddycab

Stay safe
We love how New Yorkers come together to help each other out in times of need. In response to the horrific uptick in anti-Asian crimes, food blogger Madeline Park started @cafemaddycab, an initiative that will cover the cost of Uber and Lyft rides up to $40 for Asian women, elders and those in the LGBTQ community. Learn more.

Pop-up food & essentials pantry
South Queens Women’s March is hosting a pop-up food pantry at the Sikh Cultural Society (95-30 118th Street in Richmond Hill) this Saturday, April 10, at 1 p.m. until supplies run out. There will be groceries, face masks, hand sanitizers, menstrual/period products, cultural clothing, coats and travel blankets; bring a cart.



Epicenter-NYC partners with Queens Memory, a community archiving program supported by Queens Public Library and the Queens College Library, to share its Covid-19 project. For the past year, Queens Memory has been collecting personal stories about life during the pandemic.

The stories gathered will become a testament to the struggles and resiliency of the World’s Borough. Submissions will become part of the Queens Memory digital collections at Queens Public Library and the Queens College Library and will be shared through the Urban Archive platform.

Do you have a connection to the borough and a story to share? We want to hear it. Submit yours here.


Juan Valerio

“One day maybe 10 years back I found this bike shop, Hospital de Bicicletas, when I got a flat coming back from Flushing Meadows Park. In fact there are a few around there but this was the one I stumbled on. It became a hidden treasure to a gringo like me. These guys are no nonsense, do most jobs on the sidewalk, and for most part do it as soon as you get there. They got me from a flat tire to back on the road in a few minutes, like a pit stop for the delivery set, which represents a significant chunk of their clients. The professionalism, lack of any pretension and absurdly reasonable rates felt like they were doing me a solid anytime I went, despite not being an insider at all. The few friends I brought there were grateful also. I found out a few days ago that one of the mechanics, Juan Valerio, passed away due to Coronavirus. According to this article he was a former mechanic for the Mexican Olympic cycling team. This felt like a personal loss not only because it’s a great bike shop but even more because it really represents the ethos of Jackson Heights and so many here at the epicenter who are keeping things going. I hope the shop is still around once the pandemic is behind us.”

                                                                            —Nitin Mukul, Spring 2020


No more two-case rule
Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending the two-case rule for New York City public schools. Schools had to shut their doors for 10 days if two positive cases were detected. A replacement rule will come in the following days to prevent classroom disruption, a common complaint among students, teachers and families.

UFT pushing back
De Blasio’s decision didn’t land well with the teacher’s union. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew said in a press release Monday, “the city can’t change the two-case rule without Albany’s approval…Any change to the two-case rule has to take the safety of children and their families into account, not the mayor’s need for a Monday morning announcement.”

Pre-K application deadline extended
Families have until Monday, April 19, to enroll their 4-year-olds in Pre-K. Learn more and apply here. Questions? Call NYC Public Schools at 718-935-2009.


photo: @shirleychisholmstatepark


A landfill makes for an unlikely place for a park. But rising from the ashes of two landfills lies Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, named after the Brooklyn-born woman who was the first African-American Congresswoman and the first woman to run for U.S. President. The massive park in southeast Brooklyn consists of more than 10 miles of undulating, gravel trails through a stark landscape of tall, prairie grass bordered by Jamaica Bay’s sparkling waters. Picnic tables and chairs dot the park, which includes two piers. A seasonal bike library loans bikes out or bring your own. There are two parking areas, one at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the other at 950 Fountain Avenue.

Photo: Sumathi Reddy

Pitstop: After a leisurely walk through Shirley Chisholm, drive or bike the less than two miles to the new family-run TriniJam Roti Bar & Grill. The pandemic-borne bar and restaurant features a mix of Trinidadian and Jamaican food (homage to the native countries of the couple who owns it). The menu includes jerk chicken grilled right on the sidewalk, goat curry, and doubles, a popular street food from Trinidad and Tobago consisting of flatbreads filled with a spiced chickpea curry. Get the mango salad if you like spice and the avocado salad if you don’t. The fruit punch has a ginger kick and the bar serves up tropical drinks. Trinijam is located at 9501 Flatlands Avenue in Canarsie, Brooklyn.



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.

Wait Around 5 (Falling), acrylic/graphite/colored pencil/hand-painted collage on paper, 24″ x 18″, 2020

This week we welcome Carla Lobmier. Lobmier has lived and worked in Jackson Heights, Queens since 2000. She received BFA degrees (Painting/Art History) from Eastern Illinois University and her MFA (Painting/Drawing) from University of Illinois. In 1999, she was awarded an APEX ART residency and moved to New York City. Solo exhibitions include “Love Letter (to Light),” Memphis, TN, “Dirt, rock and far views,” Langston Hughes Center, Not so fast, Resobox Gallery and site-specific installations, “Scrolling Confluence” and “Supernova”, Mid-Manhattan Library. Ragged Sky Press published, “Grace In Dwelling,” on the occasion of this piece exhibited at the Queens Museum in 2017-18.  Her 2018 art/movement project, “Shaping the Container,” was supported with a New Works Grant by the Queens Council for the Arts.

What is moved changes 1, 2, 3, watercolor/graphite on paper, 20″x9″ (each), 2018

“My painting is a critique of art lacking in visual mystery and expansiveness. Metaphor invites viewers private contemplation and drift. I hope to slow down the noise and create a paradoxical visual and intellectual space that privileges thinking and imagination. The beauty of metaphor in tandem with questions in an open-ended picture is a thread in the history of art that I want to catch hold of. In counterpart, the art should reflect its time.

The Boat Desire, acrylic on paper, 56″x44″, 2009

Recently, inside/outside has grown with content-sourcing outside myself. I am interested in how we connect as a community and how art might shape and improve the way we do so. ‘Wait Around’ is a new series of six paintings made at the crest of the pandemic from March through July 2020. This work is both a waking dream reaction and a punch to the heart witnessing time’s movement.”


This newsletter was written by Danielle Hyams, Jade Stepenedy 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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