Big news on the vaccine front: Federal officials pause on giving the J&J vaccine while they study blood-clotting in women who took it; one died. This has big implications in New York where many populations – restaurant workers, among them – had favored the one-and-done nature of J&J.
This week, our intern Andrea Pineda-Salgado talked to residents in Corona to get their conflicting takes on vaccines right now. She conducted interviews in Spanish and translated; full names and, in some cases, other identifying details, are being withheld.
It has only been 10 months since Evelyn immigrated to the United States and a week since she began working at a supermarket in Corona, Queens. She had Covid-19 back in her home country.
She doesn’t want to get a vaccine.
“The vaccine doesn’t certify anything. It’s not 100% effective,” she said. “I have heard about people that got the vaccine and have passed away.”
Today, roughly 38% of New Yorkers have received one dose of the vaccine and roughly 25% are full vaccinated. However, many people in non-English speaking communities of color have received the vaccine with mixed feelings and skepticism. Others like Evelyn are forgoing it entirely.
Instead, Evelyn rattles off the precautions she takes at work:
“I wear a mask, but I always wear gloves. Gloves are the most important for me because I work a lot with money and it is touched by a lot of people … if you learn to take care of yourself you are fine,” she said. “I think I will let time pass and see how every person ends up reacting to [the vaccine].”
Vaccine hesitancy like hers isn’t helped by this morning’s news on the J&J vaccine, as rare as the blood clots seem to be. Doctors and public health experts now fear this creates more uncertainty in populations already skeptical; the timing couldn’t be worse, as stronger Covid variants are spreading.
This fear is a familiar one in the Epicenter. Gloria is a supermarket employee and lives in Corona, Queens. She also had Covid. She will never forget what it was like to work through the early days of the pandemic. The city was gripped by fear and uncertainty. Bodies overflowed from the city’s morgues into refrigerated trucks. Yet Gloria kept going to work.
“Everybody was scared. There was not a single person that felt safe, everybody that I talked to was in panic mode,” she said.
For Gloria, the vaccine is something she desperately wants but getting an appointment has been a challenge. While some New Yorkers have been endlessly navigating vaccine websites (hello and thank you to our volunteers!), many people like Gloria don’t have the time or internet savvy.
Instead, Gloria and her neighbors were going door-to-door at vaccine centers to see if there are extra doses available.
“The news tells us to look online, but as of right now all my neighbors who are vaccinated have gotten their appointments by going in person.” she said. So far she has gone to several different pharmacies, churches and a clinic nearby but she hasn’t had any luck.
None of this compares to Gloria’s battle with Covid-19. Her symptoms were mild; her sister on the other hand, was severely ill.
“It was hard, I didn’t know if she was going to survive or not,” Gloria said. “She couldn’t breathe — we didn’t know if we should send her to the hospital or let her stay home.”
The pandemic also temporarily shuttered the supermarket that she’s worked at for over 10 years. Since reopening, business hasn’t been the same.
“A lot of people started street vending. In the streets there are more products with better prices and people shop there instead,” Gloria said. “Our clients have reduced to almost half of what it was.”
Other supermarket employees have had more luck getting the vaccine, thanks to help from their home countries. Sandra works in the same supermarket as Evelyn.
“I think people should get their vaccine. I actually got mine today!” she said on the day we talked. “Initially I didn’t want to get it because it’s something new. You don’t know how you will react. Some of the workers here got it and they got some side effects, but it only lasted a day or two, nothing too crazy. That motivated me to get it.”
Unlike many New Yorkers, Sandra did not have to struggle through making an online appointment. She received an email from the Colombian embassy alerting her to available appointments and she got the vaccine – Johnson & Johnson – that same day.
“This vaccine gives me a sense of security and I think it is important to get it especially if it’s offered to you,” she said. Her comments, though, came before the latest news.
The differences among Pfizer, Moderna and J&J, according to a doctor
Our Epicenter volunteers keep hearing from people requesting a specific vaccine. This is often not per doctors’ instructions but because of something they heard from a friend or on the news. We asked Dr. Mark E. Horowitz, a family doctor in downtown Manhattan and someone we trust, to respond to these concerns. Bottom line: “The best vaccine is the one you can get soonest.” Read our Q&A with Dr. Horowitz here. It was conducted before the J&J news but Epicenter’s publisher S. Mitra Kalita and Dr. Horowitz were on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show this morning and Dr. Horowitz said to look on the bright side: There are plenty of appointments for Moderna or Pfizer.
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OUT & ABOUT
It’s CSA season
For those unfamiliar, CSA stands for community supported agriculture, which is a model where consumers provide economic support to farmers at the beginning of the season and in return get deliveries of fresh produce. This week we are highlighting Choy Division, an Asian-owned run farm (< 1% of farms in the U.S.) that focuses on East Asian vegetables. Think Thai basil, bok choy, bitter melon, shishito peppers and more. Half season shares are offered at $30/week or $300/share, and full season shares are offered at $28/week or $560/share. Learn more and sign up here.
Get your theater fix
Join a star-studded free virtual event, “Tell the Story: Celebrating Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins,” this Thursday, April 15 at 8 p.m. Participants include cast members of the original off-Broadway company, the Broadway revival, the new production and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Register here
Are you a Schitt’s Creek fan? If not, that probably means you just haven’t watched it. For everyone else, Katch Astoria is hosting trivia dedicated to the show tonight at 7:30 p.m. Register here.
Ice cream us
May is in two weeks and we are ready for ice cream season. Have you tried Lotus Scoop yet? The Black woman-owned community involved creamery focuses on high-quality ingredients and Caribbean, Latin American and soul food flavors. Think soursop guanabana, guava cheesecake and sweet potato with banana caramel. The ice cream is sold in supermarkets throughout the city. Learn more.
Near, far, wherever you are
Did you know this Thursday, April 15 is National Titanic Remembrance Day? In honor, the South Street Seaport Museum is hosting a free virtual event with author, travel writer, and lecturer Theodore W. Scull and historian and educator William Roka about the journey across the Atlantic Ocean both before and after the “Era of Titanic.” The event is free, advance registration required.
New York Isn’t F*cking Dead
This new online exhibit by Tchotchke Gallery features work by Brooklyn-based artists Rachael Tarravechia and Anthony Eslick that reiterate what many of us already knew: NYC always bounces back; the city is alive and thriving.
GIVE & GET HELP
Covid-19 funeral assistance
FEMA launched a program this past week that will provide monetary reimbursement of up to $9,000 for funeral expenses of those who died from Covid-19. Who is eligible: The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien — the deceased person does not need to be though. What you need: An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to Covid-19, funeral expense documents and proof of funds received from other sources, such as funeral insurance. Learn more and call (844) 684-6333 to apply. Multilingual services are available.
Save Lhasa Fast Food
The beloved Jackson Heights Tibetan momo restaurant, famously located behind a cell phone shop, was completely destroyed by a fire in early March. Its owner, Sangjienben, created a GoFundMe account to help him hopefully reopen and ensure his cultural heritage thrives through cuisine. (FYI, there is a branch on the Lower East Side, too. We can attest the chive momos are as good as in Queens.)
Join the WNYC Community Advisory Board
Become part of the independent body of listeners that provides feedback on programming and direction to senior management with the goal of improving the listener experience and meeting the needs of the public. The advisory board consists of 25 volunteers who serve a three-year term (with a maximum of two terms) and meets nine times per year for town hall-style meetings. Apply by this Friday, April 16.
That’s how much Astoria Food Pantry spends every week feeding its neighbors. Donations have slowed down drastically, but need hasn’t. Consider donating to its efforts.
QUEENS MEMORY PROJECT
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.
I am first-generation Ecuadorian-American. My family migrated from Ecuador in the 80s. My family and I are all doing okay health wise. Covid-19 has impacted my family greatly in ways that most of our neighbors can relate. It’s been a month now that my father, sister, brother, and I have not been able to attend our daily jobs. My mother, who happens to be an essential worker, felt unsafe in her work environment and has stopped going to work. Coming from a large family, we are all supportive and help each other no matter what. My aunt who happened to be very sick and was in quarantine hadn’t been able to fend for herself, so my dad would drop food at her doorsteps every day. We’ve lost distant relatives due to Covid-19 and it’s tragic news to have to hear week after week.
I grew up in Corona, Queens, and I love my neighborhood for its diversity and authenticity. I am a photographer and have decided to photograph the surrounding area in a chronological photo-set. Here is a set from April 11, 2020, on my walk to Flushing Meadows Park. I decided to capture color that pops and incorporate that onto my photographs with colorful borders to represent the current season of spring.
Public schools fill classrooms
Over 50,000 students of all grades will return to classrooms this month. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that families who opted-in for in-person learning can send their students back starting April 26. About 65,000 students will continue to learn remotely through the end of the school year.
Kindergarten applications tank
The Department of Education (DOE) saw a 12% drop this year for September admissions. More than 55,000 families applied compared to almost 63,000 in 2020. Since New York City doesn’t require schooling until first grade, keeping the kids home has no legal penalty. Still, the pandemic continues to be a primary concern for families.
Stipend for wellness ambassadors
Parent leaders across New York City’s 950 public schools will receive $500 to complete training to address mental health in schools. The DOE’s new initiative will center on peer-to-peer support, providing a safe space for trauma-informed, healing-centered care. Training will be held from May through August, with the program starting in September. Details on cost are unknown, but the Robin Hood, Gray and Tiger Foundations will foot the bill.
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This week we continue our exploration of New York City, taking you to Astoria. Historically a Greek neighborhood, like much of Queens, Astoria is now a melting pot of cultures, which means there is really, really good food. Start your day with Brooklyn Bagels (yes, in Queens) for arguably one of the best bagels the city has to offer and head to Astoria Park for breakfast with a view of the East River. The 60-acre park boasts the city’s oldest and largest pool, plus tennis courts, a track, a skate park and more.
After, head to the Noguchi Museum (timed-tickets must be booked in advance), designed by and dedicated to Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. When you’re finished, take a quick walk through Socrates Sculpture Park — it’s just a block away.
Before you leave, make sure to head to Bahari Estiatorio, an unassuming Greek eatery that never disappoints. Our favorites? The grilled octopus, tzatziki and creamy gigante beans. For dessert head to Chip for a cookie. Thank us later.
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 Meena Hasan.
Hasan received her B.A. in studio art from Oberlin College in 2009 and her MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale School of Art in 2013, where she won the Carol Schlosberg Memorial Prize for Painting. She has participated in a number of group exhibitions including “Sheherezade’s Gift” at the Center for Book Arts, NYC; “Premio Terna 02” at the MAXXI Museum, Rome; the “Bosch Young Talent Show” at The Stedelijk Museum, Den Bosch, The Netherlands; “No Longer, Not Yet,” curated by Sean McCarthy, at Essex Flowers, NYC; and “Good Pictures,” curated by Austin Lee, at Deitch Projects, NYC. Currently, Meena is a full-time lecturer in painting at the School of Visual Arts at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. She is represented by LAUNCH F18 in Tribeca and lives and works in Brooklyn.
“My artistic practice pursues a nuanced approach to issues of representation, subjectivity and personhood in order to articulate a South Asian American Diasporic experience and gaze. I construct my works with care through metaphorical engagement with material and process, developing a complex language of mark making that asks the viewer to participate in the works’ construction and becoming and that plays with the geometric stability of scale relationships.”
My works come out of a deep and rigorous research component focused on global textile traditions, including investigation into fractal patterning methods and specific formal textile symbols transformed through perpetuation over time across the globe, such as the Paisley shape, Batik’s methodologies and the Acanthus plant. The textile histories of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India constitute my personal art history, as the first visual languages I learned, as part of my DNA, and I use this influence to speak to my cultural heritage as a Bangladeshi American.
My practice is grounded in the desire to bridge the geographic, temporal and historical distance between NYC and Dhaka, Bangladesh in order to visualize and embody a heterogenous, non-linear and diasporic environment built out of metabolized constellations of global and local influence and desires. You can view more of Hasan’s work on her website and Instagram page.