Dear Neighbor,

Here we go (again) with some new vaccine guidance: The Biden administration is set to announce that the majority of Americans should get a Covid-19 booster vaccination eight months after they received their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna to bolster protection against the Delta variant. Those who received Johnson & Johnson will likely require a booster shot as well, but the administration is waiting on the company to share the results of its two-dose clinical trial, expected in the next couple weeks. Need a vaccine? Fill this out. We’re in the process of updating our intake forms to reflect the latest guidance on boosters. Please be patient and reach out via email if you have any questions. We are also happy to connect you to doctors, medical professionals, clergy, ride shares or anyone else you need right now.


Additionally, starting today, New York City will be implementing its “Key to NYC” vaccine mandate, under which New Yorkers will have to show proof of vaccination in order to go into restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms. Employees of those businesses will need to be vaccinated as well. Around 56% of New York City residents are fully vaccinated, and 63% of NYC’s population has gotten at least one dose, but 37% of the population remains unvaccinated. The new mandate, which will be enforced beginning on Sept. 13, is likely to increase the number of New Yorkers getting vaccinated.

Epicenter-NYC reporter Andrea Pineda-Salgado spoke with people who were waiting to receive their first and second vaccinations this past week to find out, why now?

“I was scared about the injection, basically that’s why [I waited]. I’m allergic to a lot of things like eggs and other things, so I need to make sure that if I get the vaccine it’s not gonna be [a] problem for me. I just made sure with my primary physician and he told me that I can get the vaccine. Covid stopped our normal life, so [if] we get vaccinated it is a new start, new hope and just—get it.”

Bayazid Ahmed, 28, Jamaica, Queens

“I don’t want to sound mean, but I didn’t want to be the guinea pig, so I was waiting first to see how it goes. Also there was a lot of controversy with the other vaccines, like the results that people were having, what they were feeling, so I was just waiting to see. I do have asthma so I wanted to first make sure my health was good, how were people reacting to the vaccine to be sure that I wanted to get it. Everybody is already walking without masks and people are feeling like everything is done, but I feel like — hearing the news I think [Covid] is going up again so I would rather go get vaccinated. Also, I have kids at home, the little ones that can’t get vaccinated yet, so I want to be secure for them, and for my health as well.”

Elizabeth, late 30s, Corona, Queens

Photo of Tara D. by Andrea Pineda-Salgado for Epicenter-NYC

“The reason why I got vaccinated was because I care about my family and I love them and I needed to be vaccinated in order to be around them. Secondly, I was informed by my dad ‘you got to get vaccinated or you can’t come to my house,’ so that’s the real reason why I got vaccinated and in addition to that I was mandated by my job. Honestly speaking I wanted to see the results from everyone else, things that I heard in the media of anyone getting ill, really ill, because I have a weak system so everything makes me sick so I had to really ready myself up internally and spiritually in order to really do this. I was really nervous about it but I attacked it today and I did it and I feel great.”

—Tara D. 50, East New York, Brooklyn

Photo of Barbara Newkirk by Andrea Pineda-Salgado for Epicenter-NYC

“I was waiting for a while to see how everything was reacting with everybody. It was a little confusing at first, it wasn’t like a discouragement, it was just confusing, so I wanted to wait till I could see everything clearly so that I could know what was going to be happening, and how everyone was reacting to the shots and stuff.”

—Barbara Newkirk, 59, Canarsie, Brooklyn

“I didn’t really have time [to get vaccinated] and wasn’t scared of getting sick. I didn’t really trust that it could help me somehow, and now there is so many restrictions so I just decided to do it…my boyfriend, my family, all kind of were pushing me [to get the vaccine] because they got vaccinated a long time ago and we can’t go to the restaurants anymore.”

—Natalia, 31, Brooklyn

Photo of Ruben and Veronica by Andrea Pineda-Salgado for Epicenter-NYC

“Yeah, we heard that if you get vaccinated you have less probability of getting the virus, that’s why we did it, because we wanted to feel a little more safe. Because the whole world is waiting for [the vaccine]. In my country [Ecuador] everyone is desperately waiting [to get vaccinated] but here a lot of people don’t get vaccinated because they don’t want to. In other countries that are not as developed are crying out for the vaccine so we had to take advantage of this. I would tell people to get vaccinated, so that there are less cases because it is a vaccine like for the flu. If we get [Covid] we will get it but it won’t kill us, like those who aren’t vaccinated. So, just get vaccinated and if you have side effects you’ll have to endure them but they are not so bad. Because in other countries like I said, people are crying out for the vaccine but here they are giving out things, they are begging people to get vaccinated, so get vaccinated.”

—Ruben Chica, Veronica Cushcagua 28, Brooklyn (translated from Spanish)

“I had Covid four months ago, I did not have a good time, the doctors told me I need to wait four or five months before I could get the vaccine, that I why I came until now…after I survived the virus I said, as soon as the time that is necessary passes I will get the vaccine. [The vaccine incentives] are a motivation to motivate people to get the vaccine, but in reality you shouldn’t play with your health. We should be able to get vaccinated without receiving anything in return because it is our health that is at play.”

—Jose Miguel Jimenez, 33, Brooklyn (translated from Spanish) 

“[I chose to come now] because I just gave birth. My daughter is already six months old and before I was scared the vaccine would affect her but now I think it is okay, so I took it.”

—Kathy Chen, 34, Coney Island, Brooklyn

“We are here to get vaccinated, we are from Korea and there are no vaccines from Moderna, so we came because we wanted vaccines from Moderna. [We would tell people] to get vaccinated and get their gift. We think it was a nice policy [to receive 100 dollars].”

—Hyun Wook, 37, South Korea

Read more responses here.

We also want to draw attention to our document that will help you or someone you employ apply for compensation for the Excluded Workers Fund, which consists of $2.1 billion to help undocumented and nontraditional workers who lost their income due to Covid-19 and were not eligible for unemployment insurance. If you are the owner of a business that employs people who are eligible for the Excluded Workers Fund, Epicenter-NYC volunteer Eric Garcia (big thanks, Eric!) created a template you can fill out to help them verify their eligibility. If you are an eligible worker, you can learn more and apply for funds here.

Did you know we launched a membership program? Our site has no paywall, but you can support the work we do 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.

In case you missed it

Some of our top stories from last week: Here’s what NYC servers want you to know, plus a Q&A with republican mayoral candidate, Curtis Sliwa.


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

Photo courtesy of Netflix /

I really enjoyed Radha Blank’s comedy The Forty-Year-Old Version, and not because of the coincidence that we share the same first name. The film is Blank’s award-winning directorial debut and chronicles the struggles of 40-old-old Radha (played by Blank), a Black playwright and teacher whose last success came when she won a 30 Under 30 Award.

Radha is forced to deal with condescending white producers, one of whom agrees to produce her new play Harlem Ave on the condition that she add a central white character so that it’s more relatable to white audiences. Frustrated by the direction her life is taking, Radha turns to another dream — becoming a rapper. In his review in the New Yorker, Richard Brody writes that the film “is a full-circle city satire in which Blank doesn’t spare Radha — and in which the character’s attitudes and antipathies don’t take place in a void but, rather, snap back at her and make her feel their sting. With her loneliness, her frustration and her self-conscious drift toward middle age, Radha has an edge of cantankerousness, but she finds it consistently challenged.”

A carefully observed love letter to New York, getting older, and being a Black playwright in a milieu in which white gatekeepers hold the purse strings, The Forty-Year-Old Version is by turns, funny, thought-provoking and charming. To those who have called her a late bloomer, Blank says, “I’m not late. I been doing this s**t.  Y’all are late. ‘Cause y’all just now figured out who I am.” The film played at the recently reopened Paris Theater in Manhattan last week. If you missed it, not to worry, you can still catch it streaming on Netflix.


Make sure you have a listen to our latest episode where we speak with David Woodlock, the outgoing president and CEO of the Institute for Community Living, about Covid-19 and its impact on childrens’ mental health. Tune in tomorrow to learn about NYCNext, an organization dedicated to supporting and rebuilding New York City.


It’s homecoming week

This citywide celebration, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 22,  features live concerts, free movie screenings, cultural activities, public art and more. You can view all upcoming events (there are so many amazing ones!)  on its website, but here are a few that we are particularly excited about:

Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali (Wednesday, August 18)

This movie tells the extraordinary and little-known friendship of two of the 20th century’s most iconic figures. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., there will be a pre-screening DJ set by The Lay Out at 7 p.m., plus a conversation with filmmaker Marcus A. Clarke, followed by the movie at 8:30 p.m. The event will take place at Jackie Robinson Park (Bradhurst Avenue and W. 148th Street). Register here.

Bare Feet: A Garifuna Dance Class (Thursday, August 19)

The Garifuna are people of Arawak Indian and African descent who were originally from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines before being exiled to Belize and Honduras in 1797. Since 2009, the Chief Joseph Chatoyer Dance Company has created visibility and awareness of the Garifuna people in New York by showcasing their culture through music and dance. Join them and musician Felix Gamboa from 6 to 8 p.m. In Brooklyn’s Albee Square (corner of Bond and Fulton Streets). Learn more.

New York Shorts (Friday, Aug. 20)

You know what they say: If you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. Rooftop Films has selected a collection of short films that embody the city’s collective fighting spirit and showcases residents’ courage and camaraderie. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and films begin at 8:30 p.m. at the New York Hall of Science (47-01 111th St., Corona). Learn more and RSVP here.

Take Care Series (Saturday, Aug. 21)

Meet artists-in-residence, participate in workshops on climate-safe futures led by The Climate Museum, enjoy live music curated by Jazz at Lincoln Center and more at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Arts Center on Governors Island. These events will take place from 12 to 5 p.m. at 110 Andes Rd. Learn more.

*All events require proof of vaccination for those eligible


Photo courtesy of The Rolling Library / Astoria Food Pantry x The Rolling Library’s online store at

Education not incarceration

Check out The Rolling Library’s merch. Purchases support the organization’s goal of making literacy more accessible by bringing free books to NYC.

Help thy neighbor

Sunnyside Woodside Mutual Aid is looking for volunteers to help cook, transport, serve and share meals with houseless neighbors who were recently relocated to Queens. Sign up for a shift here.


The Eastern Catskills are on every New Yorkers radar. Woodstock and Saugerties are popular weekend spots, and who hasn’t been to the Phoenicia Diner or Kaaterskill Falls at this point? But drive west and you’ll find a different Catskills. The mountains may not be as dramatic, but the landscape is just as scenic, with rolling hills filled with grazing livestock and rivers lacing the land.

No one has put Sullivan County more on the map than Foster Supply Hospitality, which has opened a number of unique, boutique hotels in towns such as Livingston Manor and North Branch. One of their latest projects is Hotel Darby, just across the border in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

Modern rooms are accented with mid-century furniture and the bartender makes a mean cocktail. The grounds are outfitted with hammocks, lawn games and a fire pit for those late night smores sessions. Hit a hiking trail near the property or meander across the street to take a dip in the Delaware River. A five-minute stroll across the bridge and you’re back in New York, in the quaint downtown of Narrowsburg. Just about every restaurant comes with a riverside seat here. Hit up The Tusten Cup (8 Main St.) for a strong cup of java and breakfast and lunch sandwiches. For dinner try Laundrette (20 5th St.) which features sourdough pizzas, fresh salads and good beer. The hot honey and chorizo and egg pizzas come highly recommended.

Hiking trails abound here and the Tusten Mountain trail, a three-mile loop that culminates with a view of the Upper Delaware Valley, is among the most popular. For riverside activities, rent tubes, rafts, kayaks, or canoes from Lander’s River trips, pack a picnic lunch and take a lazy river ride down the Delaware, Tom Sawyer-style.

— Sumathi Reddy


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 Vikas Menon. Menon is a poet, playwright and songwriter. He was a 2015 Emerging Poets Fellow at Poets House and his poems have been featured in numerous publications, including Indivisible: An Anthology of South Asian American Poetry and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry. He co-wrote Priya’s Shakti, a comic book series that addresses gender-based violence. He was also one of the co-writers of the shadowplay “Feathers of Fire,” which had its world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2016 and went on to tour 23 cities in the U.S. and six countries. He received his M.F.A from Brooklyn College and his M.A. in literature from St. Louis University.

“The rituals of mourning have always fascinated me, and inflect my poems, plays and songs.  These three poems from my manuscript Raga for the Fallen reflect that preoccupation with elegy. While engendered by personal loss when they were first written, in the time of Covid-19 they resonate differently. These poems remind me that love is fundamental to loss, however much it feels like a terrible absence in our grief.”

Thirunaavaya, 2005

Here we are sons or daughters, mothers
or fathers of the dead. Here, we are all kin
in the rictus that stoops our shoulders,
pales our breath. Kin in the quick grimace

as we mimic the priests,
between our gestures and theirs

an impossible distance.
Fling flowers onto water,

touch your fingers
to grains of rice. Pray.

Bhaarathapuzha river
spills with dawn flame

cattail spears like sentries in the distance.
We wait, tree-quiet.

The sun’s halo frames us,
the bewildered living,

our postures struck with gold.

First published in The Literary Review (Spring 2009) and reprinted in The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry by Indians (HarperCollins India, 2012).

  Pranaam (Sanskrit); the act of paying obeisance to a deity or elder.

How can I praise her?
From her lap

my horizon limitless
I watched gods and demons

arrive and depart—
if Gopala’s mouth held the universe

then she spun the cosmos on her tongue
with stories like cradles,

like thrones.
From even her little loves

sunflowers blossomed,
ate light and wagged their heads

over mine. For she whose hands
hovered over needlework,

lips moving silently,
eyes cast back in time;

for she who whispered
Men propose, God disposes

as I wiped her mouth,
cleaned her dentures

combed the thin white
hairs on her scalp;

today I pour milk through flowers onto her ashes
my limit,

my overflowing—

words cannot
wash the dust from her feet.

First published as “Elegy” in The Literary Review (Spring 2009) and reprinted in The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry by Indians (HarperCollins India, 2012).

Dear God of Death

It is quiet here.
The days pass.

I miss your skin against mine,
the lamps flickering in your eyes.

From tears I sieve the salt
that seasons your rice

and await your return

my Nimble,
my Inescapable—

First published in the Chicago Quarterly Review (Volume 24, 2017).

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