Happy first day of fall. The morning air is crisp, the leaves are changing but the city’s 1 million public school children are, for the most part, not back to school. Color us shocked.
Folks are confused as to wtf is going on in the nation’s largest school district. What happened?
According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, it came down to a shortage of educators. To remedy that, the city will enlist 4,500 more teachers. Schools will pull from current Department of Education staff and substitute teachers, and work with CUNY to find graduate students and adjunct professors — as de Blasio put it, “people who know how to teach.”
This is the second time the city has delayed the start of in-person learning, leaving parents and teachers scrambling. De Blasio basically blamed poor communication for the 11th-hour change, saying “the information flow about what exactly was needed where needed to be improved.”
If only someone were in charge of that.
Pre-K children were able to resume in-person learning yesterday, as were students with “advanced disabilities.” K-5 and K-8 schools are to resume in-person learning on September 29, and middle school and high school students, as well as transfer and adult education, will follow on October 1.
Those buildings that have already opened don’t inspire confidence in what’s to come. Teachers and parents are in an uproar over Hunter College Campus Schools’ decision to resume in-person classes last week. Concerns:
- There was no random Covid-19 testing.
- There were no inspections of ventilation systems in each room.
- There was no contact tracing.
There are protests.
People gathered outside Hunter last week and said they were all kinds of mad that CUNY campus leaders were making choices that could put staff at risk. One such choice: not using public health thresholds to gauge when to reopen.
For the children, too, there have been hiccups: The city is asking little ones to bring their own devices. But even if they have access to laptops and iPads, does it make sense to expose kids to the risks that come from in-person schooling if most of that schooling relies on tech?
Even education experts can’t keep track. Sarah Garland, local mom and the executive editor of the Hechinger Report, an education news outlet affiliated with Columbia University, noted, “parents immediately began freaking out” when 5-year-olds were told to bring devices to school. She followed up with some fiery words for the mayor and chancellor saying they have doomed schools “by taking the preexisting problem of vastly insufficient resources and adding in the complete erosion of confidence (and sanity) of the families who pay taxes, vote and trust you with their kids.”
The mayor (who never puts his foot in his mouth) was generally unapologetic for the delay, contending that New York City public school parents are “pragmatic.”
“They’re overwhelmingly working class people and lower income people and certainly some middle class people as well,” he said. “They’re overwhelmingly outer borough residents, they’re people who understand the realities of life and they’re not shocked when something this difficult has to be adjusted from time to time.”
We’re unmuting to say we’re not so sure about that. What do you think, parents? How are you handling all the uncertainty? Let us know — we want to hear from you. We hope to begin sign-ups for our schools newsletter, Homeroom, next week. Stay tuned.
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OUT & ABOUT
Eat global: Starting this weekend, the Bronx Night Market, with its diverse roster of food vendors, will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 6 p.m., through November. Entry is free, but due to social distancing restrictions, tickets must be reserved in advance.
Shop local: We kept hearing about this spice company, Spice Tree Organics, so we did a bit of digging and found out that it was started by two NYC moms. And that all the spices are organic and GMO- and preservative-free. AND come in flavors like NYC Halal Cart (!!), Mexican Sabor and Turkish Table. Consider us sold. Shop spices here.
An author in lockdown: This Thursday, September 24, Ashley C. Ford, host of “The Chronicles of Now” podcast, will be joining author Zadie Smith in a conversation hosted by the 92nd Street Y. The two will be discussing Smith’s latest book, “Intimations,” which features a series of personal essays she wrote during quarantine. Tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance.
Visit the gelato hole: Brooklynites, this one’s for you. Inspired by the reemergence of “buchette del vino” — little wine holes — in Italy, a tiny gelato window has emerged in Williamsburg. Just big enough for a cone to fit through, the so-called Midriff Hole features homemade gelato in flavors like pistachio, Thai chai and vanilla rice for $3 a scoop. Hours are irregular, and its Instagram page states that you should check the stories before stopping by. But you’ve gotta be quick — we hear it sells out in less than an hour.
In the spirit of defiance: “We Are All 香港人 (Hong Kongers)” is an exhibit featuring art from the recent protests that took place there. “We are all” refers to the human rights that all people deserve: freedom of speech, assembly, expression and press. The exhibit, which is housed in a Tribeca gallery, runs through September 27. Tickets are $10. Learn more and reserve here.
Film fest: The 58th New York Film Festival, which launched last week and runs through October 11, is mostly virtual this year. Several films will also be shown at drive-in theaters in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. Virtual screenings are $12, and drive-in screenings are $45 per vehicle. Both can sell out, so check the schedule and reserve your tickets.
MoMA PS1 in Queens reopened last week with a stunner. Far off the beaten path of typical exhibition fare, yet so central to our current social and political climate comes Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.
The impact of incarceration can be felt viscerally with works that express and expose the inner workings and dark histories of prisons across the country. A mix of self-taught and formally trained artists redefine what constitutes art materials, transforming whatever is at their disposal into powerful works that give one pause. A must see.
Timed tickets can be booked online and are free for New York residents. —Nitin Mukul
GIVE & GET HELP
A census update: Not to sound like a broken record, but to sound like a broken record: Have you filled out the census? The count is scheduled to end in eight days (read on to help spread the word). What’s at stake: The census determines how much money in federal funding the city gets — as in, the money used for public education, roads and bridges, affordable housing and so much more. Our political power is also threatened; New Yorkers are at risk of losing seats in Congress.
The New York Public Library is hosting a (free) virtual event this Thursday, September 24, about the impacts of a census undercount, featuring Lurie Daniel Favors, interim executive director and general counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice, and Bronx Assembly Member Michael Blake. Sign up here.
Using CUNY’s Hard to Count mapping tool, we took a look at the current (as of September 20) self-response rate in the five boroughs. A little borough versus borough rivalry can’t hurt, right? Are we really going to let Staten Island win? (If you’re reading this from Staten Island, you’re doing a GREAT job!)
- Bronx County: 60.7%
- Kings County (Brooklyn): 57%
- New York County: 61.1%
- Queens County: 60.9%
- Richmond County (Staten Island): 65%
How can you help? Consider participating in a census phone bank. These are virtual events that you can join from anywhere, as long as you have a phone and a computer. Here are some upcoming local phone banks looking for volunteers.
Queens gets counted: Could this borough-wide census initiative help Queens County take the lead? The event, sponsored by the Queens Museum among others, will take place this Saturday, September 26. Live online programming runs from 12 to 2:30 p.m., and includes cooking demos from Queens Night Market vendors and performances by beatbox champ SungBeats and Afro-Colombian ensemble Grupo Rebolú. There will also be dozens of census tables set up around the borough where you can fill it out on the spot — and receive some free swag while you’re at it. Learn more.
Brooklyn, too: The Brooklyn Public Library is hosting a census tailgate this Saturday, September 26, from 12 to 4 p.m., at the Church of Saint Mark. There will also be back-to-school giveaways, voter registration and live music. Learn more.
It’s time for your flu shot: We know flu shots are one of those things that sometimes fall by the wayside, but it turns out that when flu season coincides with a global pandemic (a potential “twindemic”), it’s pretty crucial to get one ASAP. Doctors recommend the vaccine for anyone over 6 months old, but especially for those over 65. You can get a flu shot from your doctor, but most pharmacies have it in stock as well. New Hope Lutheran Church in Jamaica is teaming up with Walgreens to offer free flu shots this Sunday, September 27, between 12 and 1:30 p.m. Those interested must email firstname.lastname@example.org in advance.
Free citizenship class: Do you know someone who is preparing for the citizenship exam? Women for Afghan Women is offering a free online class to help immigrant women prepare. The class runs from October 6 through December 16 every Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more info and to register, call 646-494-4054 or email email@example.com.
For the quintessential camping-lite experience, head to Malouf’s Mountain, a cross between glamping and backpack camping, in Beacon, New York. Hardcore campers who have their own gear can choose a so-called primitive site. Platform sites come with shelter, a picnic table, chairs and all the cooking equipment you need, as well as tents for rent. The shared bathrooms are spotless and even feature a rarity on campsites: hot water! Order food ahead of time and you can have a cooler of your choice of burgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish and more — frozen and ready to cook on your private fire pit. Forgot booze? No worries. Malouf’s even sells wine and beer at dirt-cheap prices.
The low-key employees can pick you up at the Beacon train station, and they whisk your stuff up to the campground with an ATV. You pick a hike of your choice ranging from 30 minutes to five hours. Once on-site, pick from numerous hikes. I recommend the Fishkill Ridge trail, which meanders for miles along the top of a mountain featuring stunning views of the Hudson. At one viewpoint you can even see the Manhattan skyline.
A platform site with a tent costs $82 a night for a two-night stay for a family of four. A primitive site is $55 a night. There are extra fees for transportation of luggage, firewood, ice and food. Bring an extra-warm sleeping bag as temps can dip into the 30s in the fall. Malouf’s closes for the season October 31 but reopens April 15. —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.
This week, we welcome Natalia Nakazawa, a Queens-based interdisciplinary artist working across painting, textiles and social practice. Drawing on her experiences in education, arts administration and community activism, Nakazawa negotiates spaces between institutions and individuals, often inviting participation and collective imagining. Her woven tapestries incorporate public domain images from the online archives and collections of major institutions, inviting critical visual storytelling about migration and moments of cross-cultural exchange. She has held the position of assistant director of EFA Studios for eight years, supporting a large network of contemporary artists through subsidized studio spaces and professional practice opportunities in midtown Manhattan.
She writes: “On March 8, as the reality of the pandemic came into sharp focus, I completed the physical installation of ‘Our Stories of Migration,’ a matrix of textile panels on a 36′ x 16′ wall, modeled after Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map. Taken as a whole, these 20 triangular pieces can be folded into a three-dimensional icosahedron globe. It addresses the connectivity of all of the land masses of the Earth — emphasizing that we are all one. This project is still unfolding — stay tuned for more coming up in 2021. #ourstoriesofmigration”
“Our Stories of Migration” encourages critical engagement through personal and cultural histories. Additionally, visitors draw their own maps — which are continuously added to an animated archive — and write responses to the prompt question: “What does it mean to be a global citizen?”
This newsletter was written by Danielle Hyams, Joy Resmovits and Alia Wong, with contributions from Sumathi Reddy and Nitin Mukul. Photographs and design by Nitin Mukul and editing by Robin Cabana and Faye Chiu. 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.