Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash
Nearly a year into the pandemic, decision-making in our cities has taken center stage. Locally grown proposals by council people, small business owners, and neighbors have proven the ability to cut through red tape and innovate quickly to solve problems. Outdoor dining structures and pedestrian-only streets were implemented at a rate thought impossible before. At the same time, top-down mandates about public safety and use of funds have been at best called into question, and at worst, completely fumbled. Slow action and political quibbles have left many critical decisions out of public hands.
In the face of many more important decisions to come about our city, it is high time to address a challenge that has plagued us long before the pandemic — the lack of substantial public input into big decisions.
A screenshot from VaccineFinder on 2/25/21 at 10:31am
Finding a vaccine appointment in New York has not been easy, to say the least. Providers are scheduling through various websites, most of which require you to fill out a pre-screening form every time you want to check availability. So unless you get lucky or are able to sit behind the computer all day, it can feel like a daunting process. That’s why here in New York City, a local software engineer built a website called TurboVax that updates all availabilities in real-time. I personally have used this site to schedule for friends, and it’s a life-saver. What about everywhere else, though? VaccineFinder, a CDC-backed website run by epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital, is hoping to create a “centralized online portal where the public can search for nearby vaccination locations with doses on hand,” according to the New York Times. But is this really feasible?
COVID-19 testing site sat the Highbridge Recreation Center in Manhattan on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office via Flickr
A report released on Monday by the NYC Department of Health shows that 6.2 percent of new COVID cases in NYC are the B.1.1.7 variant (more commonly known as the UK variant), an increase from 2.7 percent in January. The estimate is based on 45 identified variant cases of the 724 specimens sequenced the week of February 8-14. The week prior, it was actually 7.4 percent. On their website which has been updated to include data on variant cases, the NYC DOH says that the UK strain is “more transmissible than other variants and may cause more severe illness.”
Photo of the Wollman Rink by bekhap on Flickr
Two ice rinks in Central Park that are operated by the Trump Organization will now remain open for the rest of the season instead of shuttering early as originally planned. The Trump Organization announced it would close Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink on Sunday after city officials requested the company cease operations on February 26, ahead of the contract’s April expiration. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the termination of the agreements with former President Donald Trump’s company for the ice rinks and two other city concessions following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. In a reversal, the city on Sunday said the rinks can stay open for the remainder of the season.
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Photo by Jules Antonio on Wikimedia
Two coronavirus vaccination sites run by the state with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will open in Queens and Brooklyn on Wednesday, with appointments set aside for residents of specific ZIP codes. Appointment slots opened over the weekend for vaccinations at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights and York College in Jamaica, starting this Wednesday. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, there are many appointments still up for grabs.
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Rendering of new entrance on 8th Avenue to Penn Station via Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build an interconnected public transportation hub and revitalize Penn Station took a major step forward this week. The Empire State Development’s Board of Directors on Thursday adopted the General Project Plan (GPP) and certified the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Empire Station Complex project, which would link an upgraded Penn Station, the newly opened Moynihan Train Hall, and a tentative new terminal one block south of Penn Station. The board also set a public hearing on the project for March 23, followed by a 30-day public comment period.
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Photo by sebastien cordat on Unsplash
Looking ahead to warmer months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said outdoor amusement parks, indoor family entertainment centers, and overnight summer camps in New York will be allowed to reopen. If the state’s coronavirus positivity rate continues to trend downward, indoor entertainment centers can reopen starting March 26 at 25 percent capacity, outdoor amusement parks and rides on April 9 at 33 percent capacity, and eventually, overnight summer camps in June.
Map shows the percentage of residents who received at least one dose of the vaccine by ZIP code as of Feb. 16, courtesy of NYC Health
New York City neighborhoods that have experienced the highest infection rates of COVID-19 are now seeing the lowest rates of vaccination, according to new data released by the city. For the first time, the city on Tuesday published a map of vaccination rates by ZIP code. According to the data, Staten Island and Manhattan have the highest vaccination rates, while “the South Bronx, parts of Central Queens, and Central Brooklyn lag behind,” Dr. Torian Easterling, the city’s First Deputy Health Commissioner, said.
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Photo: Patrick Cashin / MTA New York City Transit
Overnight subway service in New York City will partially resume this month following more than nine months of closure. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced on Monday plans for a phased reopening of the subway starting February 22, which includes closing the system for cleaning from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. instead of from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Cuomo last May ordered the closure of 24/7 service, a first for the system, as part of a rigorous coronavirus disinfection plan and an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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Photo by Ajay Suresh on Flickr
Large stadiums and arenas in New York can welcome back fans and audiences starting February 23, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday. Venues that reopen must operate at 10 percent capacity and with coronavirus testing requirements in place. According to the governor, this could apply to sports, music, and performance venues. The Barclays Center has already been approved to reopen for a Brooklyn Nets game against the Sacramento Kings on February 23.
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