Showing posts with label COVID-19. Show all posts
Showing posts with label COVID-19. Show all posts

Friday, January 7, 2022

East Village Loves NYC offering free COVID-19 PCR testing once again this Sunday

For the third consecutive Sunday, East Village Loves NYC is collaborating with a mobile clinic to provide free COVID-19 PCR testing at the Sixth Street Community Center between Avenue B and Avenue C. 

The testing takes place this Sunday (Jan. 9) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. You need to sign up in advance — no walk-ins. You can find the link here. 

Results from this past Sunday were returned in 24 hours. Testing is done by Alaine Diagnostics in Saddlebrook, N.J. People who signed up reported a quick and efficient system here.

East Village Loves NYC was formed in the spring of 2020 to feed people in need during the pandemic. In year one,  the volunteers — 400 strong — cooked more than 100,000 meals for New Yorkers during the pandemic ... not to mention donated 325,000-plus pounds of groceries and 7,000-plus pantry bags.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Friday, December 31, 2021

East Village Loves NYC offering free COVID-19 PCR testing on Sunday

East Village Loves NYC — the local volunteer group formed in the spring of 2020 to feed people in need during the pandemic — is collaborating with a mobile clinic to provide free COVID-19 PCR testing at the Sixth Street Community Center between Avenue B and Avenue C. 

The next testing comes this Sunday (Jan. 2) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. You need to sign up in advance — no walk-ins. You can find the link here. The testing is open to the first 200 registrants.
The first testing took place here this past Sunday. Organizers invited EVG contributor Stacie Joy to stop by...
Results from Sunday were returned in less than 48 hours. Testing is done by Alaine Diagnostics in Saddlebrook, N.J. (This link lists the city's free testing sites via NYC Health + Hospitals.) In its first year, East Village Loves NYC — which has attracted some 400 volunteers — cooked more than 100,000 meals for New Yorkers during the pandemic ... not to mention donated 325,000-plus pounds of groceries and 7,000-plus pantry bags.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Reports: Did SantaCon contribute to NYC's current COVID-19 surge?

Photo on Dec. 11 along Avenue A by Derek Berg

In recent days, several published reports have suggested that SantaCon, held on Dec. 11 in bars and venues in parts of Midtown and in the East Village, played a role in the current surge of positive COVID-19 cases in Manhattan. (It's also a topic brought up in the EVG comments.)

City Councilmember Mark Levine, chair of the Health Committee and Manhattan Borough president-elect, helped bolster this case when he tweeted Saturday about the high numbers in the city: "And yes SantaCon may partly be to blame."
In a story published Sunday, The Daily Mail noted, "The SantaCon surge: Covid cases in Manhattan QUADRUPLE in the six days since notorious costumed bar crawl." The article builds its case on the Levine tweet and other social media posts where people said they tested positive after attending the annual bar crawl that was postponed in 2020.

Here's more from The Cut at New York magazine from Thursday:
Last year, SantaCon was thankfully canceled due to the pandemic. This year, there's still a pandemic — not to mention a highly contagious variant spreading — but like many other holiday gatherings that now seem ill-advised, it happened anyway despite fears it had all the makings of a super-spreader event. And now, surprise: #santacon TikTok is flooded with people who attended and have since tested positive for COVID-19.

The Cut assembled a collection of the SantaCon-COVID clips on TikTok.  

Meanwhile, Business Insider also pointed the finger at SantaCon for this current uptick in a piece titled "The SantaCon surge has hit NYC" from Saturday.

Per their report:
[S]ince last weekend — which saw the return of SantaCon, NYC's biggest event of debauchery and drunken revelry — many a New Yorker's phones have blown up with texts from friends saying they'd been exposed to Covid. Positivity rates have doubled in the past three days, with cases in the city up more than 40 percent in one day, recording the highest one-day total since January 14. 
Later, the piece backs off a bit from the headline:
To be sure, SantaCon isn't entirely to blame for the Omicron wave. Companies have been holding in-person holiday parties and NYC nightlife has been back to normal for quite some time. Health restrictions, like mask mandates and social distancing, have been increasingly disregarded. 
In a post published yesterday at Bushwick Daily, three residents who tested positive and work at bars-restaurants in the East Village or Lower Manhattan blamed SantaCon for spreading COVID.

East Village bartender Iseult James told the site that "the event might have been a super spreader and is largely to blame for the uptick in positive tests. So now, instead of spending Christmas with her husband's parents in Fort Greene, the couple must stay at home."

As multiple news outlets have already reported, average daily case counts in New York City more than doubled over the week ending Dec. 17, according to the latest data available on the city's health department website. NYC is reporting a seven-day average of more than 7,200 cases per day, up from about 3,200 the week prior, a 127-percent increase.

According to the NYC Health site, neighborhoods including the East Village and Murray Hill, where SantaConners mingled on Dec. 11, have among the highest positivity rates in the five boroughs for the week ending Dec. 17. The citywide positivity rate is at 7.68 percent.
Here are the two zip codes that include parts of the East Village... 10009 had a positivity rate of 9.79 percent while 10003 had a rate of 11.81 percent (click on the image for more detail) ... 
The zip code encompassing Kips Bay/Murray Hill is at 11.14 percent ...
Of course, SantaCon participants or bar employees who have tested positive don't necessarily live in these zip codes. (Also, these zip codes also have high rates of fully vaccinated adults, above the city's 71 percent.)

Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio addressed the rise in COVID cases during a press conference yesterday.

"It's going to be a very challenging few weeks. But the good news is based on what our healthcare leadership understands, at this moment, we are talking about a matter of weeks," de Blasio said, as CNBC reported.  

The mayor went on to say that New Yorkers infected with omicron are experiencing mild symptoms so far, though many unanswered questions remain about the variant.

"We're going to see a really fast upsurge in cases; we're going to see a lot of New Yorkers affected by omicron," de Blasio said. "So far, thank God based on everything we've seen, the cases are milder than what we've experienced previously." 

Gov. Hochul reemphasized yesterday that there would not be any new shutdowns.

"It's not March of 2020. It's not even December of 2020. Just to keep things in perspective, it is milder than delta," Hochul said of omicron, per NBC 4. "We are avoiding a government shutdown because we now have the tools available to all of us — vaccinations, booster shots, masks — particularly for the variant we're dealing with."

You can find information on vaccines and boosters via the city at this link. Find a city-affiliated testing site here.  

Monday, December 20, 2021

These East Village businesses are temporarily closing as COVID cases continue to climb

--Updated12/22: In a good sign, several of the businesses that decided to close this past weekend have reopened. Updating the list below--

The rise in COVID-19 cases across NYC alongside the spread of the new omicron variant made its presence known to local businesses and residents over the weekend. 

In recent days, several establishments either closed because of infection among their staff or due to possible exposure to someone who had tested positive. For instance, Mister Paradise, the cocktail bar at 105 First Ave., closed for the weekend after positive test results for some employees...
Yellow Rose on Third Avenue and Academy Records on 12th Street were among other businesses to announce a temporary closure due to positive test results. 

The Brant Foundation, showing a solo exhibition of new works by Julian Schnabel, abruptly closed "out of precaution" on Saturday here at 421 E. Sixth St. ...
Others taking a cautionary approach included Hearth at 403 E. 12th St. ...
Here is a partial list of other East Village businesses that either decided to amend their operating method or close...

• All The Kings Horses at 521 E. 12th St. has closed until further notice. UPDATED: They reopen on 12/21 with limited hours and no indoor dining

AuH2O Shop, 84 E. Seventh St., closed yesterday and will not reopen until after Christmas. "We're very sorry to people looking to pick up online orders or last-minute gifts, but we thank you for understanding the need to keep our staff and everyone safe." 

Azaleas, the women's boutique, limited their hours and the number of patrons allowed inside the shop at 140 Second Ave. 

• Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St., will be closed until at least Dec. 31.

Bluestockings, the activist bookstore and café at 116 Suffolk St., is now only open for pickup orders and coffee and pastries to go. 

• Boris & Horton, the dog-friendly cafe on Avenue A at 12th Street, closed for the weekend, stating on Instagram: "The health of our employees, guests, and community is our number one priority." UPDATED 12/22: They are back open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Copper Still, 151 Second Ave., plans to reopen on Dec. 26.

The Film Anthology Archives, 32 Second Ave., canceled yesterday's screenings and those scheduled for tonight and tomorrow. Per a statement: "Having already planned to close for the holidays from Dec. 22-Jan. 6, we hope to return as scheduled on Jan. 7."

• Josie's, 520 E. Sixth St., like its sister bars Mona's and Sophie's, will be closed at least until after Dec. 25.

Kindred, 342 E. Sixth St., is closed to at least Dec. 28.

The Hard Swallow, 140 First Ave., will reopen on Dec. 27.

The Immigrant, 341 E. Ninth St., has closed until Dec. 26.

Metrograph, the cinema at 7 Ludlow St., is closing its theaters and commissary until Dec. 25.

Mona's, 224 Avenue B, has shut down through Dec. 27.

• Now Yoga at 61 E. Fourth St. has suspended in-person classes, pivoting back to online sessions for the remainder of the year. 

O'Hanlon's, 349 E. 14th St., is shutting down until Dec. 26 to give its staff time off to get tested and to deep clean the bar.

Otto's Shrunken Head, 538 E. 14th St., closed after service last night. The bar plans to reopen on Jan. 5.

Phebe's, 361 Bowery, announced it will be closed for the next week. 

Ruffian, 125 E. Seventh St., plans to reopen on Dec. 27.

SMØR, the Nordic cafe at 441 E. 12th St., suspended indoor dining, serving food and drinks outdoors and for takeaway and delivery. 

• Sophie's, 507 E. Fifth St., is closed now with hopes of reopening after this holiday week.

For fatigued owners, employees and residents, the closures have prompted unpleasant flashbacks to March 2020, when businesses announced short-term closures due to the rising cases of coronavirus... only to be shuttered for months after then-Gov. Cuomo ordered all nonessential businesses to close during the PAUSE. 

In recent days, both Mayor de Blasio, who has less than two weeks left in office, and Gov. Hochul have reportedly said another NYC lockdown won't be necessary. "Getting vaccinated, getting the booster and wearing a mask are critical to avoiding getting seriously ill from COVID-19, so don't take a chance," Hochul said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the scramble for testing continues. Long lines await people anxious for peace of mind before traveling in the days ahead or attending holiday get-togethers with friends or family. The Mayor has promised more testing sites early this week

Starting today, the NYC Test & Trace Corps, in partnership with the NYC Health Department and NYC Care, will distribute 500,000 rapid antigen self-testing kits and 1 million KN95 masks through community-based organizations across the city. It's not clear where these might be available in the East Village. 

Hearth photo by Lola Sáenz

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Testing, testing

As you are likely well aware, the rise of COVID cases in the city has spurred lines for testing as people prepare to travel for the holidays... or simply just want to get tested.

There have been social media reports (#CityMD) of 2-3 hour waits at CityMD. (The above photo is from this morning around 8 as the line outside the 14th Street CityMD outpost stretched halfway down the block between Second Avenue and Third Avenue.)

Some knowledgeable/trustworthy sources online have reminded people about free city-run test sites. Find that list here. And this site has the wait times for NYC Health + Hospitals COVID-19 testing locations. And here's a list of free mobile testing units. You'll have to travel a little bit for this — none of the locations are in the East Village.

The city is reportedly expanding testing sites, distributing masks and giving away at-home test kits... though, as many people have pointed out in news articles on this winter surge: 20 months in, it shouldn't be so difficult to get a test. (And this article at The City reports: "De Blasio Shut Down 20 City-Run COVID Testing Facilities Ahead of Omicron Surge.")

Also: The city's Vaccine Command Center is here.... the COVID-19 and Flu Vaccine Finder is here.  

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mobile unit offering COVID-19 vaccines today on Avenue A

One of the city's mobile units is offering free COVID-19 vaccines today on Avenue A outside Blink between Sixth Street and Seventh Street ... no appointments are needed for the Pfizer vaccine (ages 12+)...
According to the city's COVID-19 Vaccine Finder, the $100 incentive is available at this pop-up site. The mobile unit will be here today until 5:30 p.m. 


The van is back today (Sept. 26)... same block but on the west side of Avenue A...

Friday, September 24, 2021

Help East Village Loves NYC feed 10,000 people in 3 days

East Village Loves NYC — the local volunteer group formed in the spring of 2020 to feed people in need during the pandemic — has laid out ambitious plans for a pre-Thanksgiving event: to prepare meals for 10,000 New Yorkers over three days.
Details via Instagram...
We are holding our biggest and boldest event ever! For our EARLY THANKSGIVING COOKATHON, we’re planning to feed 10k people! Our Love Kitchen will be running full steam three days in a row: October 23, 24 and 25! 

Want to get involved in the most ambitious event of the year? Visit and help us raise enough to make this happen!

Volunteer slots will open on October 1, stay tuned!

In its first year, East Village Loves NYC — which has attracted some 400 volunteers — cooked more than 100,000 meals for New Yorkers during the pandemic ... not to mention donated 325,000-plus pounds of groceries and 7,000-plus pantry bags.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

ICYMI: Proof of vaccination now required for restaurants, bars, theaters and more

As you likely know, starting yesterday, people age 12 and older need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination — at least one dose — to dine or drink inside NYC restaurants, cafes, bars ... or go to movie theaters, museums, concert halls, gyms, art galleries and other venues such as bowling alleys and pool halls. 

In addition, employees of those businesses must also be vaccinated, "with holdouts facing the possibility of being fired if they refuse," per The Associated Press

Mayor de Blasio announced the vaccination mandate — aka Key to NYC — two weeks ago as a way to persuade more people to get vaccinated as the Delta variant has prompted a resurgence of the pandemic in some areas. (Since his announcement, the mayors of San Francisco and New Orleans have announced similar mandates, Bloomberg reports.) 

According to the city, proof of vaccination may include:
• NYC COVID Safe App 
• Excelsior Pass 
• CDC Vaccination Card (or photo) 
• NYC Vaccination Record 
• An official immunization record from outside NYC or the U.S.

Find more details at the city site here

Businesses have until Sept. 13 to comply with the mandate ... before city agencies will start conducting inspections and issuing fines up to $5,000 for repeat violations. Gothamist has a nice explainer here. (And yes, if you're dining outside, you can use the restrooms.)

Meanwhile, the Associated Press and the Post both had articles on the complications of the measures, "as restaurant servers, bartenders and ticket agents become the frontline enforcers for vaccination rules."

Patrons who either aren't vaccinated or don't have their proof may dine outdoors at restaurants.

Several East Village restaurants started requiring proof of vaccination earlier this month. The owners of Ruffian, the wine bar at 125 E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and First Avenue, and Kindred, 342 E. Sixth St. just west of First Avenue, suspended indoor dining until further notice. Their outdoor spaces remain in service.

According to city data, 56 percent of all adult New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated; the number is 68 percent in Manhattan — and even higher in the 10002, 10003 and 10009 zip codes. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Indoor masking recommend for vaccinated New Yorkers; local businesses change entry policies

Updated 10:30 a.m. 
New York City will require proof of vaccination to enter all restaurants, fitness centers and indoor entertainment venues, Mayor de Blasio announced this morning. 

"If you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things," de Blasio said, as reported by CNN. "If you want to participate in our society fully, you've got to get vaccinated." 

The mandate will go into effect next month and apply to employees and customers. 

Eater has more details on the program, dubbed "Key to NYC Pass." 

"The program, which appears to be the first of its kind in the United States, will start on Aug. 16 with full enforcement beginning on Sept. 13."


Yesterday, city and state officials recommended that New Yorkers start wearing masks indoors again — even if they have been fully vaccinated.

Said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi: "I am making a strong recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in public indoor settings. This is based on our review of the latest scientific evidence showing that the delta variant of the coronavirus can spread even more easily than previously thought." 

However, Mayor de Blasio is not issuing a mask mandate at this time. "We want to emphasize vaccinations, vaccinations. That is the whole ballgame," he said yesterday, as reported by Gothamist. In addition, Gov. Cuomo said that he is asking private businesses — including bars and restaurants — to require proof of vaccination as a condition for entry. 

"I am asking them, and suggesting to them, go to vaccine-only admission," Cuomo told reporters. "I believe it is in your best interest." 

Meanwhile, before yesterday's announcements and recommendations, several East Village businesses had announced a change in their policies. 

To eat inside at Yellow Rose, the Tex-Mex restaurant at 102 Third Ave. between 12th Street and 13th Street, diners must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Outdoor seating will remain open to all diners. 

Starting today, Nowon, the Korean restaurant at 507 E. Sixth St. between Avenue A and Avenue B, will only serve vaccinated patrons indoors. Outdoor tables will remain open for any guests. 

The owners of Ruffian, the wine bar at 125 E. Seventh St. between Avenue A and First Avenue, and Kindred (pictured above), 342 E. Sixth St. just west of First Avenue, are suspending indoor dining until further notice. Their outdoor spaces will remain in service.

Eater is compiling a list of restaurants requiring proof of vaccination here.

The Anthology Film Archives, which reopens for in-person screenings on Thursday, had previously announced that only vaccinated (and masked) moviegoers will be allowed in for now at the theater on Second Avenue and Second Street. To see Stomp at the Orpheum Theatre on Second Avenue, guests 12 and over must show proof of vaccination. 

Elsewhere, White Trash, specializing in mid-century modern furnishings at 304 E. Fifth St. between First Avenue and Second Avenue, requires vaccination proof for entry.

According to city data, 55 percent of all adult New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated; the number is 66 percent in Manhattan — and even higher in the 10002, 10003 and 10009 zip codes. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

The two-story dining structure that almost was on 4th Street

Back on Thursday, EVG contributor Stacie Joy shared these photos from Fourth Street between Avenue A and Avenue B... where workers were starting to add a second level — complete with artificial turf — to the dining structure outside Izakaya NYC...
Work continued on Friday morning ...
Though by the end of the day, the job's mission changed to a removal after neighbor complaints — two-story structures are not allowed — led an inspector from the Department of Transportation to the site, who nixed the double-decker.

Here's a look at the de-constructed second level and streeteatery yesterday...
Curbed, who first reported on this Friday, received a statement from Izakaya NYC owner Yudai Kanayama:
Kanayama said he wanted to add extra outdoor space as COVID cases are rising once again, but reiterated that he was taking down the upper level. "I thought the only potential to create more seating was this," he said. The plan had been to lay fake turf upstairs and make the area more like a park or lawn than a restaurant with tables and chairs. "I was basically looking for the best we could do under the restrictions by being more creative and ambitious."
The DOT said that an inspector will return this week to confirm that Izakaya NYC removed the in-progress second deck. 

The ill-fated duplex also made the cover of the Post on Saturday, in which Steve Cuozzo excoriated al fresco dining structures. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Reminders: Tompkins Square Library hosting mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic this week

As noted back on Monday, the Tompkins Square Library is hosting a mobile vaccination clinic outside the branch at 331 E. 10th St. between Avenue A and Avenue B. (It's across the street from the library.)

The City's Test + Trace Corps will be here today through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

No appointments are necessary, though you can schedule an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine here.

 And according to the city's COVID-19 Vaccine Finder, the $100 incentive is available here...

Monday, July 26, 2021

Tompkins Square Library hosting mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic this week

This week, the Tompkins Square Library hosts a mobile vaccination clinic outside the branch at 331 E. 10th St. between Avenue A and Avenue B. 

The City's Test + Trace Corps will be here today through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

According to the flyer, anyone age 18 and over is eligible. No appointments are necessary. And a form of ID is required.

Data from the NYC Department of Health shows that 65 percent of adult residents in all five boroughs have been fully vaccinated.
Here's a look at zip codes in this area for adults age 18 and older via the DOH's map of vaccinations...

Partially vaccinated: 76.04 percent 
Fully vaccinated: 71.72 percent 

Partially vaccinated: 74.58 percent 
Fully vaccinated: 70.3 percent 

Partially vaccinated: 86.01 percent 
Fully vaccinated: 80.56 percent

In other developments... with the delta variant driving up infection rates, Mayor de Blasio called on private employers to consider mandating employees get vaccinated.

As The Hill reported:
"I'm calling upon all New York City employers, including our private hospitals, to move immediately to some form of mandate," the mayor said Friday while appearing on "The Brian Lehrer Show." "Whatever the maximum you feel you can do."

The Democratic mayor said the vaccination system that was in place for over half a year has been effective enough to restore some sense of normalcy, but that New York City has "reached the limits of a purely voluntary system." Mandates, he argued, are the next step.

It was reported last week that just 43 percent of the NYPD's workforce has been vaccinated against COVID-19. (The FDNY said that about 55 percent of its employees have been vaccinated.) An NYPD spokesperson told the Post that the department is working to educate workers and combat misinformation about the vaccine.

Meanwhile, with the increase in positive COVID-19 cases among the unvaccinated population, some elected officials, like City Council member Mark Levine, are making a case for the return of indoor mask requirements — even for the fully vaccinated. 

Updated noon
• NYC Will Require Vaccination Or Weekly Testing For All City Workers (Gothamist)

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Free COVID-19 vaccines in Tompkins Square Park this weekend

The city has set up a free COVID-19 vaccination center for this weekend in Tompkins Square Park right by Temperance Fountain ... no appointments are needed today or tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Vaccines offered at this location
• Pfizer (12+) 
• Johnson & Johnson (18+) 

 This is the second time this summer that the city has offered free vaccines in Tompkins Square Park.

Thanks to @joshuawatermannyc for the photo!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Illustrations from the pandemic

Throughout the pandemic-fueled PAUSE in NYC, East Village-based visual designer and illustrator Robin Muccari documented his experiences while taking walks at night and during breaks from working in his small apartment. 

He shared those illustrations and observances in a recent post on Medium

What follows is a small selection of his work... visit the site for more... (with a thank you to Loren DeVito) ... 
Then the hoarding crisis quickly came into play. People left Trader Joe’s and Target on 14th Street and Avenue A with many bags of toilet paper, sanitizer, bread, and more. 
Those who took it seriously, though, kept at least a six-foot distance and some were uncomfortable helping others. 
But despite the panic, there were still people who thought they either didn’t need a mask or didn’t wear it at all times. They were oblivious to others who coughed or sneezed near them. This happened enough that people screamed at them in the neighborhood.

Saturday, July 10, 2021


As seen on 12th Street ... "free" and "clean" plastic storage bins... bonus — "COVID free." 

Thanks to Lola Sáenz for the photo...

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Help wanted: East Village restaurants look for staff, find few options

 Article and photos by Stacie Joy

When Sidney’s Five was preparing to open this spring on First Avenue, the owners of the café placed ads for waitstaff and kitchen help on Craigslist. 

The job search yielded just one reply for the back-of-house positions as opposed to the hundreds of responses the hospitality veterans may have received pre-pandemic. Meanwhile, only one person showed up to interview for a front-of-house slot. 

As East Village bars and restaurants move on from pandemic-era closures and dining-room restrictions, owners continue to face a dearth of available employees — yet another challenge in a tumultuous 15-month-plus period that saw sales plunge before the more recent uptick in business. However, some restaurateurs are having trouble meeting the demands with the lack of workers.

Even in casual conversations with owners and managers, I have been hearing “do you know anyone who may be interested in working?” for weeks now.
A search on Craigslist finds thousands of requests for front-of-house and kitchen staff in the city, and you can’t walk more than a block or two without spotting handmade signs in restaurant windows. (And this is not a local challenge. As The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, restaurant and bar employment remains down by 1.5 million nationwide since the pandemic began.)

Several East Village hospitality business owners and hiring managers talked with me about their recent troubles finding staff, why they think there’s a problem, and their outlook on the future.

Multitasking to make do

At Sidney’s Five, the four partners — Kai Woo, Walker Chambliss, Edie Ugot and David Lowenstein — find themselves multitasking. Due to the staffing shortage, they are responsible for every job: washing dishes, bussing and cleaning tables, cooking meals — even snaking gutters.
The café is offering a scaled-back menu until they can fully staff the kitchen. The people they might usually hire, actors and performers earning extra money as waitstaff, left town when theater venues shut down, the owners said. Some other longtime bartenders and cooks opted for different careers during the hospitality downturn of 2020.

“Much of the industry staffing left New York during the pandemic, and it will take time for everyone to return,” Lowenstein said. “In addition, there may be another group who are still here but are afraid to return to work because they live with relatives who are vulnerable to COVID. This group may be waiting until there is a higher vaccination rate in the city.”

“And there is another group who can collect sufficient unemployment benefits until September ... so returning to work doesn't make financial sense," he continued. "Finally, workers who remained in their roles and are likely happy with their workplace and compensation because of how desperate employers are to staff up.”

Lowenstein wonders if some kind of government cash bonus or tax benefit would encourage people to return to work.

“I don’t support removing/reducing the unemployment benefits early, the way many governors are doing across the country,” he said. “I would support some positive encouragement, though. It might also help the situation if state or local government-subsidized wages for new hires to offer a competitive rate. As a new restaurant, it is more difficult for us to offer $25/hour to a line cook when we aren’t even taking wages ourselves yet.”

At Van Da, chef-owner Yen Ngo talked to me after a long night of cooking and running her well-regarded Vietnamese restaurant on Fourth Street. 

Ngo’s executive chef is pregnant, and she and her partner (who also worked as a Van Da chef) have left to stay with family. 

Since Ngo cannot find someone who specializes in Vietnamese cooking, she’s behind the burners whenever the space is open — five nights per week.
Ngo cited several reasons for the shortage of restaurant employees. 

“When the pandemic hit, most restaurant workers were laid off, some moved out of the city. Some have had the time to reflect at home and want a career change,” she said. 

At Van Da, 20 percent of the staff went back to school, while another 30 percent moved out of the city. 

“Restaurant work is hard and often unappreciated. It is easier to find front of the house now since the jobs are easier, and the pay is better than being cooks or preps,” Ngo said. “I wish all workers would get paid according to their skills rather than [relying on] tips. It’s complicated. Most people do not understand how broken the system is if they don't run or own restaurants.”

Ngo and other restaurant owners have experienced other shortages, including supplies, as well as higher costs. 

“Finding good products [is difficult]. There are shortages of good beef and pork, not to mention the huge increase in cost,” Ngo said. “Our beef and pork prices more than doubled.” 

Julio Peña, an owner of the Italian wine bar and restaurant Il Posto Accanto on Second Street, said they have always relied on word-of-mouth for waitstaff. For kitchen crews and bussers, they have used employment agencies. Neither source is turning up many candidates these days.

Between unemployment benefits and career changes (he said that many back-of-the-house workers are now in construction), Peña is left with few options. 

“There’s not much you can do…trim your hours of operation, ask customers to be patient, serve fewer people, and hope it works out,” he said.

Receiving fewer applicants

Ike Escava operates three outposts of The Bean in the neighborhood. At the coffee shop’s Third Avenue location, Escava talked about his experiences in barista pandemic staffing.
“It’s been a [hiring] challenge, although better lately. It was tough to find people who want to work. We have signs on the doors of all of our restaurants, advertisements on, and people can apply on our website,” Escava said. “We are getting fewer applicants…people don’t want to work if they are getting, say, $700 a week from the government not to work.”

In his opinion, the government should offer the $300/week PUA Cares Act to everyone, including those who have re-entered the workforce. 

“It would be an incentive to return to the workplace, and people would still get their extra $300 weekly,” he said.

A hiring manager at an upscale health-conscious restaurant, who wasn't authorized to speak on the record, discussed his difficulties finding staff.

“The most common statement I’ve heard over the past few months is ‘it’s because people are still receiving unemployment benefits.’ I do feel this is a factor. It is also a simplification of reality,” the hiring manager said. “The reality is that these industries, as rewarding as they can be, are not easy places to work. Folks who have spent their careers serving others have often felt underappreciated. What this past year has offered was a glimpse into what it would be like to pursue other desires and skills while maintaining a healthier work/life balance.” 

Being based in NYC, the hiring manager said we had the unique experience of the mass migration out of the city. 

“This is something we are seeing that’s changing,” he said. “It seems like every week there are more and more people moving back or to the city for the first time.”

And as for finding and hiring candidates, “We have started casting a much larger net. The first thing we did was to diversify where we are looking for candidates. I believe we have job postings on four or five sites currently. We have also adjusted experience requirements, job history, etc., which is tricky because we also want to maintain our level of service and experience.”

Being kind and understanding

At the Korean-American restaurant Nowon on Sixth Street, chef Jae Lee expounded on the difficulties in hiring.

“It’s a very touchy subject to point out the reason why but let's speak about what the operators noticed. When unemployment benefits were to end last year, we saw an uptick on many back-of-house and front-of-house professionals applying for positions,” Lee said. “When the unemployment benefits continued, the applicants were no longer there. Every operator says the same thing; they are short-staffed, and it feels almost impossible to hire anyone.”

Regarding candidates, “We have posted ads on culinary agents and have boosted posts, which honestly did nothing to bring in more applicants. We also tried to hire through word-of-mouth, which didn’t work either.”

“We were able to hire two new front-of-house support staff who are college students,” he continued. “We are hiring green candidates who we can mold rather than hiring experienced professionals who don’t need much training.”

Lee closed our conversation with a sentiment I’ve heard from almost everyone interviewed for this story.

“Please be kind and understanding while restaurants and bars are trying their absolute best to make it work,” he said. “Please be nice to the staff who chose to come into work to serve and cook for you. We know we have work to do, and we are diligently working hard to get there.” 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Free vaccinations tomorrow at Middle Collegiate Church

Various elected officials, community groups and city agencies have organized a free vaccination pop-up event tomorrow at Middle Collegiate Church, outside the office-rectory space at 50 E. Seventh St. between First Avenue and Second Avenue. The event takes place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Gov. Cuomo lifts COVID restrictions; local vaccination rates top 65%

As you likely saw/read yesterday (pretty much everywhere), Gov. Cuomo announced that COVID-19 restrictions were immediately being lifted as 70 percent of New Yorkers age 18 or older have received the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination series. (Read the fine print here.)

How is the vaccination progress faring in the East Village and adjacent neighborhoods? The NYC Department of Health provides a map of vaccinations by zip code

Here's a look at zip codes in this area for adults age 18 and over:

Partially vaccinated: 72.4 percent 
Fully vaccinated: 66 percent 

Partially vaccinated: 71.4 percent 
Fully vaccinated: 65 percent 

Partially vaccinated: 81.2 percent 
Fully vaccinated: 73 percent

And moving forward here's what the lifting of restrictions means, per the State:
The State's health guidance and New York Forward industry-specific guidelines — including social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening and contact information for tracing — are now optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services, among other commercial settings. 

Unvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Consistent with the State's implementation of the recent CDC guidance, masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals. Further, the State's health guidelines continue to be in effect for large-scale indoor event venues, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.
Everyone 12 years of age and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination. You can find appointments at this site.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Free COVID-19 vaccines in Tompkins Square Park this weekend

The city is setting up a free COVID-19 vaccination center this weekend in Tompkins Square Park... no appointements needed today or tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ...
Thanks to @EastVillageNY for the info!