Showing posts with label NYC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NYC. Show all posts

May 8, 2020

Gay, Straight, Old and Younger NYC Tenants Make a Rent Strike Closer To Reality



“Having a roof over your head and starving to death makes no sense”


 Shuttered stores and boarded up apartment windows on an East Village block in Manhattan. 

One evening in late April, seated on the bed in her Brooklyn apartment, Melanie Wang shouted instructions into her cellphone on how to join a conference call to older tenants of a Manhattan building in Chinatown.
After a flurry of phone calls, Wang wrangled just shy of a dozen residents onto the call, and in an instant, the chaos of coordinating a digital tenants meeting was replaced with a burst of laser focused conversation. The technology might have been a bit unfamiliar, but there was no hesitance from tenants when it came to talking about the difficulty of paying rent during the novel coronavirus pandemic—and the possibility of going on a rent strike. 
“As soon as I got people on the phone it was off to the races,” says Wang, a community organizer with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), who sat back and listened as tenants took the lead. “Very quickly they came to a collective understanding of what they wanted to do in their building; just removing that small but enormous barrier of bringing people together made the difference.” 
It’s a scene that, even just two months ago, would have otherwise unfolded face-to-face. Instead, shut in by government order or simply in fear of being within six feet of another person due to COVID-19, community organizers and tenants are getting creative and turning to digital tools as part of a nation-wide push to cancel rent payments during the pandemic with a rash of both rent and labor strikes on May 1.
Through virtual tenant town halls, grainy video calls, and a whole lot of messaging on numerous chat apps, organizers in New York and across the country are tapping into some of the 30 million who have filed for unemployment in the U.S. since early March, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. With widespread economic uncertainty, the act of paying—or not paying rent—has become a flash point for both renters and landlords who say they are not receiving enough emergency support to cope with months of missed income.
Meanwhile, government stimulus checks of $1,200 are disorganizedoverdue, and woefully inadequate for city dwellers whose rents can easily climb to double that amount. And undocumented immigrants—who don’t qualify for the aid but who are on the frontlines of the pandemic stocking grocery store shelves and sanitizing buildings—are left in the lurch. 
“I just do the math and there is no way I can pay rent when I’m unemployed. How am I suppose to pay present bills and then make up back rent? I don’t understand,” says Donnette, an undocumented immigrant from Jamaica who lives in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and recently worked as a home health care attendant until her employer died from COVID-19. “We are all deserving of a home.”
Now, grassroots groups in San FranciscoChicagoPhiladelphia, and elsewhere are helping tenants organize rent strikes. The radical step of renters collectively withholding payment from their landlord is typically used to leverage building repairs or other concessions, but amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, thousands of renters are turning that tool to a political purpose: galvanize a suspension of rent payments, without tenants owing back rent, by putting economic pressure on landlords and thereby state and federal officials to promote tenant-friendly measures.
In New York, tenants across 57 buildings totaling more than 2,000 units are coordinating rent strikes, according to Cea Weaver, the campaign coordinator for Housing Justice For All, a coalition of tenants’ rights groups that is spearheading the push to cancel rent across the state. Another 13,000 individual renters have signed the coalition’s online pledge against paying rent in May. 
Precise strike numbers will be nearly impossible to track, but the number of commitments alone signals a historic resurgence of the tenant resistance tactic, the likes of which have not been seen in New York since mass strikes were coordinated across the Bronx and Manhattan in the 1930s against rent gouging and poor living conditions. 
In present-day New York, a statewide eviction moratorium issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo protects tenants from losing their homes until at least mid-June—but they will still be on the hook to make up any missed rent payments after the moratorium expires. And once it does, lawmakers and housing advocates say that the state will see a “tidal wave” of eviction cases in the courts unless renters receive greater support. 
But for many New Yorkers the decision to withhold rent isn’t exactly a choice when there simply isn’t a paycheck coming in, and what little cash they have is going toward groceries, medicine, diapers, and other essentials. In this way, the rent strikes are a reframing of nonpayment as protest; it’s about using a dire moment to kindle a mass movement similar to the Occupy Wall Street protests that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
“This moment is really terrifying, but it’s also quite inspiring,” says Weaver. “It’s in moments of crisis that we’re able to win big things from the first rent control laws in New York state’s history about 100 years ago to public housing and more. It’s in moments like these when we can really push the envelope to envision a totally different world.”
And that starts on the ground with tenant leaders and organizers. But the need to keep social distance due to COVID-19 has complicated how advocates are reaching New Yorkers, especially some of the most vulnerable who can already be tough to reach, including the elderly, undocumented immigrants, and those who speak little or no English.
For Wang and CAAAV—which is working with tenants in two Chinatown buildings who are expected to take collective action—perhaps the biggest organizing hurdle amid COVID-19 is a technological one compounded by a language barrier. While the #Can’tPayMay movement has brewed on widely used social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, many of the cultural groups Wang works with aren’t on those platforms. It’s a seemingly simple challenge that adds a layer of time consuming complexity to reaching tenants. 
“Organizing digitally has been a real mind bender,” says Wang, who speaks Mandarin and frequently works with tenants who don’t speak English as their first language or at all. “[The tenants] have smartphones, but they’re all plugged into different networks: Chinese are on WeChat, Korean folks are on WeChat or Kakao, Bengali are on WhatsApp. We can’t reach them on Facebook and Twitter. We have to meet them where they are.” 
At CAAAV, that has translated to teaching its members how to use the video chat features offered by some messaging apps, and helping to create various group chats for tenants. Organizers are mulling the idea of setting up a tenant hotline and sharing that info on various messaging-app platforms, and have also experimented with video and conference call technology. UberConference, for instance, has proved useful because it eliminates the obstacle of dialing in, which can sometimes be a challenge for older tenants, according to Wang. 
These efforts are as much about keeping tenants informed as they are about helping them digitally connect with their neighbors. “There’s a lot of active teaching in terms of how to use these platforms,” says Wang. “Knowing that I can play a real role in facilitating that conversation is really gratifying, it’s even more gratifying to see communities use those skills to take control of their situations themselves.”
In the south Bronx, that mentality is core to the work of tenant leaders partnered with grassroots group Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA). Fitzroy Christian, a volunteer tenant leader with CASA who lives in the Highbridge section of the Bronx—an area of New York City especially hard hit by COVID-19—sees his role as arming locals with information and options. 
“The informational systems in New York city and state are not weathering the storm properly,” says Christian, who mostly works with low-wage worker whose jobs have been made obsolete or risky as a result of the pandemic. “Part of our discussions with our members is if they have the ability to pay their rent, they should. But if they have to make a choice between paying their rent, their utilities, or taking care of their families, they should withhold the rent because having a roof over your head and starving to death makes no sense.” 
To that end, New York lawmakers have unveiled a spate of legislative efforts that could help renters and landlords alike. And on the federal level, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar has introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would relieve tenants of their obligation to pay rent, transfer mortgages to the federal government, and allow landlords to recoup their rent costs—but only if they agree to a series of stipulations including a freeze on rents, and an inability to collect back payments.
Fitzroy and other CASA tenant leaders have been using Zoom, phone calls, “plus a million emails a day,” he says, to connect with residents. Instead of traditional door knocking and in-person meetings, CASA has switched to video workshops, which are recorded and uploaded on the group’s website, with ample time for attendees to ask questions about unemployment, evictions, and paying—or not paying—rent. 
The idea of a rent strike, Christian says, “came up organically” for several tenants struggling to make ends meet who wondered if it would ramp up pressure for rent relief. 
“We have to send a message,” says Mariana Hernandez, a single-mother who rents a two-bedroom apartment in Mott Haven with her two young daughters.  
Hernandez lost her income as a crossing guard when New York shuttered schools in March, and to make matters worse, her 74-year-old mother is hospitalized at Lincoln Medical Center with COVID-19. With little cash and mounting bills, Hernandez and ten other tenants of her four-story apartment building are withholding rent come May 1. 
“I’m constantly terrified. I’m scared for my mother, I’m scared for my girls, and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” says Hernandez, who has yet to receive her $1,200 stimulus check. “My goal is survival, and how can I pay rent when I can barely put food on the table?”
Even grassroots groups that don’t typically organize around housing issues are helping their tenants mobilize rent strikes. Organizers with Desis Rising up and Moving (DRUM), which advocates for South Asian and Indo-Caribbean New Yorkers, recognizes that renters, homeowners, and small landlords are on the edge of a proverbial cliff without greater relief. 
“We need to be able to protect ourselves and our community and the only way we can do that is if we come together,” says Jensine Raihan, a gender justice organizer DRUM. “If we don’t organize then we have no voice.”
Renters across the state will make that voice heard come 7 p.m. on May 1, banging pots and pans at their windows and unfurling homemade banners painted with “No income, no rent” and “Cancel rent.” It’s a show of solidarity Christian hopes elected officials will hear loud and clear.
“It is important, truly, truly important, for the actions that need to be taken are taken now—sooner rather than later,” says Christian. “The costs in people’s homes, to their lives, the effects on the community—it could be so devastating.”


April 22, 2020

Trump Failed NY in Many Ways, Now He Leaves The City Out of COVID-19 Task Force



   
           

On Thursday, the White House announced that Reps. Elise Stefanik, Lee Zeldin, Tom Suozzi and John Katko, would be joining its new Opening Up America Again Congressional Group.
"We can begin the next front in our war, which we are calling 'Opening Up America Again,'" Trump said during a press conference on Thursday. "To preserve the health of Americans, we must preserve the health of our economy." "We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time," Trump added. "Some states will be able to open up sooner than others."
The bipartisan group, which includes 97 members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, is just one of the task forces created by the White House to assess when the country should begin lifting restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Trump has created a series of what the White House calls "Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups" full of corporate executives. 
None of the lawmakers tapped to be on the congressional task force are from New York City, the epicenter of the nation’s novel coronavirus outbreak. Suozzi’s district includes a tiny sliver of Queens, but the former Nassau county executive and Glen Cove mayor has mainly served Long Island throughout his political career. 
Considering downstate New York has been hit so much harder than upstate, where Stefanik and Katko hail from, it’s notable that prominent city lawmakers such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Hakeem Jeffries and Jerry Nadler were left off the task force. The two Democratic senators from the state, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, were also left out. However, the congressional group has members from red rural states such as Wyoming, Missouri and Idahowhich have far fewer cases per capita than downstate New York. 
One might expect upstate New York representatives to look out for their fellow New Yorkers’ interests, but Stefanik hasn’t appeared concerned with the welfare of New York City or its suburbs. This was especially clear when she aggressively pushed back against Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he sought to lend unused ventilators from less-affected areas of the state to those potentially running out of the lifesaving breathing machines. The congresswoman was one of the main signatories on a letter that objected to the redistribution of ventilators.  Stefanik’s main interest during the state’s COVID-19 outbreak seems to be protecting the economic interests of upstate dairy farmers
Even after being appointed to the new task force, Stefanik continued to emphasize the prioritization of upstate, even though it accounts for just a small fraction of the cases in New York. "Prioritizing the needs of upstate New York and rural communities as a whole will be critical to protecting public health and restarting the American economy, getting people back to work, and easing the burden on so many families across my district and the entire country," Stefanik said on Thursday. 
President Donald Trump is known to reward those who are loyal to him and punish those who he considers disloyal. Presumably, the president selected Stefanik and Zeldin due to their outspoken support for him and their willingness to defend him at almost every turn. Trump grew especially fond of Stefanik after her performance at his impeachment trial in November 2019, which helped boost her popularity among Republicans. In January, Trump appointed Stefanik and Zeldin – another longtime champion of the president – to join his impeachment defense team.  
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.

April 13, 2020

A collage of Pictures of The Lush, Tough Life of Spanish Harlem (El Barrio) in the 1980's

These photos of Spanish Harlem in the 1980s show the lush, tough life of a vibrant neighborhood

Joseph Rodriguez chronicled this Puerto Rican stronghold

{{timeline.com}} by 
Rian Dundon
Between 1940 and 1960, more than half a million Puerto Ricans left their home for the U.S. mainland. The vast majority of them—88 percent—ended up in New York City, and many of those were drawn to East Harlem, where a new community was taking hold in the tenements and brownstones of what was formerly known as Italian Harlem. Old Little Italy became the new, vibrant center of Puerto Rican American culture, but its 1.54 square miles would also share in the hardships felt by inner city neighborhoods across the country. In the 1960s and 70s large swaths of East Harlem were razed to make way for colossal housing blocks. The changes thus wrought, as writer Ed Vega describes in his essay The Mythic Village of El Barrio, would be an “economic death-knell” for the community. “They built city projects that provided no commercial space. Gone were the mom and pop stores that constituted the economic infra-structure of the neighborhood.” Today Spanish Harlem has the second highest density (after Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood) of low-income public housing in the country.

From Spanish Harlem by Joseph Rodriguez, published by powerHouse Books.

When photographer Joseph Rodriguez starting making pictures in Spanish Harlem in the mid-1980s, he was no stranger to the neighborhood’s rich layers of social history. His uncle had owned a candy shop in there, and as a teenager Rodriguez would make the journey uptown on the subway from his home in Brooklyn. Returning years later as an ambitious photojournalist, he reconnected with the community as a fellow New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent—a nuyorican—and his pictures reflect the intimacy of that shared experience. For five years he concentrated on a single block of East 117th Street, immersing himself with families living in cramped walk-up apartments, and the active street life the close quarters necessitated. 

If Rodriguez’s understanding of his subjects imbued his work with an insider’s perspective, his journalistic instincts also allowed him to step back and see things how they really were. Spanish Harlem in the late 1980s was hit hard by heroin, crack, the early onset of HIV, and an unemployment rate that persists today. It was also a dynamic mecca of Latin and Afro-Caribbean influences where Rodriguez’s persistence—and his penchant for just hanging out—led him to block parties and weddings, rooftops, social clubs, and shooting galleries. Newly reissued, his 1994 book, Spanish Harlem, is a deeply personal ode to the neighborhood and the city.

Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the ’80s is on view at the Bronx Documentary Center from November 11 — December 23, 2017.












April 9, 2020

NYC Hits 731 Dead in One Day in Hospitals. How Many At Home? Grandma Disappeared }}Found 3 Days Latter in Morgue



 Credit...Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times
                         

Five weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, officials in New York and New Jersey hoped that the number of virus-related deaths had reached a peak and would flatten or drop on Tuesday for a third straight day.

It did not happen.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said yesterday that 731 people had died of the virus since Monday, the state’s highest one-day total yet by more than 100.

“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a sister, is a brother,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany. “So a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers.”

New Jersey also hit a new one-day high on Tuesday, with 232 people dying of the virus since the previous day,  Gov. Philip D. Murphy said. On Sunday and Monday, deaths in the state were in the double digits. 

Connecticut also reported its biggest one-day increase in deaths on Tuesday, with Gov. Ned Lamont saying 71 people had died since the day before. By comparison, Mr. Lamont had reported 17 new deaths on Monday.

The three states together reported 1,034 deaths in a day, the first time that the region’s one-day toll topped 1,000.

Virus deaths are going uncounted as more people die at home.

As of Tuesday, more than 4,000 had died from the coronavirus in New York City, according to data from the city and state.

But as awful as the official  figures are, they likely understate deaths by many hundreds if not thousands: People who die at home without ever having been tested for the virus are often left out of the accounting. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on CNN Wednesday morning that there were “100 to 200 people per day” in the city who die at home and are presumed to be virus victims.

“There is no question the coronavirus is driving this,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We didn’t see this during normal times.”

The head of the City Council’s health committee, Councilman Mark Levine, wrote on Twitter that on a normal day in the city, fewer than 25 people die at home.

According to the news site Gothamist, the city medical examiner’s office has not been testing dead bodies for the virus and has instead referred what it considers “probable” virus deaths to the city’s health department.

But the health department counts only confirmed virus cases in its official death tally, suggesting that many virus deaths were being missed.

“It’s understandable in a crisis that being able to make the confirmation is harder to do, with all the resources stretched so thin,” Mr. de Blasio said on Tuesday. City officials, he said, were focusing their resources on “saving the next life.” 

How delays and missed chances hindered New York’s virus fight.

 Carpenters retrofit a refrigerator semi trailer to use as makeshift morgue outside of NYU Langone Medical Center.
Carpenters retrofit a refrigerator semi trailer to use as makeshift morgue outside of NYU Langone Medical Center.Credit...Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times

A 39-year-old woman took Flight 701 from Doha, Qatar, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in late February, the final leg of her trip home to New York City from Iran.

A week later, on March 1, she tested positive for the coronavirus, the first confirmed case in New York City of an outbreak that had already devastated China and parts of Europe. The next day, Governor Cuomo, appearing with Mayor de Blasio at a news conference, promised that health investigators would track down every person on the woman’s flight. But no one did.

A day later, a lawyer from New Rochelle, a New York City suburb, tested positive for the virus — an alarming sign because he had not traveled to any affected country, suggesting community spread was already taking place.

Although city investigators had traced the lawyer’s whereabouts and connections to the most crowded corridors of Manhattan, the state’s efforts focused on the suburb, not the city, and Mr. de Blasio urged the public not to worry. “We’ll tell you the second we think you should change your behavior,” the mayor said on March 5.

For many days after the first positive test, as the coronavirus silently spread through the region, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio and their top aides projected an unswerving confidence that the outbreak would be readily contained.

There would be cases, they repeatedly said, but New York’s hospitals were some of the best in the world. Plans were in place. Responses had been rehearsed during “tabletop” exercises. After all, the city had been here before — Ebola, Zika, the H1N1 virus, even Sept. 11.

“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers — I speak for the mayor also on this one — we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said on March 2. “So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.” 

But now, New York City and the surrounding suburbs have become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, with far more cases than many countries have.

More than 138,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus, nearly all of them in the city and nearby suburbs. More than 5,000 people have died.

And, The New York Times found, initial efforts by New York officials to stem the outbreak were hampered by their own confused guidance, unheeded warnings, delayed decisions and political infighting.

UNHEEDED WARNINGS Officials in New York projected early confidence that the virus could be contained, but missed chances to stem its spread.
The M.T.A. staggers under the impact of the virus.

At least 33 transit workers have died from the coronavirus and over 6,000 have been infected or have self-quarantined.Credit...Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times
The coronavirus has ravaged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the subway, buses and commuter rails in New York City. At least 41 transit workers have died, more than 6,000 more have fallen sick or self-quarantined and the hobbled agency is struggling to run on time.

The agency’s workers said that officials at the M.T.A. were slow to respond, dismissed their early concerns about the virus and did not supply them protective gear or cleaning supplies. 

“Daily service can barely be maintained right now, and soon they’re not going to have the manpower to run these trains at all,” said Canella Gomez, a train operator who has worked for the agency for eight years. “The M.T.A. dropped the ball with this. They let us get sick on the job. Now it’s too late.”

Around 1,500 transit workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 5,604 others have self-quarantined because they are showing symptoms of the infection.

Transit officials say they acted as quickly as possible to protect workers and riders. The authority is disinfecting train cars and buses every three days and has urged riders to avoid crowding in subway cars.
‘THEY LET US GET SICK’  At least 41 transit workers have died and more than 6,000 more have fallen sick or self-quarantined.

FRANTIC SEARCH: Maria Correa was rushed to the hospital with coronavirus symptoms. Then no one could find her.

Their grandmother left by ambulance. They couldn’t find her for a week.
 Maria Correa in an undated photo.
Credit...via Julian Escobar
       
The emergency medical technicians who rushed into Maria Correa’s room found a pulse. They told the family in Queens that they were taking her to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, one of many health care facilities in New York City overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak.

But when her family called the hospital the next day to check on her condition, they were told she was not there. 

For a week, family members called the fire department, other hospital offices and the emergency medical service that had picked her up, near death, from her home in Woodhaven on the last Monday in March.

But Ms. Correa, 73, was nowhere to be found.

“I believe she passed away,” said Janeth Solis, a member of Ms. Correa’s family who led the increasingly frantic search to find her. “But where?”

On Monday, there was a breakthrough. An unidentified woman who had died on March 30 was in the hospital morgue, a hospital worker told her son by phone.

The paramedics, overwhelmed by a high volume of calls, had listed her son’s name, Julian Escobar, on the patient intake form instead of hers. Mr. Escobar identified his mother’s body by a photograph the next day at the hospital.

“I’m glad my mom can now rest in peace,” Mr. Escobar said in a statement released by his stepdaughter.

"New York City officials say a sudden upsurge in at-home deaths is likely due to COVID-19 and they are planning to add many of them to the official death toll even without confirmation by a laboratory". 


April 7, 2020

There is Talk in NYC Government of Mass Temp Burials in a Park



                              Prisoners are digging mass graves in New York City | wtsp.com


The grim possibility drove home the toll of the virus in New York, a day after some data suggested that its spread might be slowing.

                              Bodies are seen inside a makeshift morgue outside Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn, April 4.   Handout via REUTERS

RIGHT NOW A New York City Council member said that some virus victims could be temporarily buried in mass graves in a park.
Here’s what you need to know:

People who die of the virus could be temporarily buried in mass graves in a park.
The one-day death toll in N.Y. fell for the first time.

People who die of the virus could be temporarily buried in mass graves in a park.

With the number of people dying of the coronavirus in New York City outpacing the system’s capacity to handle them, the city is considering temporarily burying people in mass graves in a park, the chairman of the City Council’s health committee, said on Monday.

“It will be done in a dignified, orderly — and temporary — manner,” the chairman, City Councilman Mark Levine, wrote on Twitter. “But it will be tough for NYers to take.”

Mark D. Levine
@MarkLevineNYC
 · 2h
Replying to @MarkLevineNYC
And still the number of bodies continues to increase. The freezers at OCME facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn will soon be full. And then what?  8/

Mark D. Levine
@MarkLevineNYC
Soon we'll start “temporary interment”. This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right). Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line.
It will be done in a dignified, orderly--and temporary--manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take.  9/

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Mr. Levine said  the goal of “temporary interment” would be “to avoid scenes like those in Italy, where the military was forced to collect bodies from churches and even off the streets.” 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said no such plan had been put in place.

“If we need to do temporary burials to be able to tide us over to pass the crisis and then work with each family on their appropriate arrangements, we have the ability to do that,” he said when asked about Mr. Levine’s comment on Monday.  

But he said the city was “not at the point that we’re going to go into that.”

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Levine, who represents Upper Manhattan, declined to name the park or parks that were under consideration but said, “I presume it would have to be a large park with some inaccessible areas that are out of the way of the public.”

Temporary burials are part of a plan the city medical examiner’s office put together in 2008 to deal with a pandemic. “Tier One” of the plan involves storing bodies in freezer trucks and easing restrictions on crematories. The city is already doing that.

“We are relying on freezers now to hold bodies, but that capacity is almost entirely used up,” Mr. Levine said.

In recent days, the virus has tripled the number of people dying in the city compared with an average day. 

Temporary burials are described in “Tier Two” of the medical examiner’s plan.

Mr. Levine said the only possible sites for mass burials would be a  city park or Hart Island off the Bronx, the Potter’s Field where prison labor is used to bury the dead.

Hart Island has logistical challenges because it is inaccessible and it is a secure Department of Corrections facility, so there are limitations on who can go there and under what circumstances, Mr. Levin said, adding, “I think it would be preferable to have something that didn’t have the security issues of Hart Island.” 

For days, officials in New York have been searching for signs that the coronavirus is nearing a peak in the state and will start to ebb.

On Sunday, there were some hopeful signs, but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo cautioned that it was too soon to say whether they indicated a trend:

The one-day death toll from the virus, which had increased each day since the outbreak’s early days, fell slightly for the first time, to 594 deaths reported Sunday, from 630 deaths reported Saturday. The state’s total stands at 4,159.

While the number of people currently hospitalized is still increasing, the one-day increase reported Sunday was the smallest in at least two weeks. The number grew by 574, to 16,479, from 15,905. That is a 4 percent increase. The increase the day before was 7 percent. Two weeks ago, the number was growing by more than 20 percent per day.

The number of people in intensive-care units, which are equipped with ventilators, is still increasing, too. But the rate of increase is slowing. Sunday’s count — 4,376 — was 6 percent higher than Saturday’s — the first single-digit percentage increase recorded in at least two weeks.

“You could argue that you’re seeing a slight plateauing in the data, which obviously would be good news,” Mr. Cuomo said Sunday at his daily briefing in Albany, citing “the interesting blip maybe in the data, or hopeful beginning of a shift in the data.”

But he added, “You can’t do this day to day. You have to look at three or four days to see a pattern.”

Even if the curve of infection is slowing, the virus’s daily toll remains horrific.

New York City reported a one-day total of 351 deaths on Sunday morning. On a normal day in New York City, 158 people die, so more than twice as many people in the city are dying of the virus than of all other causes combined.




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