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De Blasio: ‘We Have to Stop’ Coronavirus Uptick in NYC

Over the weekend, people across the country pushed coronavirus to the back of their minds as they took to the streets to revel over Joe Biden’s historic victory over President Donald Trump. Social distancing was virtually nonexistent in Washington Square Park, where New Yorkers danced in mosh pits and sang “We Are the Champions” well into Saturday evening.  More →

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A Coronavirus ‘Red Zone’ in Brooklyn Voted Very Red Indeed

(Photos: Erin O’Brien)

As the sun set over south Brooklyn Tuesday is night, most polling sites were quiet. In contrast to the lines that plagued early voting sites, voting locations like PS160 and PS105 were empty, blue and red stickers on the sidewalk urging non-existent waiting voters to socially distance. But at the Borough Park YMHA, a crowded line stretched down the block. Waiting voters, primarily members of the Orthodox Jewish community, wore few masks and stood inches apart, despite poll workers and signs reminding them to distance. More →

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Aftermath of ‘Protect the Vote’ March in Manhattan Turns Violent

Protesters gathered at New York Public Library before marching down Fifth Avenue. (Photo: Ben Weiss)

For almost three hours, Sherry Gorelick rolled down Fifth Avenue on her mobility scooter. Police cars and helicopters followed the 81-year-old resident of the Upper West Side while she scooted from the New York Public Library to Washington Square Park.

Joined by hundreds of protesters, Gorelick began the evening urging officials across the country to count all votes cast in the general election. However, after she and many others went home at the end of the evening, a separate set of demonstrations became violent as police officers arrested scores of protesters.

The series of protests followed a months-long onslaught from President Donald Trump on the validity of the election that ended Tuesday night. It also came on the heels of a summer of police violence and unrest in the streets after a slew of police killings across the country.

Wednesday evening began without aggression from either the police or protesters. Hundreds converged on the front steps of the New York Public Library as part of a “Protect The Vote” coalition to exhort election officials to count every ballot in a contested presidential election.

“People voted. Their votes have to count,” said Livvie Mann, a 72-year-old resident of Greenwich Village and member of Rise and Resist, an organization formed in response to Trump’s 2016 election. 

With the sun setting between skyscrapers, the march soon got underway. Passersby looked on as young and old marched down Fifth Avenue chanting “Count every vote.”

“I think this is freakin’ awesome,” said 28-year-old Kristain Gilcher, an employee at MedMen who stepped out from work to watch the parade walk by.

While the protesters marched, the police lined up alongside buildings whose windows had, in many cases, been boarded up in anticipation of potential violence, a prelude to events later in the night. 

After 30 blocks, the large crowd reached Washington Square Park. Members of the media welcomed them with lighting rigs and cameras. Many protesters dispersed.

An hour later, a new, more rowdy demonstration set off from Washington Square Park, according to reports. Some protesters started a handful of trash fires on the streets surrounding the park, and the police department stated that they had confiscated weapons from some of the demonstrators.

Police officers, many clad in riot armor, responded with force. Videos show officers aggressively arresting protesters and “kettling”—a technique used to corral a disorderly group—them from the streets onto the sidewalks.

In a post on Twitter, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called videos of Wednesday night’s arrests “incredibly disturbing.” 
In one instance filmed by reporters at Gothamist and WNYC, police swarmed someone near Union Square as onlookers shouted “he didn’t do anything.”

At least 58 protesters were arrested, according to The New York Times

“We appreciate and value the importance of freedom of speech. Our top priority is and always will be safety,” the police department said in a statement posted to Twitter, as reported by the New York Post.

At a press conference today, after Gothamist reporter Sydney Pereira recalled “aggressive arrests with pushing, pushing with batons and the bikes,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while he wasn’t familiar with all the details of last night’s protests, “The crucial point here is that we, honestly, cannot allow violence. Let’s be clear: Attacks on people, setting fires, attacks on officers, attacks on property, we just can’t allow that and we won’t. But at the same time the goal is always to de-escalate.” He added that “overwhelmingly what we’ve seen now for six months is peaceful protests managed peacefully by the NYPD.”

Correction: The original version of this post was revised to correct the spelling of Sherry Gorelick’s name.

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Praying For Our Nation On Election Day? So Are These Churches

Old First Reform Church in Brooklyn. (Photo: Maureen Doyle) 

As people across the country brace for what could be an agonizing night of slow election returns followed by post-election pandemonium, churches are stepping in to offer moments of quiet prayer.  

It’s perhaps not even worth mentioning that this year’s election is different from any that have come before. Not only are we living under a president who refuses to say that he will peacefully concede should he lose, we are also facing unprecedented logistical challenges. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, states are seeing historically high levels of mail-in ballots, which take longer to count than in-person ballots. There’s a good chance we won’t even have election results by election night. All this to say, there’s a lot of uncertainty at an already stressful time. Responding to the anxieties of their communities, churches are offering their constituents a safe haven. More →

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Skate Scene Ramps Up in Tompkins Square Park, But Is the City On Board?

Tyson McGrew at TF. (Photo: Ari Adams)

On any given day at around 10  a.m., skateboarders slowly begin to trickle in and out of the northwest corner of Tompkins Square Park.  By around 4 p.m., the corner is bustling with young people skating, socializing, and quite often smoking marijuana.  The flat, rectangular piece of asphalt which regulars refer to as TF (short for Training Facility) has long been a home to both the East Village’s most seasoned and newest skateboarders.  Last year, the skateboarders at TF—with the help of an online petition—successfully battled the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation over a proposed plan to fill in the asphalt lot with AstroTurf.  This summer, improvements were made to the space after three ramps were donated by the skateboard and fashion company Supreme.  While many skateboarders are under the assumption that the ramps are permanent additions to TF, the Parks Department has different views on the matter.  More →

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COVID-19 Could Leave Lasting Effect On Mental Health In City Jails

(Photo: Tdorante10 via Wiki Commons)

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, jails and prisons have become hubs for infection, with crowded conditions that leave few opportunities for social distancing. The spread of the coronavirus in New York City jails has been well-documented, including at the city’s infamous Rikers Island jail complex, which has been called the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the pandemic.  More →

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Tompkins Halloween Dog Parade: The Show Mutts Go On!

Houston and Hester, dressed as the Greyhound Buses, were winners at the in-person event. (Photo: May Chan)

On the debate stage last week, President Donald Trump called New York a dying city. And yet dog lovers and their little ones– some dressed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg– gathered Saturday afternoon for the 30th annual Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade. Not even coronavirus could stop the community from getting decked out in their most creative and glitzy costumes, which this year also included a number of Tiger King-inspired getups.  More →

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A Lyft-Like Pilot Program Was Making NYC’s Transit System More Accessible; Budget Cuts May Put the Brakes On It

(Photo: Diana Kruzman)

When Eman Rimawi needed to get to a meeting or run an errand, she used to have to schedule a ride to pick her up a day or two in advance — a blue-and-white van provided through the MTA’s Access-A-Ride program for people with disabilities. She experienced long waits for the vans to arrive and was often late as the vans stopped to pick up other passengers along the way. More →