Queens Protected Bike Lane

Last Tuesday, approval was given for the creation of a two-way protected bike lane on Crescent Street, Queens, New York.  The Queens Community Board 1 ruled that between Hoyt Avenue North and Queensboro Bridge a bike lane for cyclists would be created.  In fact, work on the southern part of the lane has already started but given the community board’s approval, less bureaucratic hoops will have to be jumped through for the undertaking of new infrastructure. 

Many locals – as well as those involved in the city’s infrastructure – have been pushing for this for years.  One such entity is Transportation Alternatives an advocacy group that has referred to the bike lane as a “no brainer,” given that such a commuter route is environmentally friendly and helps locals navigate the area much more easily.

In addition, the benefit of connecting Queens’ Long Island City to Midtown Manhattan, linking Roosevelt Island which is churning out a whole slew of tech entrepreneurs is a huge bonus. 

The bike lane – which will also be used by pedestrians – will be called Queens Ribbon and will cost $100 million.

NJ: Navigating a New Normal

Last Monday local eateries began navigating a new normal following clearance to reopen outdoors.  Teaneck Township Manager Dean Kazinci put out a set of rules and regulations featuring social distancing, tables 6 feet apart with no more than 8 people per table, insurance, masks for employees (and customers who wish to dine inside) and extra hygiene precautions. 

In addition, all restaurants opening must give the township a Certificate of Insurance which has (at least) $1 million per occurrence, $2 million Aggregate General Liability and Statutory Workers Compensation Coverage.  Should the neighboring property owner agree (by written consent) the outdoor restaurant can extend to the sidewalk on the adjoining properties’ area. But, at least three feet of clear space on the sidewalk will have to be available for pedestrians. Each restaurant will be reviewed on its own merits and capacities to keep to the laws.

The other new law about social gatherings is in Executive Order 152. This restricts the amount of indoor gatherings to 25% of the original capacity.  This has to fall between the 10-50 people range.  In addition, face masks must be worn and six feet distance must be maintained by all attendants. With outdoor gatherings the number increases to 100.

Local Aid During COVID-19

State and philanthropic funds of up to $3.5m have been promised to help undocumented individuals in Connecticut.  Governor Ned Lamont recently announced that he is working with the Department of Housing which will be giving landlords $2.5m to cover the loss of rent of undocumented tenants who have not been able to pay due to job losses, etc. 

Additionally, charity organization 4-CT.org will be giving $1m to specifically-screened families. Given that Connecticut has approximately 120,000 undocumented immigrants, this amount is not so large and has been described by critics as “a good start.”

In other news, Lamont said he will not be following Trump’s call to use the country’s military brace to crack-down on demonstrations with police brutality.  He suggested an alternate plan for President Donald Trump to examine states individually where he will see that Connecticut has not had such altercations in their protests.  He said:

“There’s a lot of ideas that pop up, and I’m not going to overreact to any one of them. I think we are handling the situation here in Connecticut. I hope to God the protesters think we’re doing a good job. We’re working together on this, and I hope he’ll be able to learn from our example.”

Re-Opening for Business: NY Slowly Achieves a New Normal

Last week parts of New York state began re-opening for business.  Those areas that were able to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s requirements to practice safety were given permission to re-open.  Included

Many recreational activities and low-risk operations were given the go-ahead.  Businesses such as landscapers, gardening, tennis, etc. that are able to uphold social distancing requirements were among the first to open.

NBC New York reports:

Coronavirus in New Jersey: How You Can Help

For those who are more able-bodied and not immuno-compromised what can they do to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic?  There is much that can be done locally. Here we take a look at a few ways one can offer their help.

If you like animals and have often considered the possibility of housing one now is the perfect time.  as well as offering tremendous companionship – which is especially necessary during this time of social isolation – you will be relieving significant stress on the animal shelters.  Check out Adopt-a-Pet website for more details.

It is also a good time to give blood.  Obviously it is always a good time to give blood but right now there is a huge shortage due to the novel coronavirus.

For those wanting to keep their volunteer efforts specifically local there are the New Jersey Boys & Girls Clubs. Serving 70,000+ youth, the organization provides over a million meals and snacks per annum to youth in need for free. Their need for assistance has substantially increased since the beginning of the outbreak.

New Jersey Community Colleges Jobs Consortium

With the creation of the New Jersey Community Colleges Jobs Consortium, employers can more easily find college grads and undergraduates to fill positions at their office.  Thanks to a consortium established with the participation of 10 state community colleges, the process of matching bosses to appropriate job seekers will be facilitated.

This free service will be available initially to 10 member schools – over 50 percent of New Jersey’s state community colleges.  According to Passaic County Community College career specialist, Tom Moore this should result in the bolstering of job opportunities for these students since until now employers had a tendency to limit their search to those individuals studying in the community colleges nearest to them.

One educational institute in particular – the Salem Community College – is likely to benefit since according to career counselor Joe Pritchett, enrollment is on the lower side and thus often overlooked. With this consortium he believes the pool of employers will greatly expand. 

In addition, this consortium is a great way to keep local talent, local.  Rather than those in New Jersey having to relocate after college, they have more of a chance of staying in the area and thus bolstering the local economy too.

Economic Reopening for Connecticut State: Struggles and Successes

Connecticut is no stranger to fiscal friction.  One needs to just look at the Great Recession that impacted the nation as a whole but then its own tax hikes and continual fixed cost increases. This has – unsurprisingly – resulted in the emergence of a distrust of leadership. Thus now our leaders are facing an incredible opportunity to handle this crisis in a way that restore trust and confidence from our citizens. According to Carol Platt Liebau who wrote a piece for Hartford Courant:  two key principles are needed for this to be actualized: transparency and fairness.

Another important element is how the economy is reopened.  And that must be done in a slow, careful and systematic way, which isn’t easy.  The advice Governor Ned Lamont has been given is to make his Reopen CT Advisory Council clear and open for the public to see.  Thereafter he needs to be ready to offer his constituents a thorough explanation for all reasons behind the council’s recommendations and actions, including an “epidemiological basis” for all decisions taken.

Small businesses more than any other probably need the most representation since they have suffered the most economically with COVID-19.   Forging ahead with “compassion and respect for the most vulnerable among us both physically and economically” will go a long way in restoring faith in our citizens and building confidence among them for the future.

Local CT Events

Not much is going on in the tristate area right now due to the novel coronavirus.  Having said that, an increasing amount of organizations are adapting to the current new reality with virtual events.

One of these is the annual EFFY – Environmental Film Festival at Yale – which has now moved its student-run environmental film festival to online streaming.  This event can be found at effy.yale.edu

Some local museums are moving many of their exhibitions online such as ‘Edward Balthazar: Urban Artist,’ from the Mattatuck Museum.  Here viewers can enjoy Waterbury scenes produced in the 1930s and 1940s by Edward Balthazar as well as works of art created by female artists in the exhibition, ‘Women’s Sphere: Selections from the Collection.

Local libraries are also staying up to date with the times and offering a variety of online programs. According to Jessica Gueniat, Director of the library in Torrington, library workers are working from home and encouraging book lovers to use the online resources they can provide.  One example of this is getting people to apply for library cards online which enables them thereafter to access library databases. Examples include: Overdrive (offering access to eBooks, eMagazines and eAudiobooks); a program to teach languages, as well as an educational site.

The Beardsley Library in Winsted is offering interactive events for locals, such as bingo, cooking classes and more.

Providing the Correct Help in New York

The phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” while it sounds great, is not always such an accurate idiom.  Even though so many people and organizations want to offer help during times of crises (like now with coronavirus), just having the will is not enough.

Episcopal priest John Merz knows this first hand. As such, he has already set up an infrastructure that is well-equipped to provide the correct help in New York.  As one of the founders of the North Brooklyn Angels organization, he has worked with crises in the past. This organization was set up four years ago and is managed by volunteers who offer assistance to individuals who live right in our backyard: homelessness, housing instability, hunger and poverty.

Merz is now working with Jimmy’s Diner owner Josh Cohen.  He had to close his Brooklyn eatery and so lent his kitchen to the endeavor.  Cooks and dishwashers who were laid off due to the crisis were then rehired by North Brooklyn Angels to prepare meals which are delivered thrice daily by  Cohen and a band of retired firefighters.  They were then joined by military medical personnel and it seems like more volunteers are continually joining the effort.

Father Merz has advice for others who want to help and it is based on the premise of the North Brooklyn Angels: ask people in need what they need; avoid charging full steam ahead with what you need to do to feel good.

Palm Sunday in the Time of COVID-19

Palm Sunday 2020 took place earlier this month on April 5.  For many Catholics around the world it is one of the most holy days. It is a commemoration of when Jesus came to Jerusalem and was met with palm branches in his path just before h e was arrested and on Holy Thursday and crucified on Good Friday. 

For Catholics today, the way they traditionally commemorate this is by grand processions and the distribution of palm leaves that are said to have been blessed.  Thereafter begins the final week of Lent.

But this year there won’t be anything like that.  This year COVID-19 took center stage and traditional celebrations did not take place.  Catholics in New Jersey instead were given the opportunity to watch priests celebrating Mass through livestreams.  New Jersey governor Phil Murphy urged local communities to follow suit as the coronavirus death toll increases.  Murphy said:

“We know this is hard but we beg you to stay away from each other. I know that staying apart is really hard, but right now we have no choice. It is what we need to do, it is what we must do.”

He added that with over 34,000 New Jersey locals infected, it was essential to respond to the outbreak. 

Murphy addressed other communities at the same time: Jews, Muslims, Protestants among others, urging them all to “stay home to mark their important religious holidays over the coming days.”