Gramercy prepares for coronavirus pandemic

A plastic sheet separates the cashier from customers at the 99 cent store on First Avenue at 21st Street across from Peter Cooper Village (Photos by Jefferson Siegel)

As the mayor and governor announced school closures and event cancellations along with restrictions on restaurants and other businesses, New Yorkers made adjustments by stocking up on medical supplies and working from home. See more photos of the neighborhood from the last week below.

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Churches and synagogues go digital amid coronavirus

Middle Collegiate Church’s Rev. Jacqui Lewis (pictured left during Pride last year) said that the church wants to encourage community even while people can’t meet together in person. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

In this bizarre new world of isolation and self-quarantine, local houses of worship are adjusting with the circumstances to bring services to people in their homes to give New Yorkers a sense of community. 

Various synagogues and churches emailed members at the end of last week as the number of coronavirus cases in the city began escalating and government officials began to implement restrictions on gatherings, letting them know that services would be live-streamed or in some cases available to watch later. Rabbi Josh Stanton of East End Temple sent a message to members of the synagogue near Stuyvesant Square Park last Thursday to announce that the building would be closed starting on Friday following the advice of public health officials. 

“This is a moment in which we need to fully live out our values, in this case to protect each other and society more broadly from the spread of COVID-19,” Stanton said in the email. “We acknowledge that some other institutions will remain open, but we feel a social duty to engage in ‘social distancing’ in order to slow the spread of the virus. […] At the same time, we need to be even more present for each other. Each household can expect to hear from our clergy in the coming week. We also invite you to call and email your friends from the community, so that they can feel the warmth of the relationship.”

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City halts evictions due to coronavirus

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City officials have indefinitely suspended eviction proceedings in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a memo from the state’s chief administrative judge on Sunday. 

The memo from the Unified Court System last weekend said that effective at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 16, the courts would be postponing all non-essential functions until further notice, including pending trials, due to the ongoing public health emergency in New York State. 

Prior to the city’s decision to halt evictions, a group of 29 New York rental building owners and managers, including Blackstone, instituted a voluntary 90-day moratorium on evictions, which was announced shortly after the court system had issued a one-week moratorium. 

Various housing groups, including Right to Counsel NYC Coalition and Housing Justice for All, pushed a joint city and state strategy, calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to implement an eviction moratorium and to close the courts. More than 15,000 tenants across the state also signed a petition to the governor calling for an eviction moratorium and immediate rent freeze. 

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Where to order in during the coronavirus scare

Ess-A-Bagel, pictured here in 2016 before they opened in Stuy Town, is still offering pick-up and delivery. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Tuesday limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to take-out and delivery orders only as a precaution against coronavirus, also ordering nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues to close. 

“Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago,” the mayor said. “We are taking a series of actions that we never would have taken otherwise in an effort to save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors. Now it is time to take yet another drastic step. The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle.”

While many non-food related businesses have temporarily closed, some restaurants have also opted to close while the city fights the pandemic. 

The Union Square Hospitality Group announced on Friday that all of their restaurants would be closing temporarily. The list includes Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Union Square Cafe, Daily Provisions and others, although Shake Shack locations will remain open and will shift to a “to-go” only operating model. The company said on Tuesday that they would be setting up an employee relief fund to support the team members affected. Through March 24, when patrons purchase a gift card, 100% of the sales will go towards the employee relief fund. The gift card purchases can be redeemed at any of the restaurants, bars and cafes in New York or Washington DC. 

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