Doing right by schools at last
New York City dodged a real education
crisis Tuesday, when Mayor
Bill de Blasio and the United
Federation of Teachers union announced a
resolution to their weeks-long disagreement
on public school safety.
The reopening of in-person classroom
instruction was delayed until Sept. 21.
Teachers will now begin prepping for
classes on Sept. 10, and the remote learning
component for this “blended model” of
education in the 2020-21 school year will
start on Sept. 16 with online classes.
The original plan that de Blasio and
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza touted
did not include mandatory testing, and the
UFT rightly objected to it. Testing has been
so critical throughout the pandemic that its
inclusion in a school reopening plan should
have been a no-brainer from the start.
It only took the threat of a UFT strike
to get de Blasio to do the right thing, talk
with the union and agree to mandatory
testing, among other improvements to the
Politics aside, we know that there remains
great anxiety among educators, parents
and even children about the reopening
of schools this year. So many unknowns
remain about COVID-19, a virus this city
has been battling for six months now and
struggled so mightily to drive back.
We don’t know if all the masks and
protective measures will stop the spread
of COVID-19 in public schools when they
reopen to in-person instruction. We don’t
know if that will contribute to the “second
wave” of COVID-19 that many dread will
happen this fall in New York.
That’s what makes testing so important.
The faster we can pinpoint cases and trace
contacts, the greater the likelihood that the
city can isolate the infected and prevent
that second wave from becoming a reality.
Now that the city has done the right
thing with the public school reopening,
it must now work with Governor Andrew
Cuomo to lift the complete indoor dining
ban that’s killing our city’s restaurants.
Allowing just 25% capacity won’t save
every establishment, but it gives the majority
of eateries the ability to stay in business.
Long Island and Westchester counties have
allowed indoor dining for months now without
any major spikes in COVID-19 cases.
There’s zero reason for the city not to
allow indoor dining at a fraction of regular
capacity, with all proper safety rules in
place to stop the spread.
It’s time for de Blasio and Cuomo to act.
Hunger remains a problem for New
Yorkers amid COVID-19 pandemic
BY COREY JOHNSON, VANESSA L.
GIBSON AND MARK TREYGER
Sadly, hunger in New York City is not
a new problem.
Sky high rent prices, stubbornly
low wages, and the high cost of living in
one of the richest cities in the world means
that many New Yorkers have to sacrifi ce
on food to pay for rent and other basic
At the beginning of this Council’s
session in 2018, 40 percent of providers
said they didn’t have enough food to meet
demand. This was well before COVID and
at a time of economic prosperity in our city.
The problems back then were twofold.
The nonprofi ts that operated these
programs needed money to serve those in
need, but also stable funding.
The federal government wasn’t helping.
Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program, formerly known as
food stamps, exacerbated the need for
food pantries and left the more than 1.5
million New Yorkers who relied on the
program out in the cold.
The Council stepped up.
We increased funding for emergency
food and for senior meals and created new
programs to address food insecurity at the
City University of New York to stop college
students from going hungry, a prevalent but
little-known problem in our city.
Over the past four budget cycles, we’ve
increased funding for food programs by
$55 million. Our most signifi cant achievements
was changing how we funded the
Emergency Food Assistance Program.
In fi scal year 2019, we fought to baseline
$20.2 million for this program, meaning
the money was automatically added to the
budget every year. In the past this funding
was never guaranteed, leaving providers in
This allowed food providers to better
plan on how to feed vulnerable New Yorkers
and have the money to do so.
Then COVID-19 hit.
Virtually overnight, the number of food
insecure New Yorkers went from 1.2 million
to 2 million and nearly one-third of
food pantries shut down during the early
days of the crisis.
Many pantries managed to stay open
because of our years of investment in food
programs, but we knew more was needed
to meet this unprecedented challenge.
We aggressively and successfully pushed
both the de Blasio administration and the
state government to each designate $25
million in emergency funds for food programs
These funds will help hundreds of organizations
including food pantries, soup
kitchens and charities that deliver meals
or groceries to those in need. Nearly 80%
of that $25 million will reach local food
pantries, as we know pantry visits continue
to increase each week.
With the City’s $25 million, the Council
focused on high-need, low-income,
food-insecure areas, and recommended
organizations operating in these communities.
Additionally, the Council identifi ed
providers which serve immigrant communities
across the fi ve boroughs.
In the meantime, the State’s $25 million
under the Nourish New York initiative,
PHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES
provides emergency funds for food banks
and providers which serve the populations
that need it the most.
Aiming to increase food access, the
funds not only help families in need across
the City and the State, they also tackle
We are also proud that our recently
passed budget for 2021 contains no cuts
to Council-funded food programs despite
a $9 billion budget defi cit.
All of this work contributes to our ultimate
goal of addressing inequity in all
forms in New York City, including food
inequity. Every New Yorker deserves access
to healthy affordable food.
It’s governments’ job to make sure
residents get the resources they need, especially
during a public health and fi nancial
crisis when so many of them are sick or
out of work.
Those in need should call 3-1-1 and say
“Get Food” or visit the City’s COVID-19
emergency food site at nyc.gov/getfood.
Corey Johnson is Speaker of the City
Council; Vanessa Gibson chairs the
Council’s Subcommittee on Capital Budget;
Mark Treyger chairs the Council’s Education
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