A new NYC's Neighbors, Art, Ballots

21 May 2020 | 02:30

    Far and away neighbors - Some stay, some flee, some send packages. And that's been the NYC experience for most, if not many, of us in these pandemic days. Me, I've stayed. The family across the hall is out of state. Maybe they'll tell me where if and when they return. Maybe not. Other neighbors have taken to the building's online directory to find renters for their apartments. One was offering a "2 Bed Flexed/1 Bath - Rental Available Immediately." Another described a "Spacious, High floor 2 Bedroom," that could be converted to a jr 3. Nobody's talks AirBnb anymore. And never on the building billboard.

    All of which brings me to a friend's COVID neighbor experience, the particulars of which have been changed for privacy reasons. I'll call my friend Dan, who in responding to a query in a national publication about living alone during COVID said he was single, in his 60's, never married, had no kids and lived in a high-rise in mid-Manhattan. He told how, in the first days of staying home, he was coughing and sneezing, and didn't leave home. He was running low on oatmeal and absolutely had to get some. A neighbor knocked on his door and offered to bring him a few things from a nearby supermarket. He happily emailed pictures of what he needed. The neighbor returned. At last, oatmeal and his favorite doughnuts. He was hoping the neighbor would offer again, but she never did. Although Dan lived in the building for 20 years and exchanges hellos with people and rides in the elevators with them, he's not really friends with anyone. He got up the courage to email the neighbor to ask how she was doing and that if she was making another trip to the supermarket he was out of oatmeal. Shortly, he got her email saying that she wasn't planning to leave her apartment but she'd be happy to order from Fresh Direct. Thanks, but no, he'll shop when he gets better, he replied.

    Enter the immediate world. Having read Dan's story and his oatmeal-less plight, readers inundated him with containers of oatmeal, boxes of doughnuts, and several containers of hand sanitizer. People were calling and offering to shop for him. One woman offered to shop for him until "it's all over." The building management hand-delivered a fancy bottle of cinnamon for sprinkling on Dan's oatmeal and left it at his door. Dan's local representative called him offering to stop by to get him anything he wanted. Dan was appreciative of the kindness and generosity but had a hard time reaching out. He also got phone calls from neighbors who had since moved elsewhere to say hi. He sounds like a NYC kind of guy. And why all the cloak and dagger in writing about "Dan"? Because the article included such personal details as name and Manhattan building location, and "Dan" who started getting unwanted calls, packages and letters agreed to talk to me if his real name wasn't used.

    For art's sake - Back in 2018 Anton Russev's pop-up art displays occupied empty storefronts on the UES, notably in front of the bus stop on 79th and Second, and on Third Avenue in the 90's. Now, with the onslaught of COVID close-downs, Anton Russev's art survives in some of the very same empty storefronts as well as in dozens and dozens of other empties. I've never found out if Anton's the artist or the gallerist. Could be he's either or neither or both. What I do know is that he's cleaned up the storefronts - some were eyesores - and the artwork is a welcome distraction from the boarded up, shutdown storefronts that have become the face of NY.

    Ballot call - As the June 23rd Primary nears, voters are encouraged to get their vote-by-mail applications to the Board of Elections. Federal presidential candidates and candidates in local races will be on the ballot. If you've sent for but not received your ballot, the BOE has assured that they'll soon be coming. The reason for the delay probably results from court challenges to who stays or doesn't stay on the ballot in the federal and local races. If you sent in an application to vote by mail and don't receive it by election day, you can still vote in-person. There would be a check at the polling place to make sure there wasn't an absentee vote on file for you.

    P.S. Let's not forget to give a shout-out to the USPS for their pledge to deliver vote-by-mail ballots even without postage.