Remember March? That was when the coronavirus pandemic forced offices across the country to close and companies told their employees to work from home—if they didn’t fire or furlough them instead. Facing a public health crisis with an unknown trajectory, people prepared for the worst, stripping grocery stores of hand sanitizer and disinfectant, but also of products like flour and yeast and, yes, toilet paper.
There’s no quarantine baking for the residents of 303 Vernon.
That’s because the NYC Housing Authority building in Bed-Stuy has been without cooking gas since March 30th, and there’s no clear timeline for it to be restored. Denene Witherspoon, the president of the Tenant Association, said she was told it could be six more weeks. In the meantime, the 576 residents have been given one hot plate to cook on per unit, regardless of whether one person lives there or eight.
There have never been more ways to get fresh produce sent to your home, from basic grocery delivery services; to “misfit” and “ugly” veggie startups; to bespoke, plant-based meal kits. But at the end of the day, what’s in a veggie box? Is it merely a collection of assorted produce, or is it a value system? Do you spend those dollars simply to fill your fridge, or are you also trying to support small farmers and local agriculture? Does it matter if the items are USDA-certified organic, or if some items are grown several states away?
As veggie box delivery companies have proliferated, some small-scale farmers say it has become harder to run traditional community supported agriculture (CSA) operations, in which consumers buy a “share” of a local farm’s harvest at the beginning of the growing season. In return for this investment, share owners get a box of whatever produce was harvested. There’s an inherent gamble, in that the consumer shares the risks associated with farming. If it’s a bad year for tomatoes, they may not get any tomatoes.
Lesser celandine, with its a small, pale yellow blossoms, looks like an innocuous plant. But the sprawling weed crowds out native species when it blooms in spring and then goes dormant, leaving ground brown and bare through summer and fall. Normally at this time of year, volunteers with the New York New Jersey Trail Conference’s Invasives Strike Force would be pulling up the species and other invasive plants during weekend meet-ups. This year, however, is anything but normal—the group suspended work on March 23.
Across the country this spring as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold, conservation organizations and government agencies have postponed or canceled projects that require groups to meet and work together. Although public health is everyone’s firm priority, gaps in invasive species removal, controlled burns, and habitat restoration can create short- and long-term setbacks to time-sensitive projects
On Tuesday evening, several dozen Brooklynites gathered together in one of the only spaces available to us right now—on Zoom—to sing Happy Birthday. But the honoree wasn’t a person; it was the one-month anniversary of Bed-Stuy Strong, a mutual aid network that was started to respond to the coronavirus crisis in New York City, and to give residents in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant—where I’ve lived since 2011—a way to help and to seek help from their neighbors. Since early March, more than 250 mutual aid groups have emerged in mostly urban neighborhoods across the country, all of them undoubtedly juggling similar challenges of coordinating volunteers, needs, tasks, and money as the crisis intensifies.