Like you, I have been overwhelmed by the intensity and passion of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd and calling for an end of racism and prejudice in all of society.
It is a time for momentous change and civic participation. It is also a time for those of us in positions of power to act. This week, the state legislature will repeal 50a, ban choke holds and codify the AG as Special Prosecutor among other important acts. Change is necessary, and now is the time.
In the midst of this social transition, we also continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, mourn those we have lost and slowly and mindfully resume our daily lives. With that in mind, the governor has said Westchester will enter Phase 2 of reopening on Tuesday, June 9th.
This means that retail stores, offices, non-profits, real estate, and school administration offices can open as can hair cutting salons and barbershops. Outdoor dining can resume. Summer day camps can open on June 29. All have specific guidelines that call for no more that 50% of their usual capacity, including both workforce and customers, social distancing and masks. Please click here for detailed information and guidance.
- The state is expanding COVID-19 testing criteria to include any individual who attended recent protests.
- Schools will be permitted to hold drive-in and drive-through graduation ceremonies this year; the Department of Health released interim guidance for these ceremonies.
- Medical schools statewide will be allowed to reopen on June 22nd.
- Dentists offices are now open
- Local governments can decide if they want to open their pools using the 50% guidelines. Condo or country club pools are still limited to 10 people capacity.
- The Westchester DMV has resumed limited service by mail including vehicle registration, license plates, and scheduling commercial road tests.
- Still closed are malls, dine-in restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, spas, fitness centers and more.
As you may know school elections will be held on the same day as Phase 2 opens—June 9th. All are being held by mail-in ballots which must be received by 5:00PM on that date. If you are concerned that you received your ballot late and cannot trust the mail to get there in time, please call your school district to get the location of secure drop boxes where you can put your ballot. My office also has this list.
Several weeks ago, I emailed you about a program I initiated to honor the heroes of my district who have gone above and beyond in helping people selflessly during this pandemic. I asked you to submit the names and information of those deserving persons, businesses, non-profits, and first-responders so that we all could acknowledge their efforts. Please join me in honoring and recognizing those heroes below. (I know there are more heroes out there– and I would like to know about them. Please click here for the form to submit additional names so that they can be honored in future emails. ) see link below I look forward to hearing from you.
Circle of Friends
The Circle of Friends Foundation sponsored a Holy Saturday luncheon for 300+ staff members at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers. The foundation made arrangements through the Calabria Mia restaurant.
Mia de Bethune
Mia from Hastings on Hudson has organized a group of volunteers to sew PPE for regional hospitals and healthcare facilities. She started this because her art therapy students lost all their internships due to the epidemic, and she wanted to give them a way to earn credit. This became “Hudson Valley/NY Makers and Creators of PPE.” The whole operation has grown exponentially. They have produced countless numbers of masks, mask covers, face shields, and now scrubs for these facilities. You can find their Facebook group linked here.
Yonkers Firefighters – RescueMainStreet.Com
Lt. Peter Doran started a program to give back to the community with the Yonkers Fire Department. As a group, Yonkers Firefighters pitched in $100 a piece to purchase gift cards from the Main Street Business District. They are calling this good deed to save small businesses, Operation Rescue Main Street and are encouraging firefighters nationwide to do the same in their communities. They have also compiled a list of merchants who are prepared to sell gift cards on their website. Visit RescueMainStreet.Com to support their mission.
Benicio (Benny) Hernandez
The Village Green condominium complex in Dobbs Ferry is home to many senior citizens who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. A 16-year-old, Dobbs Ferry resident named Benny Hernandez built and hosted a website for the residents of the complex which pairs seniors who need assistance (shopping/errands/dog walking) with volunteers who can pick from a queue of requests to fulfill. Benny designed, coded, tested, and obtained approval from the condominium board to offer this free service. He just became a member of the Senator’s Youth Advisory Council.
Friends4Frontlines , Chris Barnaby, Shane Daughtry and John Prince
As small businesses take a brutal hit through the unknown of the pandemic, Shane from Chappaqua, John from Valhalla, and Chris from White Plains friends since elementary school formed a team called Friends4Frontlines to help our community by raising funds to donate meals to hospital staff. The friends have raised more than $10,000 for the cause and have already made deliveries to White Plains Hospital, Westchester Medical Center, Phelps Hospital and Blythedale Children’s hospital. To support their cause, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Friends4Frontlines
Laurel Birkett, Reverend of Women of Courage Mission at Church Alive Community Church and owner of Kassalaurel Uniforms located in Yonkers donated 100 Uniforms to nurses working in St. Joseph and St. John’s Riverside Hospital.
Doctor Randy Goldberg
Dr. Goldberg, a New Rochelle doctor has taken on more non- COVID related cases at the Westchester Medical Center to support his colleagues that are only treating COVID patients.
Bonnie Brown Panaro and Regina Schlusberg
PPE can often be rough on the ears after extended use. To keep our healthcare workers comfortable, Bonnie Brown Panaro and Regina Schlusberg from Yonkers created Save the Ears Westchester and have led an effort of people sewing buttons on headbands for health care workers all over Westchester County. So far, they have distributed over 800 headbands!
Veronica Hummel from Hastings has been out week after week, volunteering with Feeding Westchester, delivering food and inspiring others to contribute in whatever ways they can to aid this tremendously important work.
Stephanie Flynn, resident of Tarrytown, has decided to use her time on furlough to give back to our community by sewing reusable masks and donating them to veterinarians at the Emergency Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers. So far, she has donated approximately 40 masks.
Dows Lane Elementary School
Students at Dows Lane in Irvington are doing daily acts of kindness for their families as well as drawing pictures and sending them to loved ones in other states to keep spirits high. Staff members are working hard and following social distancing orders by using innovative remote learning tools: connecting with students via phone, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts Meet, and recording videos and books for students to enjoy.
Volunteer New York/ Westchester Community Foundation
Volunteer New York/ Westchester Community Foundation is maintaining a website for needed public service projects in response to the COVID crisis. One particular project in coordination with the Westchester County Office of Economic Development involved helping small business owners complete forms required for the Small Business Administration Payroll Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Programs. To join Volunteer New York please visit their website: https://www.volunteernewyork.org/
Greenburgh Hebrew Center
Under the direction of Dr. Andrew Goldstein, Greenburgh Hebrew Center has been at the forefront of implementing precautions and educating the community regarding COVID-19. Amy Kessler, Educational Director, coordinated the reopening of the schools via distance learning through Zoom classes and individualized video calls. Rabbi Jay Stein has called congregants and offered online classes, Youtube videos and podcasts. He organized the Rivertowns Interfaith Healing Service, which included Christian clergy and brought comfort to the entire community. Cantor Janet Leuchter brought the congregation together through music and prayer each Friday evening through her Kabbalat Shabbat Service via Zoom. Members have called multiple times to check-in with other members of the congregation and have shopped, delivered food and medicines to those who could not shop for themselves.
Whalen & Ball Funeral Home
Whalen & Ball Funeral Home located in Yonkers worked hard through the worst of the pandemic to ensure the dignified final disposition of all. Chris Ryan and Mike Scarnati are among only a few who have gone above and beyond to help the Yonkers community deal with these uncertain times.
This full service bicycle dealer located in Hastings has been providing essential transportation services for all types of cyclists, including children, to keep people riding while supporting safe social distancing practices.
Vega Mexican Cuisine located in Hartsdale is donating meals to frontline workers.
While my physical office is closed, all calls and emails are being answered by staff working from home. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 914- 423-4031 or simply respond to this email. We are also giving out large gallon sizes of hand sanitizers for institutional use— contact us if your business, non-profit, or agency is in need.
As always, please stay healthy and safe.
Until Next time.
Andrea Stewart Cousins
New York State Senator, District 35
President Pro Tem, Majority Leader