Opinions & observations: Sunset Park testing access is ‘woefully inadequate,’ community board writes
Dear Mayor de Blasio:
Yesterday we learned from the New York Post that our district contains the City’s COVID-19 hotspot in Sunset Park. We learned that you plan to increase the availability of testing in the neighborhood, but unfortunately, we believe that even with these additional resources, the City’s efforts remain woefully inadequate in our community.
The announced locations for testing include the Brooklyn Army Terminal, which requires our residents, most of whom do not have cars, to cross beneath the Gowanus Expressway along the most dangerous pedestrian corridor in the community. This location is several blocks into our industrial community, along the southern border of our district, and is very difficult for seniors and small children. The second location, while appropriately adjacent to 8th Avenue, is in a neighboring Community Board, and therefore not near the vast majority of our residents. The third, the only one near the center of the community and a mobile site, is appropriately next to the playground at Sunset Park, but we have been informed that its capacity is fewer than 100 tests per day.
These resources are nowhere near what our community needs. We hear that everyone should be tested but, as is the history of the community, the City has failed to provide adequate resources. More must be done:
- At the very least, the City should provide mobile and stationary testing capacity near the 36th Street, 59th Street and 8th Avenue subway stations.
- Every school in the district should have testing capacity so that students, parents and staff can be tested before the start of the school year. Our parents and teachers are frightened of the possibilities of opening the schools, especially when our community’s infection rate is spiking. Inadequate resources exacerbate these fears.
- The Sunset Park Recreation Center has large open spaces that would seem to provide an ideal location for additional capacity.
- Widdi’s Catering Hall and Grand Prospect Hall, which have canceled events, might also be contacted for possible use of large, open spaces.
Our Board stands ready to discuss other possibilities, if anyone cares enough to draw on local expertise. Our Community District has been conditioned, over decades, to expect the City not to live up to its promises to our residents. Most of the time, that means additional headaches, like half-completed parks and 90-foot sinkholes, but this time out lives literally depend on it. If we want everyone to get tested, the City must provide adequate resources in convenient locations, including language-appropriate communications in our Spanish-speaking, Chinese-speaking, Arabic-speaking and English-speaking community. We should expect rapid results, which are especially important in a community with one of the City’s most overcrowded housing conditions. Facilities that accommodate the needs of seniors and those with health conditions and mobility issues, some of our most vulnerable residents, must be contracted or provided immediately, as we ask them to wait, sometimes for hours and endure the heat and humidity of mid-August. These are the minimum requirements for adequately testing for our population.
Please do not allow the City to fail us this time. OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT!
We eagerly and urgently await your administration’s rapid allocation of adequate resources.
Sincerely and with great urgency,
Cesar Zuniga, Chairperson
Jeremy Laufer, District Manager
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