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Yonkers Strong by Lorraine Lopez

This is Yonkers! This is my hometown! And I couldn't feel more proud of it!

Lorraine At WVOX for the Black Westchester Power Hour radio Show [Black Westchester]

Yonkers, New York, my beautiful hometown of over 200,000 residents, a majestic city with a tapestry of cultures is along with many other cities in NYS is suffering from this ungodly pandemic.

It seems like everything changed overnight. It was quick. It came with a vengeance. Lockdowns, school closings, businesses closed, urgent need of healthcare resources are just a few of the areas affected. Yonkers quickly became the epicenter of Westchester County as more and more residents became sick and tested positive for Covid-19.

We have 3,478 cases and it continues to rise. Covid-19 does not care about your background or what language you speak as it is widespread throughout the city. But it has hit the minority community particularly hard in Southwest Yonkers. The majority of cases have been from the Latino and African American communities.

There are many reasons for this, it’s a high density area, lack of healthcare, a large immigrant community that are fearful and have a language barrier, and the fact that many are essential workers. They are part of a large group helping to keep the city running. Despite the fear and uncertainty around us, I proudly state that we are something beautiful. Early on Mayor Mike Spano held a online conference via video with Dr. Rabadi, his Health Advisory Board Chairman, a well known and cherished doctor to speak on the virus and advise us all on what we needed to do to keep ourselves and others from contracting it. Dr. Rabadi has subsequently also been on Black Westchester’s People Before Politics Radio Show and other venues to educate folks on the virus.

It began to hit us hard. Both our hospitals, St. John’s Riverside Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital were inundated with patients as the numbers began to rise. Many have lost loved ones. But, despite all the doom and gloom that comes with this insidious virus, Yonkers has stood strong. They say Yonkers is a big city with a small town feel. I couldn’t agree more. Mayor Spano despite suffering his own loss including his dear friend Detective Sullivan of the Yonkers Police Department, a great loss to many, has been working tirelessly in keeping the city together and all services available and has begun to hold regular community town hall meetings via the internet to keep us all updated on city services and the pandemic.

Everyone has become a hero. From the first responders, to the essential workers, to those staying at home, practicing social distancing and doing the best they can to avoid catching or spreading the virus. The children of the Yonkers Public Schools System are learning via the internet at home. Grab and Go breakfast and lunch sites are located in several areas throughout the city. Yonkers Schools Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada and his staff are also handing out 100 bags of food a week to those families in need. The children are hungry in many homes. They are collecting donations of rice, beans, and other non-perishables. If you’ll like to make a donation please contact Lissette Colon-Collins at Dr. Quezada has also distributed over 1,000 laptaps to children and families in need. Many more are needed. The teachers are missing their students as they continue to work with their students via today’s technology. Many of the children are looking to their teachers for comfort. The teachers are delivering. 

Our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have become superheroes. They’ve been hit hard. Working desperately to save lives and provide comfort as they put themselves in ground zero while risking their own lives. Our Mayor as delivered lunches to the hospitals. The YPD, YFD, and OEM have also brought them food as well as cheered them on with a parade of trucks and vehicles as they stood outside clapping and thanking them. EMS has been seen all over town picking up patients and transporting them to hospitals. Many have taken to social media as a way of socializing and keeping in touch while we pause. Mom’s posting the antics of their children while homeschooling. Folks share information on resources.

DJ Lenny Santawasso and his lovely lady Lucia have kept us entertained with live videos, music and their funny antics. Governor Cuomo’s daily briefings have give us the raw truths as well as brought us great comfort. Folks are coming together to help one another. Small businesses although struggling have been donating and delivering food to healthcare workers and first responders. Our Southside which has been hit the hardest is filled with a cornucopia of essential workers. They are out postal workers, supermarket and bodega workers, truck drivers, delivery men and women, office workers, janitors and maintenance, and a host of different healthcare workers in all areas of the field. They put themselves out there everyday for the people of the city and to take care of their families. Then they go home in fear that one day they’ll bring it to their families. Neighbors are helping neighbors. The City of Yonkers Office if the Aging has been delivering thousands of meals to the local seniors and continues to provide them with the services they need.

Jimmy Nolan founder and President of the Michael Nolan Foundation has been out there volunteering his time and also partnering with other to bring food to hospitals not only in Yonkers but throughout Westchester including Mount Vernon and Westchester Medical Center. Brian Harrod of Yonkers Newswire has been taking time off of his blog to spend many hours coordinating a food pantry and delivering meals to families. Showing us that he actually does have a soft side! RuRos from Yonkers Voice on Facebook has been doing an excellent job interviewing everyone of every aspect of this pandemic and is keeping folks informed as well. Deanna Renee Robinson as well her #914 crew teamed up with Hector Santiago of Stop and Shake and has delivered countless meals and essentials as well. Condolences on the loss of her grandmother.

Councilwoman Diaz & Lorraine Lopez at Yonkers Public Schools

Many volunteers are out there deliveries meals, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Hundreds of face masks have been sown and donated by folks staying at home and wanting to help. Churches and congregations are also reaching out to help those in need. Particularly with food pantries. Many organizations and local Latino leaders especially in the undocumented community have been reaching out, helping and educating the non English speaking community. They have not been forgotten. This is just an example of the what the people are doing.

There are many stories of compassion in this city. Our government continues to work. State Assemblyman Nader Sayegh was the first to call for a Covid-19 testing facility in Yonkers in a letter to Governor Cuomo dated on March 20th. He has also called for the suspension of parking meter enforcement during the Covid-19 epidemic. The City Council and the City Council President have been handing out everything they can get there hands on to their constituents from meals to masks. They have passed legislation sponsored by Council President Mike Khader requiring the sanitation of building lobbies, laundry rooms, entrance doors, handles, trash rooms and common areas in multiple dwelling buildings as well as commercial office buildings and retail establishments. Councilwoman Tasha Diaz also sponsored legislation requiring all parks and schools playgrounds to be sanitized and asked Governor Andrew Cuomo to Secure Benefits for all Government Employees who fall ill and pass due to COVID-19 while working. Council President Mike Khader also has proposed and sponsored legislation calling for the cancellation or reduction of penalties and late fees regarding county taxes. Councilwoman Shanae Williams who’s district has been the most impacted, introduced legislation calling for a testing facility in Yonkers. On Friday, April 17th Yonkers opened up a testing site in Councilwoman Williams district at St. John’s Riverside Parkcare Pavilion located at the corner of Ashburton and St. Joseph’s Avenues. The center will be open by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. First appointments and priority will be given the residents in the 10701 zip code area.

In a press release issued by the City Council, Councilwoman Shanae Williams stated, “This mobile testing site is crucial for my constituency. I am both happy and grateful that Governor Cuomo and our State Delegation heard our call and placed a testing site in the 1st Council District in Yonkers” said Councilwoman Williams. “I plead with my neighbors and constituents to get tested. Knowledge is power. You can protect yourselves and your families by getting tested. Before today, many residents were unable to get tested because they don’t have health insurance. With this mobile testing site testing is free for everyone. I strongly urge all my constituents to take full advantage of this testing site. Call the state health number for COVID19 and schedule an appointment now. The number is 888-364-3065. Remember, getting tested can save your life!”

Councilwoman Tasha Diaz who’s 3 district does come in contact with the 1st district echoed her sentiments by staying, “With the soaring number of Coronavirus cases plaguing Yonkers This testing site is needed to help combat the spread of Covid -19, I’m ecstatic to see our delegates both local and state put People Before Politics and band together to advocate for this well needed testing site in Yonkers.” 

Our Yonkers Police Commissioner Mueller has also been reaching out to the community via question and answering sessions and sharing information with the public. Both YPD and YFD have been out there nonstop working hard while also being hit with cases amongst their departments.

Mayor Spano summarized it best in thanking our heroes for this article. “The work our health care professionals, first responders, teachers, and other essential workers do daily is demanding as it is. Now because of the current health pandemic, they have taken their performance to another level with their tremendous grit and determination,” Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano shared with Black Westchester. “There are no words to describe the sheer gratitude I have for the work they are doing during this difficult time. They are heroes in the truest sense of the word.”

AJ Woodson, Mayor Mike Spano & Lorraine Lopez after the show [Black Westchester]

The Mayor is holding the city together so we don’t collapse. There’s so much more we will be dealing with. There will be more lives lost. The new normal is changing every day as we learn new information regarding this Coronovirus pandemic. But, Yonkers is resilient. We are #YonkersStrong, we will get through this together. We will continue do our part by staying home, practicing social distancing, sanitizing, and helping each other out during these difficult times.

Condolences go out to all who lost a loved one. So I say this, Yonkers has risen and how fitting during these holy days. And we will continue to rise, we will do our best to adapt to the changes in our lives, and we will beat this monster. And tonight, at the Mayor’s request, I like many of the amazing residents of the City of Yonkers will stand outside my balcony at 7:00 p.m. and clap for the first responders and all the essential workers, as I listen to the sweet song of the bells ringing from our new firehouse in our downtown. 

This is Yonkers.

This is my hometown.

And I couldn’t feel more proud of it. 

Originally written for the April 15th issue of Black Westchester Newspaper


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