Queens responds to pandemic with local action

BY ROB MACKAY

As news outlets from around the world report on daily COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in Queens, it’s easy to focus on the negative. But believe it or not, there’s some positive news in the borough these days. Many businesses, nonprofits, and regular residents have responded to the crisis with grit, determination, and a strong desire to help others.

In late March, Acting Borough President Sharon Lee started funding and organizing efforts by the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) and the Queens Night Market (QNM) to send freshly prepared meals to the nine local acute-care hospitals. Within a week this initiative, dubbed “Fueling the Frontlines,” joined forces with another recently formed group, Queens Feeds Hospitals, to expand services.

It’s a rather basic process. The restaurants get some business during a time of quarantine and social distancing, while the overworked, overstressed health care providers enjoy delicious food on their breaks. Participants are clients of QEDC’s Entrepreneur Space, a commercial kitchen incubator in Long Island City, QNM vendors, and restaurants recruited by Queens Feeds Hospitals.

They include Applebee’s, Arepalicious of Ozone Park, Austin Ale House, Ben’s Kosher Deli, Cooking with Corey, Magnolia Café, The Malaysian Project, Quiaufa’s Kitchen, and Treat Yourself Jerk Chicken. They make and package about 300 meals at a time. QEDC and QNM waive administrative costs.

The borough president’s grant planted the seed, but soon thereafter Queens companies – including BNB Bank, Con Edison, Driscoll Group, Plaxall, Signature Bank, Silvercup Studios, and the USTA – made donations and QEDC added funds it normally raises from Queens Taste.

Queens Taste is QEDC’s annual gala/fundraiser that usually takes place on the first Tuesday of May, but was postponed until October this year. “Fueling the Frontlines” will run as long as necessary and funding is in place. To sponsor, send an email to info@queensbp.org and/or sbornstein@queensny.org with the subject line “Fuel the Frontlines.”

DELIVERIES

The tough times also inspired about 80 residents of the Long Island City area to form LIC Relief: COVID-19 Response, a grassroots group that fights hunger. The volunteers recruited seven restaurants — Little Chef Little Kitchen, Piatto, Bella Via, Vernon Grille, Manetta’s, Centro, Bareburger, and Manducatis Rustica — to cook between 30 and 75 meals per day.

They deliver the fresh cuisine to residents of NYCHA properties such as Astoria Houses, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, and Woodside Houses. The restaurants make $5 per meal, thanks to private donations by local residents and an initial dollar-for-dollar match from YourLIC, a consortium of local developers that includes TF Cornerstone, Plaxall, Simon Baron Development, and L&L Mag. You can donate at licrelief.org.

PANTRIES

LIC Relief also operates a holding center at Plaxall (5-25 46th Avenue) where people can drop off dry goods such as pasta, beans, rice, and canned soup. It’s open weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m.

A bit to the east, religious and community leaders formed the Woodside/Sunnyside Community COVID-19 Relief Group to establish a food-distribution center at the Mosaic Church’s office at 46-01 43rd Avenue. It’s open on weekdays from 5 to 8 p.m., and organizers can make home deliveries for those with reduced mobility.

Excess food goes to soup kitchens at St. Raphael Church in Long Island City and St. Teresa Church in Woodside. More information is available at mosaicwestqueens.nyc and eugenie.woo@gmail.com.

In Ridgewood, Woodbine, a volunteer-run experimental hub with large outdoor and indoor spaces that are often used for special events and workshops, partnered with a citywide homeless outreach agency, Hungry Monk, to launch a food pantry at 1882 Woodbine Street. Volunteers also make home deliveries. More information is available at woodbine.nyc.

HELPFUL TRIO

Three related restaurants – Austin’s Ale House, Bourbon Street, and One Station Plaza – have started “Food for the Fearless.” They raise money through the “Food for the Fearless” GoFundMe page to prepare quality meals for health care providers in Queens, Long Island, and Manhattan.

ORDER & SUPPORT

QEDC’s Entrepreneur Space, a 12,500-square-foot space with a fully equipped commercial kitchen and clients that make everything from three-course meals to unique desserts in Long Island City, has also launched a for-profit delivery service for fresh and packaged products.

Again, the process is simple. Shoppers go to the individual client’s website and order what they want. The businesses will then fill the order. For fresh products, the delivery zone is roughly a ten-block radius centered in the vicinity of Northern Boulevard and 37th Street, but out-of-zone customers can use other services, such as UberEats and Seamless. Customers can receive packaged products via USPS and FedEx to anywhere.

Over time, the E-Space hopes to increase the delivery zone and get more clients to participate. Currently, fresh options include Chicken Tortilla Soup or Lasagna Bianca from Ipsa Provisions and Boneless Herb-Roasted Chicken Breast or Seared Tofu with Mushroom and Onion Gravy from Quiaufa’s Kitchen.

The options for packaged products run a wide gamut that includes artisan bread, chocolate, doggie treats, healthy snacks, and hot sauces. More information is available at itsinqueens.com.

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