Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Just about a month ago, an early outbreak of COVID-19 here in New Rochelle drew nation-wide attention and forced our community to grapple with the impacts of the coronavirus ahead of many others. Today, as our entire world faces an unprecedented public health, economic, and social challenge, New Rochelle’s experience holds at least two valuable lessons.
The first of these lessons is sobering. The sheer speed of the contagion has outpaced most efforts to control it. Indeed, just one week after a local “containment zone” was established in New Rochelle, each and every one of the New Rochelle-specific restrictions was overtaken and exceeded by new statewide limitations. All of New York had become a containment zone, with much of America to follow.
The second lesson, however, is more reassuring: under enormous pressure, New Rochelle’s social infrastructure has held firm.
Local not-for-profits and community agencies immediately mobilized to serve as organizational hubs for the distribution of food and supplies.
Our School District teamed with a regional food bank to provide thousands of meals to students eligible for free and reduced-cost breakfast and lunch.
City Council Members stepping up to identify and address needs in their districts, with a special focus on our most vulnerable and those facing language-barriers.
Downtown developers offered generous financial assistance, recognizing their stake in our future.
Municipal managers reconceived their roles and responsibilities to maintain essential services within a radically altered work context.
First Responders, DPW workers, and health care professionals discharged their duties under conditions that required special dedication and bravery.
In every direction, we experienced an organic outpouring of volunteerism and civic pride, as residents sought ways to pitch in.
And then there were individual gestures of wisdom and kindness – smaller, but often moving: the Rabbi of the synagogue at the center of the initial outbreak, who had himself contracted the virus, writing movingly to his congregants about the moral obligation to honor their quarantine; and the local Girl Scout troop hanging ribbons throughout the “zone” in support of neighbors.
Even hunkered down now and separated physically, many of us feel in spirit more connected than ever before, and that is an encouraging sign in the midst of so much else that is unsettling.
Of course, this is only the beginning. Bigger tests are coming, and we must continue mobilizing our internal resources on a sustained basis.
To meet this challenge, New Rochelle has partnered with Volunteer New York! to bring on a full-time Director of Community Engagement with the sole focus of sustaining and strengthening our social infrastructure – giving strategic focus, direction, and support to the inspiring efforts already underway. Our success on this front will do much to determine what sort of city emerges on the other side of the
So far, New Rochelle is rising to the occasion, and I am enormously proud of the countless residents who have set such a great example of strength and resilience.
Let’s continue supporting each other.
Stay safe and well,
Mayor Noam Bramson