TAKE YOUR MASK AND…: Chris Flash is the publisher of The SHADOW, the East Village community anarchist newspaper, so you sort of expect him to defy official edicts.
He recently got into a bit of a tiff at the Key Food, at Avenue A and E. Fourth St., when he refused to don a face mask inside the supermarket.
“They had some poor guy who’s just a flak catcher,” he recounted. “He was just pointing to a sign that said, ‘Wear a mask.’”
According Flash, two police officers were sitting in a squad car outside the front door.
“One cop on a loudspeaker said, ‘You have to follow the rules,’” Flash said, “but the cops didn’t have masks on. The female cop had a mask on the floor of the car. She held it up and smiled.”
In short, Flash is refusing to wear a mask in public where social distancing is impossible — at a supermarket, for example — contrary to current New York City and New York State government guidelines during the pandemic.
“They’re not wearing the f—ing masks themselves,” he accused of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Flash objected that, just the day before, Key Food had not required shoppers to wear face masks. However, on April 15, the governor issued an executive order mandating their use in public spaces. And that same day, the mayor said supermarkets and grocery stores should require all shoppers to cover their faces — adding that police can be called via 311 if there are any problems.
“They’re giving us this ridiculous concept that you and I are potential Typhoid Marys,” Flash scoffed, referring to New York’s infamous 19th-century asymptomatic typhoid fever-spreading cook.
“I don’t believe a porous mask is effective in stopping viruses,” he shrugged.
At any rate, Flash said he left and went to another nearby supermarket that let him shop sans mask — even though the place also has a sign posted saying face coverings are required. He declined to name the store.
“I’m living as a free human being,” Flash declared, “not a frightened rabbit hiding in a little hole until the government says it’s O.K. to come out.”
Defiantly maskless, he left us with this last thought to ponder: “A sufficiently terrorized population will accept and even demand their own repression, including that of others.”
GETTING DOWN TO BID-NESS: We caught up with Terri Howell, the Village Alliance’s operations director, last week.
The business improvement district, mostly covering the Central Village, includes Eighth St., Astor Place and St. Mark’s Place, University Place and part of Sixth Ave.
Howell said initial reports from the BID’s security team after the “lockdown” started were that many homeless had flocked to Washington Square Park.
“My guess is they are usually in commercial districts looking for places to beg and get money,” she said. “We had a lot of people from shelters who don’t want to be in shelters [right now].”
Most banks have been closed except for ATMs, she noted, adding, “We’re getting homeless people camped out in ATMs.”
Homeless and a few drug addicts have also been taking refuge in some below-street-level building “wells,” she noted.
One “irate” resident called to complain after seeing the BID’s sanitation team out on the streets, fearing the workers were needlessly being put at risk for infection.
However Howell explained, “They’re sanitizing the street furniture, the garbage bins, mailbox slots — the things that people touch. They’re not just picking up bubblegum.”
And the Village Alliance has been helping its 430 merchant members navigate the red tape and apply for business loans, and is also working to keep an accurate list of which stores are open or closed.
Meanwhile, Community Affairs Officer Robert Jackson at the Sixth Precinct said while there might seem to be more homeless than usual around the Village, it’s not really the case.
“I think they’ve always been out there,” he said. “People are noticing them more now.
“If we see a homeless person on the street, we check on them and see how they’re doing,” he said. “The Homeless Outreach Unit is checking on them.”
VIRTUOUSLY VIRTUAL: Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah gave the invocation on April 22 at the first-ever virtual stated City Council meeting.
Kleinbaum is the first and only C.B.S.T. rabbi, having been appointed in 1992 when the congregation, now in Chelsea, was founded in Greenwich Village. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson sung her praises at the start of the online meeting.