Good morning. It’s Friday. Today we’ll look at New York’s eviction moratorium, which is about to expire. We’ll also look at the first comprehensive Sherlock Holmes exhibition in New York in more than 50 years.
The state eviction moratorium was a lifeline for tenants when their incomes dried up in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the state is taking a risky step as Omicron-driven infections continue to surge: Officials are allowing the ban on evictions to expire on Saturday.
“It’s a moment of a lot of uncertainty and precariousness,” said Siya Hegde of Bronx Defenders, a nonprofit legal services group that has been representing tenants.
The concern reaches beyond housing court. Many officials and housing advocates worry that a rush of eviction cases could send New York’s precarious recovery in the wrong direction, and not just economically. There are also fears that crime and homelessness could edge up.
The numbers, which soared in 2020, remain staggering. The National Equity Atlas, a research tool that collates national economic data, estimated that 591,000 households in New York State are behind on rent and owe more than $1.97 billion. In New York City, households that are behind owe an average of about $3,500.
My colleague Mihir Zaveri writes that even before the pandemic, a quarter of the households in the city were severely cost-burdened, meaning that more than half their incomes went to rent and utilities. The pandemic only made things worse. The state has received more than 291,000 applications for rent relief since last summer.
The eviction crisis is a challenge for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has made housing a centerpiece of her agenda as she prepares to run for a full term in November. She has been under pressure from landlords, who have lost enormous amounts of rental income during the pandemic and have complained that the moratorium was easily abused. She has also been criticized by left-leaning Democrats for letting the moratorium run out before new eviction safeguards were ready.
Hochul said this week she that she was talking with state lawmakers about next steps. She and three other Democratic governors — Gov. Philip Murphy of New Jersey, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois — wrote to the federal government, seeking more rent relief for states like theirs with large concentrations of renters.
What to do after the eviction moratorium expires is only one of the challenges Hochul faces. Another is working with the Legislature in Albany.
She has promised a “new era” of collaboration with lawmakers. In outlining an expansive policy agenda — a wish list that she cannot push toward reality without them — she said last week that “the days of governors disregarding the rightful role of this Legislature are over.” She will release her budget proposals next week.
My colleagues Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Grace Ashford write that Hochul’s priorities are in sync with those of the Democratic leadership, but the new Legislature could be more recalcitrant than the last. She will have to deal with progressives who were elected last year after upsetting entrenched incumbents. The newcomers could nudge Hochul, a moderate, toward the left.
It’s January, always a time for optimism in Albany, and for now, most Democratic lawmakers appear to want to minimize their differences. But it is already clear that there are differences Hochul will have to bridge. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic majority leader in the State Senate, has said that “it’s time for us to make universal, affordable child care a reality.” Hochul stopped short of going that far. Her version would target 100,000 low-income families.
Another Hochul proposal that may run into turbulence: term limits for statewide elected officials. Carl Heastie, the Assembly speaker, has expressed reservations about the idea.
It’s a partly sunny day, with wind gusts persisting into the night. Temps will rise into the 40s by late morning and drop to the mid-30s toward evening. At night, the sky is mostly clear with temps below the 20s.
In effect until Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day).
For survivors of the Bronx fire, frustration
A group of tenants, joined by religious leaders, gathered outside the Bronx apartment building that was devastated by a smoky fire on Sunday, saying they were being pressed to return home too soon. Community activists representing them also expressed frustration that donations were not reaching the residents.
Of the 120 apartments, the city has said that only 35 are not habitable. Residents like Mabintou Tunkara, who lives in one of the other 85 apartments, do not want to go back.
“Everyone is covered with smoke,” she said. “Everything.”
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Not so elementary
For me, one of the takeaways from the interview I did about a new Sherlock Holmes exhibition was that Holmes was so famous that he was pictured on books that were not about him.
One was “Escaped From Sing Sing,” with an image of a pipe-smoking man on the cover. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created Holmes, visited the infamous Sing Sing prison in Ossining, N.Y., in 1914. Conan Doyle was even briefly locked in a cell. He said it was “the most restful time I have had since I arrived in New York, for it was the only chance I had to get away from reporters.”
I learned this from Glen Miranker, a former Apple executive who collects Holmesiana — items about Holmes, Watson and Conan Doyle. He owns more than 7,000 books, illustrations and letters. He has distilled them for “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects,” an exhibition at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street in Manhattan.
Conan Doyle may well have been relieved to get away from reporters at Sing Sing. They certainly followed his every move during an evening at that noisy playground by the ocean, Coney Island, where The New York Times reported that he “saw everything that was to be seen and did many of the things for which Coney is famous.” It was a bit much: “Coney Island doesn’t give one time to think,” he said.
Miranker’s enthusiasm for Holmes and Conan Doyle, reflected in the exhibition, ranges from pages of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” to handwritten letters from Conan Doyle. And there is a copy of “The Sign of the Four,” the second of the four Holmes novels.
There seemed to be a mystery about that book: Why did Conan Doyle sign it?
It was a pirated edition. Conan Doyle hated pirated editions, which paid authors nothing.
Inside the front cover was another signature, that of H.N. Higinbotham, a Chicago magnate who had been a friend of Abraham Lincoln (and who died after being hit by an ambulance on Madison Avenue in Manhattan). Higinbotham also wrote out the date — Oct. 12, 1894, the day he gave a dinner party for Conan Doyle.
Miranker concluded that Higinbotham ran out and “bought the first Conan Doyle book he could find” — and asked him to sign it.
What we’re reading
Not to be missed
I was walking through SoHo when I noticed a crowd in front of the Crosby Street Hotel. I asked a young couple who they were waiting for.
We don’t know, they said, explaining that they had seen the crowd and had decided to wait, too.
I asked how long they had been waiting.
About 30 minutes, they told me.
“You have been waiting for 30 minutes for someone you don’t know?” I asked.
“Yes,” one of them said. “It might be a celebrity.”
I walked a few feet and saw a woman standing with what appeared to be her two teenage daughters.
“Who are you waiting for?” I asked her.
“We don’t know,” the woman said. “We saw the crowd and decided to wait. It could be someone famous.”
“How long have you been waiting?” I asked.
“Maybe about 40 minutes or so,” the woman said. “Not really sure.”
At that point, the hotel’s doors opened, but only for the doorman to make sure the crowd wasn’t blocking the entrance.
Walking a little farther down the block, I noticed a man sitting in a car.
“Are you waiting, too?” I asked him.
“You bet!” he said.
“But you don’t know who it is?”
“Don’t care, as it could be somebody,” he said.
“And if it’s somebody,” he added, “I don’t want to miss it.”
— Jeanne McAuliffe
‘Devastated’: Crowds Throng Funeral Service for 15 Bronx Fire Victims
A line of black hearses began pulling up outside the doors of the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx just after 10 a.m. on Sunday. They maneuvered past throngs of distraught mourners who had flocked to the mosque to say a final goodbye to friends, children, parents and cousins killed in a fire that took the lives of 17 members of a close-knit Gambian community.
Indoors, women consoled each other in a second-floor prayer space as the men gathered downstairs. Outside, two tents were filled with families watching the funeral service on a livestream.
Aminata Sillah, 42, had arrived early. She laid a blue prayer rug on the ground in the frigid morning air, tugging anxiously at her boots.
Ms. Sillah’s aunt, Fatoumata Drammeh, was among those who died on Jan. 9 as acrid smoke filled the apartment building on East 181st Street, suffocating people as they tried to flee the 19-story complex. Ms. Drammeh’s three children also died and were among the 15 people being honored during Sunday’s communal funeral service.
“I’m devastated,” Ms. Sillah said. “It’s been a restless week.”
An imam urged people to clear a path as the coffins, draped in black velvet cloth and held aloft by more than two dozen men, were carried inside the mosque.
“It’s just painful,” Haji Dukuray, 60, said before falling silent as a tiny, child-size coffin was placed near where he sat in the front row on a green prayer rug.
“All this innocence, these young kids,” Mr. Dukuray said. “They have no business being here.”
Yahya Sankara, 33, who lost his sister and two nephews, sighed loudly as his eyes began to tear up.
“My heart is done,” Mr. Sankara said. “I have nothing to say.”
New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams; the state’s attorney general, Letitia James; and Senator Chuck Schumer were among the elected leaders who attended the packed funeral service.
The fire, ignited by a space heater, was the city’s deadliest blaze in decades.
The blaze began just before 11 a.m. on a similarly chilly Sunday morning a week ago. Eight children were among the dead.
As the service started, the imam, Sankung Jeitteh, said he was struggling to control his emotions as he listed the names of families — Dukuray, Drammeh, Jambang, Konteh, Tunkara, Toure — decimated by the blaze.
“When the Lord asks for something, we have no choice but to agree,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to control myself.”
Family members started to quietly sob.
New York Governor Offers Hopeful Sign as Daily Cases Fall by 47%
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, warned on Sunday that the Omicron surge of coronavirus cases had not yet peaked nationally, saying that the next few weeks would be very difficult in many parts of the country as hospitalizations and deaths rise.
But “the challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace,” he said, adding “we shouldn’t expect a national peak in the coming days.”
“The next few weeks will be tough,” he said.
The highly contagious Omicron variant has fueled an explosive surge of known cases, with an average of more than 800,000 new cases a day reported on Saturday, according to a New York Times database.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, also expressed concerns that the next several weeks would overwhelm hospitals and staff. “Right now we’re at about 150,000 people in the hospital with Covid,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect those numbers to get substantially higher.”
About this data
Sources: State and local health agencies (cases, deaths); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (hospitalizations).
In addition, Omicron has brought into sharp relief the longstanding lack of adequate testing supplies, with consumers now depleting pharmacies of costly rapid tests — a boxed set of two tests ranges from $14 to $24 — and creating long lines at testing sites.
The federal government has promised to distribute one billion rapid at-home coronavirus tests to Americans, limiting each household to request four free tests. And new federal rules require private insurers to cover up to eight at-home tests per member a month.
But with the test orders and reimbursement processes hampered by delays, Americans will likely not have tests in hand for weeks, which may be too late in some places where demand is high as infections spread.
“We’ve ordered too few testing kits, so our testing capacity has continued to lag behind each wave,” Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser to President Trump, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s too little and too late, but noteworthy for the next wave.”
While many people infected with Omicron have had no or mild symptoms, others — especially those who were not vaccinated and those with chronic conditions — suffered more serious illnesses that were already overwhelming hospitals in some states late last year.
Dr. Murthy disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision last week that rejected President Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers that would have applied to more than 80 million workers.
“Well, the news about the workplace requirement being blocked was very disappointing,” Dr. Murthy said. “It was a setback for public health. Because what these requirements ultimately are helpful for is not just protecting the community at large; but making our workplaces safer for workers as well as for customers.”
Nearly 63 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but only 38 percent of those have received a booster shot, which some have argued should be the new definition of full vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed the definition of full vaccination, but said recently it considers three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccines to be “up-to-date,” as well as Johnson & Johnson’s shots with a second dose, preferably of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.
Last week, the C.D.C. finally acknowledged that cloth masks do not offer as much protection as a surgical mask or respirator, which some experts have urged the agency to recommend for the general public.
“Please, please get vaccinated,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC, issuing a reminder that the shots still provide good protection against severe illness. “It’s still not too late.”
Homes That Sold for $520,000 or Less
Each week, our survey of recent residential sales in New York City and the surrounding region focuses on homes that sold around a certain price point, allowing you to compare single-family homes, condos and co-ops in different locales.
The “list price” is the asking price when the property came on the market with the most recent broker. The time on the market is measured from the most recent listing to the closing date of the sale.
BROOKLYN | 1 BEDROOM, 1 BATH
145 72nd Street, No. C6, Bay Ridge
This 700-square-foot postwar co-op has hardwood floors, a southern exposure and an open kitchen with a breakfast bar in a non-doorman elevator building with a live-in superintendent.
20 weeks on the market
$375,000 list price
1% below list price
Costs $643 a month in maintenance
Listing broker Keller Williams
Connecticut | 2 bedrooms, 3 baths
731 North Trail, No. B, Stratford
This 45-year-old, 2,026-square-foot, semidetached condo has an open floor plan, a kitchen with granite counters and island seating and two decks in a complex for those aged 55 and over.
12 weeks on the market
$439,900 list price
Less than 1% above list price
Costs $9,543 a year in taxes; $463 a month in common charges
A 577-square-foot prewar condo with hardwood floors, an eat-in kitchen with granite counters, a bedroom with French doors and a windowed walk-in closet in a non-doorman walk-up building.
31 weeks on the market
$435,000 list price
6% below list price
Costs $5,168 a year in taxes; $405 a month in common charges
Listing broker Triplemint
Long Island | 2 bedrooms, 2½ baths
80 Stanford Court, No. B, Wantagh
This 36-year-old, 1,305-square-foot, townhouse-style condo has a living room with a stone fireplace, two walk-in closets and two decks in a complex with a pool and tennis courts.
17 weeks on the market
$499,000 list price
4% above list price
Costs $13,209 a year in taxes; $350 a month in common charges
Listing broker Douglas Elliman
Westchester | 1 bedroom, 1 bath
4 Martine Avenue, No. 408, White Plains
A 32-year-old, 774-square-foot condo, with hardwood floors, a pass-through kitchen that has granite counters, and a washer and dryer in a high-rise doorman building with a gym, indoor pool and pond.
21 weeks on the market
$389,000 list price
6% below list price
Costs $4,911 a year in taxes; $569 a month in common charges
Listing broker Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty
A 350-square-foot prewar co-op, with a bath, hardwood floors, two closets and a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances (but no dishwasher), in an elevator building with a doorman and gym.
14 weeks on the market
$325,000 list price
17% below list price
Costs $840 a month in maintenance
Listing broker Keller Williams