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Coronavirus Outbreak: Coping With Closures and Long Lines on the Lower East Side

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The coronavirus outbreak has led to panic buying across New York, including here on the Lower East Side. You’ve seen the crazy lines and empty shelves at Trader Joe’s on Grand Street.  Meanwhile, most of the neighborhood’s tourist attractions and many other local institutions have temporarily shut their doors.

Among them: the New Museum, the Tenement Museum, the Manny Cantor Center and the Museum at Eldridge Street.  At the same time, many of the Lower East Side’s social service organizations, including University Settlement, Henry Street Settlement and Grand Street Settlement are keeping most of their programs open.  Taste of the Lower East Side, Grand Street Settlement’s annual fundraiser (scheduled to take place May 7), was cancelled yesterday.

The governor’s ban on public gatherings that include over 500 people was a big blow to Jing Fong, Chinatown’s largest restaurant which seats up to 800 people in its second floor banquet hall. The New York Post reported erroneously on Thursday night that Jing Fong would be closing for good. The restaurant’s owners clarified that the closure was only temporary, explaining via Twitter: “We are TEMPORARILY closed due to Governor Coumo requesting all large gatherings of 500 or more to be cancelled. We have 800 seats, therefore for everyone’s health and safety, we are closed until Coumo says it’s OK to gather and party again!!!” Other big Chinatown restaurants, including Golden Unicorn and Congee Village, have also closed until the crisis is over.

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Over at the Market Line, the subterranean food hall, vendors were planning to stay open through the weekend, although a notice on social media indicated that all special programming had been cancelled through the end of the month.  In difficult times, you can always count on legacy Lower East Side businesses to remain open in service to the community. On Instagram, Russ & Daughters said, “We hope you’re healthy and safe. We’re open and here to feed you at all of our locations…  just as our family has for four generations and 106 years.”  

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