Community Organizing Responses to COVID-19
Queens Spotlight was launched in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time of incredible hardship and severe shifts in how society functions, we are continually inspired by the resourcefulness, responsiveness and resilience of Queens community members. In this series we highlight community organizing work and hope to provide insight into the vitality of this work within our borough during the pandemic.
April 9, 2020
John Wang, Founder of Queens Night Market
All of our lives have been radically changed by the pandemic and the necessary social distancing, so let’s start with… What are you working on at the moment?
Given the current state of affairs, the Queens Night Market, which averaged over 13,000 visitors per night last year, is indefinitely postponed. We were scheduled to open up our 2020 season this week (April 18th), and very disappointed that’s not happening. But lately we’ve been working with the Queens Borough President and the Queens Economic Development Corporation on our FUEL THE FRONTLINES initiative. What we’re doing is raising funds to hire Queens Night Market vendors to provide meals for hospital workers in Queens. This gives numerous small businesses a modest but important stream of revenue during these tough times, and also feeds those on the frontlines who are risking their health and lives to help those in need.
The initiative has delivered over 4,000 meals to healthcare workers in just its first three weeks. No one is making a penny on these efforts except for the small businesses providing the meals, and even they are doing it at a significant discount to help the cause. To make tax-deductible donations to support the program, individuals can visit this page. Any potential sponsors of the program should definitely get in touch!
You just published a book, The World Eats Here, which features recipes from Queens Night Market vendors, representing over 40 countries. Would you share one recipe with us?
The World Eats Here, which will be published on May 12th, 2020, highlight stories (adapted from my wife Storm Garner’s oral history vendor interviews) and recipes from vendors representing over 40 countries. Below is a recipe from Frances Roman of Cocotaso for Rellenos de papa.
What is one way in which you hope that Queens will come out of this crisis stronger?
There’s no doubt that recovering from this crisis will be a long road for everyone… for Queens, for NYC, and for the world. While social distancing is forcing us all apart, I hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is not only a shortening of the physical distances between us, but also a shortening of the social and psychological distances between us. This pandemic is something we’re *all* facing and struggling with together, and we’re already seeing inspiring signs of community, camaraderie, collective mobilizing, and generosity. This crisis will define a generation, if not an era. And while I hope that our daily lives return to normal sooner than later, I hope that the outpouring of support and sense of togetherness don’t fade — I hope those are here to stay.
“The World Eats Here” by John Wang and Storm Garner, printed by Experiment Publishing.
To be published on May 12, 2020.
Recipe from Frances Roman, Cocotaso. Excerpted from “The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market” © 2020 by John Wang and Storm Garner.
Photographs © by John Taggart. Reprinted by permission of The Experiment.
Available wherever books are sold. www.experimentpublishing.com.