As communities across the nation wage battle against COVID-19, it appears the “slow and steady wins the race” adage is most appropriate.
This, in fact, has been Nyack’s battle plan. And the village’s results so far give encouraging examples of what small communities have done, and can do, to win the fight.
The latest of many community initiatives supports Nyack’s unique shops and restaurants, closing the streets on alternate Fridays, allowing businesses to expand their customer service footprint — safely. The first foray into outdoor shopping and dining was held on Friday June 12, shortly after state regulations permitted this type of activity. Since then, the village has hosted three additional outdoor events, and plans six more in August, September and October.
Upcoming such events will occur Friday, August 21 and Friday, September 4. In addition to shopping and dining, the events will feature live jazz, and acoustic folk and rock performances.
“Nyack is in many ways a model for the ongoing COVID battle in small villages across the country,” says Nyack Mayor Don Hammond. “Nyack supports nearly 100 small businesses, as well as a nationally recognized hospital, schools, nursing homes, and a broad array of arts and cultural institutions. We’re all working together to navigate this unprecedented crisis.”
Adding and element of creativity and fun to the safety requirements, Nyack merchants will be inviting any and all to participate in a “Maskarade” contest that will showcase the community’s most creative masks. Prizes for the best masks will be awarded at a red carpet finale event in Nyack on October 30.
Contestants will have opportunities to enter by posting their mask selfies at designated businesses in Nyack throughout September and October. In addition, professional photographers will be snapping selfies during Nyack’s Friday outdoor shopping and dining events in September and October, starting September 4.
“The street closings are just plain fun,” says retailer Maria Luisa Whittingham, owner of Maria Luisa boutique. “But they also open up important opportunities for us to connect live with customers, which is critical to the way we sell.”
Nyack’s street closings are the product of groundwork set months ago in an unfolding program to support the village. “Safety and security are the top priorities,” says Roger Cohen, President of the Nyack Chamber of Commerce. “Working through the logistics has been a thoughtful, deliberate process. It’s a lot more complex and expensive than it looks.”
In the first wave of the pandemic, the community rose to the challenge by quickly addressing urgent needs — for example, organizing a team of volunteer mask makers who worked with Montefiore Nyack Hospital to supply tens of thousands of masks to the hospital, local institutions and individuals. Nyack Center, Nyack Nourishes and Nyack Soup Angels quickly stepped up to provide food and other critical support to citizens and frontline workers in need. Those fundamental efforts continue.
“Montefiore Nyack Hospital has been here for our community for 125 years, and never before has our relationship with the community been stronger,” says Montefiore Nyack Hospital President & CEO, Mark Geller, MD. “We faced an unprecedented public health crisis for which our community reached out to assist.”
“The support we received from our neighbors and local businesses inspired our brave professionals to forge ahead even in the most trying of times,” adds Geller. “Our commitment to serving the community remains steadfast, and with a renewed partnership with the community, we are ready to confront any challenges that lie ahead.”
Once New York State’s phased reopening began, the Nyack Chamber relaunched the popular Farmers Market on May 14, and has continued to operate this vital community service every Thursday from 8 am to 2 pm in the center of town.
“Safety is ‘job 1’ for the Market,” says Pam Moskowitz, Farmers Market Manager. “We took time to make sure we had stringent safety protocols in place before the Market reopening — safe distancing for shoppers waiting to enter and exit, distancing from the merchant booths, facilities for pre-ordering and, of course, masks for everyone.”
The outdoor shopping and dining events have followed that same path — advance planning, detailed understanding of state mandates, and stringent safety rules.
The safety message is communicated loud and clear on banners and signs, and by staff who help manage village events. Nyack Mask Makers continue to offer free masks, and help ensure that people wear them in public gatherings. The village is especially fortunate to have Nyack Montefiore Hospital leading the community on public safety.
“Behavior is our biggest enemy and our biggest ally,” added Hammond. “If, in our close-knit community, we can get people on board with safe behaviors such as wearing masks, we can defeat the virus — and allow people to enjoy basic pleasures despite a really tough situation.”