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Can Eric Adams Cheerlead New Yorkers Past the Pandemic? – The New York Times

The mayor is singularly focused on bringing back New York City’s economy, now that coronavirus cases have dropped.

Mayor Eric Adams has made no secret of his desire to fast-track New York City’s recovery from the coronavirus, and in his regular briefings with health officials, he has been encouraged by the latest metrics: Cases have greatly receded while vaccination rates have hit nearly 90 percent for adults.

But Mr. Adams wanted input from another key sector.

Earlier this month, the mayor entertained a dozen business leaders at his official residence, Gracie Mansion. Over vegan mushroom couscous and wine, Mr. Adams asked what it would take to get people back to offices, according to several participants. The leaders talked about the difficulty of persuading workers to return five days a week — and whether three days was more realistic — and the importance of making the subway safe.

The mayor and his team left the event with a to-do list, including creating a marketing campaign to highlight the city’s comeback.

If the get-together at Gracie Mansion seemed unusual, that’s because it was: Most of the business leaders had never been inside the mayoral residence.

Mr. Adams, a Democrat, has had regular conversations with some of the city’s most influential business leaders, including David Solomon, chief executive at the banking firm Goldman Sachs, and Jonathan Gray, president of the private equity firm Blackstone, to seek their advice — a stark contrast to Mr. Adams’s predecessor, Bill de Blasio, who had a fraught relationship with the business community.

The meetings have underscored not just Mr. Adams’s focus on reopening the city, whose economy has been devastated by the pandemic and is only now slowly rebounding toward health, but also his determination to work with the city’s business leaders in making it happen.

Since taking office in January, Mr. Adams, a former police captain, has had to respond to a series of high-profile crimes, including the shooting deaths of two police officers and violent attacks against Asian Americans. That continued last weekend, with the stabbing of two workers at the Museum of Modern Art, the death of an 87-year-old vocal coach who was shoved to the ground on a Chelsea sidewalk and the disclosure that a gunman targeted homeless men in the streets of Lower Manhattan and Washington, D.C.

But in recent weeks, Mr. Adams — who had made addressing crime a central theme of his mayoral bid — has also begun emphasizing another core campaign message: New York needs to return to normal, and the mayor believes that time is now.

The mayor recently ended the mask mandate in schools and lifted proof-of-vaccination requirements for indoor activities. He has crisscrossed the city to convey the importance for the city to shed its pandemic way of life, making it a point to be seen at high-profile events like ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and attending Fashion Week with Anna Wintour. He has even adopted a scolding tone toward those who are reluctant to return to the bustling streets of Manhattan.

“You can’t stay home in your pajamas all day,” Mr. Adams said at an event to announce his economic development team. “That is not who we are as a city. You need to be out cross-pollinating ideas, interacting with humans.”

The city’s financial challenges are harrowing: The unemployment rate has remained high at about 7.5 percent, roughly double the national average; office vacancy rates rose to 20 percent, the highest level in four decades; tourism is not expected to recover until 2025; the city’s budget relies on billions of dollars in federal aid that won’t last forever.

Last week, Mr. Adams released a 59-page “blueprint” for the city’s recovery that focused on reducing gun violence, removing homeless people from the subway and making outdoor dining permanent — reflecting the guidance of business leaders.

“Job No. 1: You have to address the safety issue,” said Charles Phillips, the founder of a private-equity firm who organized the Gracie Mansion event. “The mayor understands that obviously, with his background. You have to make the city appealing from a safety standpoint.”
The business leaders told the mayor that the timing of New York City’s recovery was urgent.
“We just had our best week since Covid began in 2020 — occupancy last week was over 30 percent,” said Scott Rechler, chairman and chief executive of RXR Realty, a major commercial real estate firm and another adviser to the mayor. “That’s not a number I’m thrilled with — it’s usually in the 90s — but every CEO and head of H.R. has a plan in place to bring people back in the next 60 to 90 days.”

Two years into the pandemic, the city’s economy faces numerous challenges. With many employers expected to adopt a hybrid approach where workers would come in three days a week, sales tax revenue is expected to drop by $111 million a year. The occupancy rate for hotels, which had plunged as low as 40 percent in January when the Omicron variant hit, was at 67 percent in mid-March, according to STR, a hospitality analytics company.

Subway ridership is at about 60 percent of its prepandemic levels, and transit leaders have suggested that they can no longer rely heavily on fares to fund the system. On Broadway, just 20 shows are running at 41 houses, though attendance has been around 85 percent, and many more shows are expected to open by the end of April.

Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive of the real estate firm CBRE for the New York region, said she had spoken with Mr. Adams several times since he took office, and has told him that it was important to make people feel comfortable returning.

“It’s about getting the basics right,” she said. “People will come back to a city that they feel safe in and that is clean, and those two conditions allow the city to do much of what it does organically — make great art, make great food, make great business deals.”

In Mr. de Blasio’s final days as mayor, he continued to deliver near daily news briefings on the virus that consumed his last two years in office, claiming 40,000 lives in New York City.

Mr. Adams did not continue the practice. He regularly takes questions from journalists, but his last news conference dedicated to the virus and the city’s health care system — and not focused on relaxing restrictions or on economic recovery — was on Feb. 11 at a health center in Brooklyn, the same day he announced a $100 incentive for people who receive a booster shot.
He has not discussed the growing concerns in recent days over the BA.2 subvariant that is fueling a rise in cases in the United Kingdom. Instead, the mayor seems devoted to delivering a different message.

At a recent event in Times Square, Mr. Adams approached random pedestrians in search of a tourist. Finding one from Canada, he delivered a simple message: “Spend money.”

Three days later, Mr. Adams made the same pitch at the Blue Note jazz club in Greenwich Village: “Some of you are from out of town, and I have one request of you: Spend money.”
Beyond being the city’s cheerleader, Mr. Adams has also embraced the role of city psychologist, encouraging New Yorkers to move past the trauma of the pandemic and to stop “wallowing.” Mr. Adams said that removing masks in schools was an important step.

“The return to normalcy is about substantive things we have to do and symbolic things,” Mr. Adams said in an interview. “As much as we say things are normal, the face mask is a symbol that things are not. It’s time to see our faces again, particularly our children.”

Some elected officials were alarmed by Mr. Adams’s decision to remove masks at schools, pointing to low vaccination rates among some children. They also took issue with lifting the proof-of-vaccination requirement for restaurants, movie theaters and other indoor activities, arguing that the mandate made diners feel safer.

“I am worried that this is going to be interpreted as the pandemic is over, and that people are really just going to let their guard down,” said Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president, a Democrat.

But even as Mr. Adams has lifted some pandemic rules, he has also kept vaccine mandates for municipal workers and for employees of private companies who are working in person. The mayor’s health advisers insisted that those mandates be preserved and were comfortable relaxing the other rules once transmission fell to levels that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers low, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Adams said he kept the employer mandates because people spend more time in workplaces and have a longer risk of exposure over an eight-hour workday.

“The doctors feel strongly that that’s where the most susceptibility is in terms of passing on Covid,” he said in the interview.

Mr. Adams has also acknowledged that workers might not return to offices five days a week. He said he is open to converting office buildings in Midtown Manhattan to housing, and after visiting an office with water views recently, he mused, “I could put my kitchen here; I’d love to live here.”

Some critics, including Joseph Borelli, the Republican minority leader in the City Council who recently dined with Mr. Adams at Angelina’s restaurant in Staten Island, want the mayor to end the private sector mandates.

“They’re a barrier for those who may want to return to work in New York,” Mr. Borelli said, adding that a friend who was unvaccinated and worked in finance was working from an office in New Jersey to avoid complying with the city mandate.

Similar criticism has mounted over the status of another unvaccinated New York employee: Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets’ star point guard who is barred from playing in New York City. Mr. Irving’s teammate, Kevin Durant, suggested that Mr. Adams was “looking for attention”; LeBron James wrote on Twitter that banning Irving “makes absolutely zero sense,” adding the hashtag #FreeKyrie.

Mr. Adams suggested a simple solution.
“Kyrie can play tomorrow,” the mayor said at a recent news conference. “Get vaccinated.”
Sharon Otterman contributed reporting.
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LIFE & WORK

William G. Hamilton, Doctor to Dancers, Is Dead at 90

Invited by George Balanchine to be the in-house orthopedic surgeon at City Ballet in New York, he laid the groundwork for the field of dance medicine.

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Dr. William G. Hamilton, who as the attending orthopedic surgeon for New York City Ballet spent more than 40 years fixing bone spurs, tendinitis, bursitis, torn ligaments and what he called “the Nutcracker Fracture,” died on March 29 at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 90.

His wife, Linda Hamilton, said the cause was congestive heart failure.

Ballet dancers may be the “athletes of God,” as Albert Einstein supposedly said. But until Dr. Hamilton came along, they were treated more like ethereal beings than physical bodies that could crack, tear and otherwise fall apart under the extreme and often unnatural pressures of repeated pliés and grand jetés.

In fact, it was George Balanchine, the choreographer who famously insisted that his dancers stoically work through their stubbed toes and sprained ankles, who asked Dr. Hamilton to become the first in-house doctor for the 80-plus members of New York City Ballet, in 1972.
Dr. Hamilton immediately said yes, though he knew nothing about ballet. He immersed himself in the art, attending weekend classes and becoming close to Balanchine and, later, the dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who in 1980 hired him to be the attending surgeon for American Ballet Theater as well.

A courtly 6-foot-3 Southerner, Dr. Hamilton became a favorite and even revered figure around Lincoln Center. He had a disarming bedside manner that put young dancers at ease when they came to him worried that a sprained ankle might end their career.

He kept a ballet barre in his examining room, and he was renowned for catching early signs of chronic, potentially debilitating problems just by asking a dancer to go through a few routine motions.

Early on, he realized that while dancers suffered the same kinds of injuries athletes did, they got them in obscure ways and places. He saw, for example, that the rapid movements required by Balanchine’s ballets came with the risk of foot and ankle injury, while the leaps and bounds more common under Mr. Baryshnikov were more threatening to the hips and knees.

“From the very beginning, I learned that although they get the same injuries as athletes, dancers are artists first,” he told Dance Magazine in 2011.

When Dr. Hamilton started out, in the early 1970s, there was no such thing as dance medicine, and indeed foot and ankle injuries were a largely understudied field of orthopedic medicine.
He built up both fields through lectures and journal articles in which he diagnosed previously understudied injuries; he was among the first to describe the Nutcracker Fracture, for example, which involves multiple breaks in the cuboid bone in the foot. He was president of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society from 1992 to 1993, and today every sizable dance company in the country has an orthopedic surgeon on call.

“Bill was the king of orthopedic dance medicine,” Glenn Pfeffer, the co-director of the Cedars-Sinai/USC Glorya Kaufman Dance Medicine Center in Los Angeles, said in a phone interview.
Dr. Hamilton continued to perform surgery until he was 81 and consulted until a few years ago, long after most physicians would have hung up their scalpels.

“I would have retired a long time ago if it wasn’t for the dancers,” he said in a 2016 interview with the magazine Princeton Alumni Weekly. “It’s very rewarding because they love what they do. They just want to dance; they wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

William Garnett Hamilton did not set out to be a Manhattan doctor, let alone a balletomane. He was born on Jan. 11, 1932, in Altus, Okla., where his father, Milton Hamilton, was a salesman and his mother, Elizabeth (Garnett) Hamilton, was a homemaker.

The family moved to Shreveport, La., when he was very young. After his parents divorced, his mother remarried and moved to Portage, Wis., where her new husband owned a plastics manufacturing company.

William graduated from Princeton in 1954 with a degree in engineering, and after two years in the Army he joined his stepfather’s business in Wisconsin. He married and had a child; by his mid-20s, he said, he could see his entire life unfolding before him. He didn’t like what he saw.
Against his parents’ wishes that he stay to run the family company, he applied to medical school. He was accepted at Columbia, one of the few schools that took older students (he was 28 when he enrolled). He decided to focus on orthopedics — a field that he said was not unlike engineering, with muscles and joints standing in for ropes and levers. He graduated in 1964 and, after several years of residency, opened a practice in Midtown Manhattan in 1969.

In addition to his work with the two ballet companies, he provided the same services to the companies’ affiliated schools, the School of American Ballet and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, and he consulted for numerous Broadway shows and New York sports teams, including the Knicks and the Yankees.

His first two marriages ended in divorce. He met his future third wife, Linda Homek, when she was a dancer with New York City Ballet. She later received a doctorate in psychology from Adelphi University, on Long Island. In 2000, she and Dr. Hamilton created a multidisciplinary wellness team, including a dietitian and a massage therapist, to care for the company’s dancers, a model that has since been adopted by other ballet companies.
Along with his wife, Dr. Hamilton is survived by his sister, Ann Kirk; his sons, William Jr. and Lewis; and three grandchildren.

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LIFE & WORK

Not just New York: Wegmans to stop using plastic bags at all stores by end of 2022 – WSYR

This change is not new for New Yorkers, where plastic bags in most settings have been banned by state law since 2020. According to a company press release, Wegmans’ goal is to shift all customers to reusable bags.

“We understand shoppers are accustomed to receiving plastic bags at checkout and losing that option requires a significant change. We are here to help our customers with this transition as we focus on doing what’s right for the environment,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans category merchant for packaging, energy, and sustainability. “As we’ve encountered plastic bag legislation in numerous markets, we’ve learned there’s more we can do, and a bigger impact we can make, together with our customers.”

Wegmans plans to incentivize the use of reusable bags by charging five cents per paper bag, an approach already utilized in New York stores.

Officials say in stores where the company has eliminated plastic bags, on average, paper bags are used for 20% to 25% of transactions with reusable bags for the remaining 75% to 80% of transactions.

According to Wegmans, by eliminating plastic bags from the rest of its stores, the company is preventing some 345 million single-use bags from going into circulation in a year’s time.
Additionally, Wegmans says the amount of money collected from the paper bag charged will be donated to each store’s local food bank and United Way. Last year the bag charge collected more than $1.7 million which was then donated.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Plastic bags at grocery store checkout counter.

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LIFE & WORK

Editorial: Better world the life work of Albright

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shakes hands with soldiers during her visit to Air Base Eagle in Bosnia in 1998. Albright’s expertise on foreign policy was unparalleled.

The arc of Madeleine Albright’s life spans disruption and mass slaughter in Eastern Europe in the 20th century and disruption and mass slaughter in Eastern Europe in the 21st century.
In the years separating World War II from the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Albright embarked on a career devoted to diplomacy and foreign policies designed to prevent and stop such wars, and ensure a more stable world.

Albright, who died last week at 84, made history in 1997 when President Bill Clinton named her this country’s first female secretary of state. She was in the vanguard of the first generation of women who occupied the highest and most visible diplomatic and security posts in the U.S. government.

Albright not only brought to her position a deep, scholarly knowledge of world affairs, and the tumultuous politics that ensnares them, she also brought real-life experience.

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Albright’s and her family’s experiences were shaped by the upheaval, dislocation and violence of World War II. Her understanding of the threat of murderous autocracies and the promise of democracy defined Albright’s life and work. Nazism and communism drove her family from Czechoslovakia.

Albright was born in Prague in 1937, the daughter of a diplomat. Raised as a Catholic, Albright wouldn’t learn until she was 59 that she was Jewish, both of her parents having been born and raised in Jewish families. Her parents converted to Catholicism out of fear of anti-Jewish persecution.

Albright would also learn that several members of her family, including three of her grandparents, were murdered in the Holocaust. When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, Albright’s father, as a high-ranking government official, was targeted for execution. He took his family to London, and Albright would never forget hiding under metal tables as German bombs fell during the London Blitz in 1940 and 1941.

After the war, the family returned to Czechoslovakia, but when the Communist Party took over the government in 1948, they fled again, this time to the United States.

During Clinton’s first term, he appointed Albright as ambassador to the United Nations, only the second woman to hold that position, following Jeane Kirkpatrick who served under President Ronald Reagan. When Albright was named secretary of state, she became fourth in line to the presidency, making her, at the time, the highest-ranking woman in government in the nation’s history.

It’s also worth noting that since the glass ceiling-breaking ascensions of Kirkpatrick and Albright, it’s now routine for the positions of U.N. ambassador and secretary of state to be held by women.

On ExpressNews.com: Editorial: Cyberattack threat is real; keep digital doors locked
In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

On Feb. 23, one month before she died, Albright wrote an op-ed about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Published in the New York Times, it was titled “Putin is Making a Historic Mistake.” As she watched him amass troops on the Ukrainian border, Albright recalled meeting him for the first time in 2000 and noting, “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.”

She ended her essay by writing, “Ukraine is entitled to its sovereignty, no matter who its neighbors happen to be. In the modern era, great countries accept that, and so must Mr. Putin. That is the message undergirding recent Western diplomacy. It defines the difference between a world governed by the rule of law and one answerable to no rules at all.”
The next day, Putin invaded Ukraine.

Albright dedicated her life to building a more humane world governed by the rule of law in which nations are entitled to sovereignty. That work is perpetual and far from complete, but Albright left a legacy of helping to make such a world possible.

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