(Nereide Kluger)

Sydney Ann Fishman


Nereide Kluger


There are over 2,933,322 vaccinated people in New York City. In Brooklyn alone, there are approximately 774,434 people who have received the second dose of the vaccine.

Last month, Bushwick Daily interviewed residents who have received the vaccine to understand what their goals are for the rest of the year after a year of living in a pandemic. Walking through the streets of Bushwick, nearly everyone we encountered said they were vaccinated within the last month and are exhilarated to be out in the world again. Their reasons for receiving the vaccine are far and wide and show the diversity in how the pandemic has affected them.

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In many cases, folks in Brooklyn are hoping the vaccine will allow them to feel safe when interacting with people in their community. Residents commented that they want to travel on the MTA, visit their families, and return to office buildings. Some said they wanted the vaccine so their immediate family will be protected from COVID-19.

Each person had pandemic-related struggles within the last year and were more joyful than ever to resume a sense of ‘normalcy’ in 2021. The vaccine is bringing them one step closer to achieving that goal.

Chris Taha sitting inside his new restaurant Money Cat, on Wilson Avenue (Nereide Kluger)

Chris Taha, who owns Father Knows Best, will be able to run his business safely because of the vaccine.

“We used to have events here every night, inspiring neighbors to meet neighbors. We have missed that during the pandemic. Now more than ever there’s a sense that we stuck it out together. Piggybacking on that, we want to do projects in the few blocks around us. A neighborhood cleanup is something we are thinking of doing. We want to do more community service than we used to.”

“Pre-COVID, we would have live jazz and curated open mics. We are hoping to bring those events back sooner than later.”

“We are reopening our other restaurant down the block, called Money Cat. It’s Vietnamese-American, based on our own Asian-American experience of growing up with Vietnamese food around us. We were open for one month and then had to close in March of 2020.”

“It’s almost like the moment I got the vaccine, it was a weight lifted off the mind.”

Dave sitting and working at Tre’ Jolie Cafe on Bushwick Avenue. (Nereide Kluger)

Dave, manager and cook at the Tre’ Jolie Cafe, talked about how he will feel safer serving customers because of the vaccine.

“If I am running a business I want to be a leader. Coronavirus is real. I need to be safe since I am dealing with customers. I have to lead by example.”

He doesn’t think that taking the vaccine should be obligatory, however.

“They are forcing a lot of people to get the vaccine. I think everyone should have a choice. They want people to take it to keep their jobs, I feel like that’s not fair. I know a lot of people who are ready to resign. You have to let people have a choice.”

Nicole De Santis, seen here volunteering at the Brooklyn Vintage Company on Irving Avenue. (Nereide Kluger)

Nicole De Santis, director of the Clean Bushwick Initiative, says she will be now be able to see her father safely after taking the vaccine.

“I can actually see family members that have other conditions that make them more at risk than I am. Seeing my dad, who is elderly, I am much more comfortable now,” she says.

“It would be nice to travel somewhere, and I will in the summer. I think that psychologically it has made a difference. Because it has impacted so many people and it has shifted people’s lifestyles so much, there’s a relief to feel like you’re not potentially hurting someone or you can’t do things you want to do. It’s going to be life changing.”

It will impact her work with Clean Bushwick too, she adds.

“Even at my Clean Bushwick Initiative events, since I was vaccinated, I was able to shake people’s hands. I wasn’t doing that for so long before. People will feel more at ease with vaccinations.”

Diana and Mario drinking coffee on Halsey Street. (Nereide Kluger)

Diana, an abortion rights worker and Mario, a freelance videographer, say they will be able to visit their friends and family after they took the vaccine.

Says Diana: “I am immunocompromised so being able to ride the trains comfortably feels like a big win and being able to see friends and family more often. Everyone has a different approach to the pandemic, and some people don’t wear masks. That just heightens my anxiety so I haven’t been on public transportation for a while.”

Mario: “For me, a freelancer in video work, it will be easier to get to set comfortably and work with folks.”

Diana: “I just hope that people keep wearing their masks. You don’t know who is immunocompromised that needs to go to work. I wish there was more of a collective community effort to navigate this pandemic. I wish people were more mindful of others.”

Mario: “I also have family in Puerto Rico, so I am looking forward to going back home and seeing my grandparents.”

Brian Anderson with his daughter Sloane after ordering from Cuts & Slices on Howard Avenue. (Nereide Kluger)

Brian Anderson, a trade-show organizer and a father, has been working from his Brooklyn apartment since March but will be able to return to the office because of the vaccine.

“I am looking forward to getting out of my tiny apartment, which looks like I have been working with a two year old, and I am looking forward to getting back to the office. I am very social and I like to talk to people. I am excited to get back to work and be with other people again.”

“Our daughter is the most important thing to us. I feel safer because there’s less of a chance that my daughter will get coronavirus. There’s more of a chance that we will both survive this. My father was older, and he had some issues, and he died in January because of COVID.”

Top photo credit: Nereide Kluger.

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