WILLETS POINT, Queens — The State of New York began development on two new vaccine megasites in the five boroughs, one in Queens, and one in Brooklyn, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday.
He said that it’s part of a larger effort to get more people from Black and Brown communities to get immunized, but it also seemed to be yet another salvo in the ongoing rivalry between the governor and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
For starters, the governor announced the two new mass vaccination sites minutes after the mayor officially opened the city’s new megasite at Citi Field. There was no indication that the mayor had known that the governor’s announcement was coming.
Also, the Citi Field kickoff was underwhelming due to its inability to live up to its potential.
Some of the people who’d been lucky enough to get an appointment pointed out that doses at the ballpark location were low in number. Edgar Pineda said that he’d spent a full day trying to find an appointment online, and only got through by persisting until 1:00 in the morning on the second full day that slots were available. It had meant being online for well over 12 hours.
“It’s nuts,” he said.
He added that he was grateful to have gotten a vaccination, but was surprised at how few doses were available.
“I don’t think it’s right,” he continued. “They should have more, since this is a megasite. They should have more openings.”
Erin Darby is, like Pineda, a restaurant worker who was able to get an appointment after an all-night online odyssey.
“They’re only giving 200 vaccines here,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really super lucky.'”
The mayor said that the Citi Field site is actually administering 250 doses per day right now, but hopes to ramp up to 4,000 doses next week.
The grand opening at the home of the New York Mets came a full month after the city first announced the new site. That was in stark contrast to the recently opened megasite at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
It opened last Friday — two weeks after Gov. Cuomo first announced its creation. From the outset, the Yankee Stadium site was administering nearly 10 times as many doses as Citi Field.
When PIX11 News asked Mayor de Blasio for his reaction to the disparity, he said that it was a matter of distribution.
“We’ve got to stop this game of not knowing how much supply we’re going to have,” de Blasio said. “We need a direct allotment of supply that we can depend on.”
If it’s a game, as the mayor said, the other major player is Gov. Cuomo.
Minutes after de Blasio finished at Citi Field, the governor announced the state’s newest chapter in the battle against the disease.
“Two mass mass vaccination sites in socially vulnerable communities, one in Queens and one in Brooklyn,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The two sites are set to open on Feb. 24 on campuses that the state funds: York College in Jamaica, and Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights.
“[It’s] the largest vaccination site in the state of New York, in Jamaica, Queens,” said the governor. “Three thousand per day,” is what it’s set up to handle, he said.
It’s part of the state’s partnership with the federal government, Cuomo said.
He also announced the formation of the state’s Black Task Force for Vaccine Equity and Education. Rev. Al Sharpton will lead the group, along with national Urban League President Mark Morial and NAACP President Derrick Johnson.
The task force is intended to promote having people of color take advantage of an increase in vaccine supply. The two new megasites are part of that initiative, the governor said, adding that he intends to make the effort grow.
“It’s the first step, but only the first step,” said Gov. Cuomo. “We need more to do.”