shop local, nyc holidays
photo: @weareminimasters_

Dear Neighbor,

Let’s make the holidays about small business. Nearly one-third of small businesses in New York haven’t reopened their doors since March. Those that remain open have taken huge financial hits and are fighting for survival. This season, help support the businesses that shape our communities by buying a portion of your gifts locally. Here are a few of recommendations: 

For the foodie

photo: @bundonbroadway

The Bund: Frozen dumplings — an unconventional gift? Maybe. A delicious gift? Definitely. The Chinese restaurant, which has locations in Forest Hills and Astoria, recently brought back its freshly made, flash frozen dumplings, available in bulk. A gesture your neighbors will remember . 

BKLYN Larder: The fine food purveyor has special Hanukkah and Christmas deli boards and gift baskets, plus homemade nut butters that we hear have even Trader Joe’s beat for taste. 

Kitchen Arts & Letters: This UES bookstore has been the place to go for literature on food and drink since it opened in 1983, with more than 12,000 titles in stock at any given time.

Cheese: Artisan cheese that’s 100% vegan, all the time. Need we say more? The assortment boxes are the best. 

For the music snob

HiFi Records: Check out this Astoria indie record store for that person in your life who loves the sound of vinyl (or the aesthetic of hanging the sleeves on their wall). We’re sure you’ll find something no matter what music taste you’re shopping for. 

photo: @turntablelab

Turntable Lab: For those who listen to and make music, TTL has it all. Perfect for DJs, producers, and casual fans alike.

For the kiddos

Gamestoria: Love of the board game reached an all-time high during quarantine, but we all know someone who doesn’t only play when they’re, well, bored. Astoria’s self-proclaimed “friendly tabletop game store” has something for everyone — trivia, puzzles, strategy, and the list goes on. Order online or get your games curbside.

photo: @weareminimasters_

Mini Masters:  We are loving the clothing from this Brooklyn-based store known for its “confidence-boosting designs for children of color.”  

Rudy’s Hobby and Art: Hobby shops are far and few between these and Rudy’s in Astoria is somewhat of a throwback. Stocked with model trains, planes, boats, art supplies more, it’s the perfect place to find a gift that will give your kid a break from screen time. 

For those who need self-care (i.e. all of us)

Beauty Strike: This Brooklyn-based store specializes in vegan and cruelty free skincare products.

Earth & Me: We love the mission behind this local shop that sells sustainable, zero-waste products at affordable prices.

A massage from Tony: Human touch. Stress relief. Need we say more? Tony’s a traveling masseuse with expertise in Chinese massage and cupping. Call him at (347) 493-9918 for more information. 

NYACC: Considering getting a pet this holiday season? (Pets definitely count toward self-care) Start your search in New York City’s shelter system, and make sure you read our newsletter about responsible adoption. 

Holiday Markets

The Makers Show Holiday Market at City Point: The market, which just launched this year, is curated by NYC Pride and Da Spot and open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 12 to 8 p.m. through Dec. 20 in Downtown Brooklyn. Expect lots of local Black and LGBTQIA-owned businesses with food and drink options by Dekalb Market Hall. 

Astoria’s Holiday Shoppe: Hosted by the Parma Tile Shop, known for its beautiful stone boards, this market features several local favorites including locally made candles from IHLA and curated thrift finds from Savage Hall. Stop by this weekend, Dec. 5 and 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 29-10 14th St.

Brooklyn Navy Yard Annual Holiday Market: This year’s event is completely virtual and runs through Jan. 3.

Grand Central Holiday Fair: This one is also being held virtually. Shop more than 60 artisans and retailers now through Dec. 24. 

Bank of America Holiday Village at Bryant Park: This European inspired market features dozens of artisans from around the world. Shops are open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Jan. 3. 

Speaking of small businesses, this week’s newsletter contains the first installment of our community reporting project, in partnership with the New York University Studio 20 graduate program. Each week we will focus on small business owners in Jackson Heights, Queens, to learn how they got through the pandemic and how they prepare for the long winter ahead. Each business owner profiled will then refer another small business owner in the area, letting us in on their connections throughout the community.

This week we highlight Angel Indian Restaurant, led by chef extraordinaire Amrit Pal Singh.

What Angel does: Casual dining restaurant with a modern interpretation of classic North Indian dishes and street-food staples. 

How it survived: Reinvesting every dollar into the restaurant. The staff at Angel Indian Restaurant have taken pay cuts and often work without salary in order to keep the restaurant afloat.  

What Amrit Pal wants you to know: Amrit believes another lockdown will be fatal to the survival of Angel Indian Restaurant. The pandemic has led to a 70% decrease in customer traffic. “The only thing I know is cooking. If they shut down restaurants, I will lose my job. I am trying to do my best food for my customers. It is the same food that my family also eats at home. Here, I consider my customers like my family.”

Why you should visit: Amrit Pal spent the lockdown practicing his craft and creating new dishes. He’s added more than 20 new dishes to the menu since re-opening in August.

Location: 74-14 37th Road, Queens, NY 11372

Nomination for the next business: Phayul Himalayan Restaurant 


The Art of Healing: This interactive exhibit by Art on the Ave. NYC and curated by Lisa DuBois of X-Gallery in Harlem displays the work of 27 artists in vacant storefronts along Columbus Avenue from West 67th Street to 77th Street through Jan. 31. The exhibit seeks to bring activity back to the city, and use art as a tool to instill a sense of confidence in the neighborhood. Each work of art contains a QR code through which viewers can access a recording from the artist describing their work. Art on the Ave. NYC also offers an educational component with downloadable lessons on its website. Learn more

photo: @melmouz

An ode to RBG: Speaking of public art, have you checked out the new mural of the late, great, Flatbush-born Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the East Village on the corner of 11th Street and First Avenue? 

Music, She Wrote: The Astoria Music Project is hosting a free, virtual program this Sunday, Dec. 6 that features the work of four female composers in collaboration with original, local artwork, followed by at Q&A session with the artists and musicians. RSVP here

The Asia Society Triennial: The initiative, the first of its kind, is a festival of ideas and innovation focused on contemporary art from Asia and the diaspora. Part one of the exhibit, titled  “We Do Not Dream Alone,” can be viewed at various locations around the city but is centered at Asia Society Museum through Feb. 7. Tickets, while free, must be reserved in advance.

Bronx Zoo lights: It’s that time of year! Head to the zoo for its annual holiday light show consisting of five animal safaris. There will also be ice-carving demonstrations, stilt walkers, wildlife theater more. Advance tickets required.

photo: @nybg

Glow on: The zoo isn’t your scene? The New York Botanical Garden (also in the Bronx) has you covered, with its first-ever outdoor light experience, “GLOW,” featuring an illuminated Haupt Conservatory as its centerpiece. Reserve your tickets here as dates are selling out fast. 

LuminoCity Festival: Lovers of light — we have one more for you this week. The immersive (and highly Instagrammable) experience on Randall’s Island features more than 10 acres of light art and runs through Jan. 10. Reserve your tickets here.

Have you signed up for our education-centric newsletter, The Unmuted, yet? This week, our education journalist Joy Resmovits speaks with an epidemiologist at Columbia University about how Mayor Bill de Blasio is making decisions around closing and reopening schools and testing students — with plenty of advice for confused parents. Have specific questions? Let us know!

Open, closed, open? It sure is hard to stay up to date on the current status of NYC public schools. Under fire from critics who say he is prioritizing indoor dining over in-person learning,  Mayor de Blasio announced on Sunday that in-person learning would resume for pre-k and elementary students on Dec. 7. Middle and high schools will remain closed for the time being. De Blasio also said the city will stop using the 3% positivity rate as a threshold for closing schools, and that many schools would be open five days a week, ending the hybrid learning model. But not all schools. Stay tuned for what this means. 

Ideas for Meaningful Change: Join the Community Education Council District 2 this Thursday, Dec. 3, for an evening of conversation with Executive Superintendent for Manhattan Marisol C. Rosales. Register to attend the event here, and share your thoughts in advance here


Toys needed: A reader reached out to let us know that St. Mark’s Lion’s Share Food Pantry Toy Drive has only received THREE toys so far, with distribution day in less than two weeks. Consider buying a toy  — perhaps supporting a local business — and dropping it off at the church, located at 33-50 82nd St. in Jackson Heights Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and noon. Cash donations for toys are also accepted.

Have you used your P-EBT card? Earlier this year, all NYC public school families received  Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program cards worth $420 per student, regardless of income. If you haven’t used yours and don’t feel your family needs the assistance, consider using it to buy groceries for your local food pantry or mutual aid group; South Brooklyn Mutual Aid recently put out a call for baby formula donations.  

A gift that gives: Astoria Mutual Aid is selling a sweatshirt designed in partnership with local artist Liah Paterson. The front features a pigeon wearing a crown (for Queens, get it?), while the back is covered in character, places languages that represent the community. The sweatshirts cost $15 each, which is how much they cost to make, plus a recommended $25 donation. Buy it here


In keeping with this newsletter’s unintentional theme of lights, this week we recommend an excursion to the historically Italian Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is unequivocally the place to see impressive Christmas displays. And yes, they are still happening this year. It’s an easy trip: take the D train to 79th Street and New Utrecht Avenue and then walk for about 15 minutes. You can also drive, but parking is a challenge. Alternatively, Slice of Brooklyn offers a 3.5 hour Christmas lights tour that leaves from Union Square. If you want to make a day out of it, we recommend heading to nearby Bay Ridge for some small biz holiday shopping followed by dinner at . And no trip to the area is complete without a stop at Villabate Alba bakery for authentic Sicilian baked goods.


Epicenter-NYC is a weekly newsletter to help New Yorkers get through the pandemic. We are written by the community, for the community. Sign up for weekly updates at

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