Standup Comedian Kevin Berrey is just emerging from the isolation of the pandemic.
What You Need To Know
- According to the latest U.S. Census numbers available, 42,279 people live in Inwood, of whom 70.9% are Hispanic
- 90.8% of housing units are occupied by renters; citywide it's 67.3%
- The founder of the non-profit, Inwood Art Works, which promotes local arts and artists, says he's worried about what will happen to the renters once the state's eviction moratorium ends on August 31
“You’re the first person I’ve seen without a mask for it feels like about six years,” Berrey said to Aaron Simms, as he started his podcast, “Inwood Art Works On Air.”
Simms started promoting Inwood art and artists a decade ago, and launched his podcast as the pandemic hit.
“This community was hit pretty hard by the pandemic,” Simms said.
He decided to record his podcasts from businesses struggling from pandemic-related closures to promote them as well as the artists, knowing the strife isn’t over.
"Inwood is recovering, it’s not all better," said Simms.
"I gotta be honest, I’ve been indoors so much, I don’t even know all the stores that are open and closed in Inwood," Berrey told him. "That’s how cloistered I’ve been.”
The business they’re in, 809 Bar and Grill, isn’t open.
“The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze,” said Jose Moronta, the owner of 809 Bar and Grill.
Moronta says outdoor dining wasn’t worth the effort. But with summer approaching and 100% capacity allowed indoors, he plans to reopen in June and hire back more than half of their 15 employees. He's confident the neighborhood will bounce back.
“A lot of these people came here with nothing and they built their businesses from the ground up so they’re definitely resilient and that shows," he said, "resilient immigrants."
Almost half of the 42,000 residents were born in other countries.
The city is 29% Hispanic, while Inwood is 70% Hispanic. Elizabeth Ramirez is among them.
“I lose friends, I lose family, and I lose a lot of people that know from the neighborhood,” she said.
Ramirez lost her sister and cousin to COVID-19, but now that she’s vaccinated, she’s working again. She’s been selling Mexican crafts here for the better part of 45 years - first in a store, but rising rents a decade ago forced her to move her merchandise to the street, which she says is nowhere near as profitable now and frankly, more dangerous.
“Last year the people was behaving better, but now there’s a lot of crazy people in the streets, a lot it’s getting worse,” she said.
Back inside 809 Bar and Grill, Aaron Simms is worried about evictions for renters who make up a whopping nine out of ten residents. He says artists are particularly vulnerable because the state eviction moratorium ends August 31, and Simms says that could be too soon.
“A lot of them aren’t coming back to jobs until September, October, November,” said Simms.
Despite the concern, he's also confident his neighborhood will eventually recover.
“It’s like the last small town in Manhattan, and I think together there’s that community, that sense of perseverance, resilience for your neighbor will get us through,” he said.