New Yorkers Take Center Stage in Inaugural Parade Altered by Pandemic

In an inaugural parade like no other, President Biden walked towards the White House with his family, but without the crowds that usually gather to watch the ceremonial welcome of a new administration.

Biden stopped occasionally to greet the few who were allowed to line the route, with Vice President Kamala Harris following. 

What You Need To Know

  • Crowds of spectators were largely kept away from the traditional inaugural parade

  • A live streamed event featured several New York performers

  • New York Philharmonic Trumpeter Ethan Bensdorf says it was an honor to be asked to perform in the historic event

The festivities, which included drum-lines from the University of Delaware and Howard University, were scaled back because of coronavirus and safety concerns, largely replaced by a virtual inaugural parade with performers from all 50 states.

The FDNY EMS Pipes and Drums and New York Philharmonic trumpeter Ethan Bensdorf were among those featured in the live streamed Parade Across America.

Bensdorf was honored to be asked, after spending the height of the pandemic serenading the city's health care workers from his building in Chelsea.

"I'm still trying to process everything and still, this was such an emotional day for so many people,” said Bensdorf. "I was glued to the TV the whole day and just chills and tears and emotions and everything is just swimming around inside of me."

Like many, Bensdorf says he's feeling the significance of the moment and and looking forward to a new era for the country.

"This is the first time in awhile that I've had hope going forward,” said Bensdorf.

Inaugural organizers are no doubt hoping that optimism will leave people inspired, despite the celebration being drastically altered because of the pandemic.

-- Lori Chung

Protesters Vow to Continue NYC Rallies, Even After Biden Inauguration

About 30 participants showed up for a rally in Times Square on Wednesday evening.

Organizers said that even though there is a new administration in the White House, that now is not the time to stay home or stay silent.

They said it is every person’s responsibility to fight fascism by staying in the streets. 

What You Need To Know

  • A group called the Workers Assembly Against Racism hosted a rally in Times Square on Wednesday to continue their “fight against fascism”

  • Some of the roughly 30 protesters in attendance said that they might support the Biden administration but feel they can’t count on politicians to enact change if they don’t demand it

  • Protesters came with a number of different signs addressing issues ranging from the coronavirus crisis to immigration policy and racism

“We want every worker who is fighting for something to continue to fight and we’re not waiting for Biden and we’re especially not waiting for Biden to fight against the fascists,” said Tony Murphy, an activist with Workers Assembly Against Racism. “We have to fight against the fascists. He’s proven through his career that he caves in.”

A group called the Workers Assembly Against Racism hosted the event, which focused on not one but several issues. 

Topics ranged from the fight to cancel rent to U.S. military involvement overseas and addressing the coronavirus crisis.  

While some were quite vocal about their opinions, others stood in silent protest. 

One man came to the protest with a small cage and a sign with his thoughts on the Trump administration’s immigration policy.  

The activity did manage to catch the attention of some people passing by. 

“I agree with them generally. I’m pro-Biden, but I think he’s not going to do that much and I think he should be pushed more left, which is the point of this protest,” said Manhattan resident Sarah Rescigno. 

At one point, the number of police officers out numbered the protesters, but they had little to no contact with the crowd. 

Police allowed protesters to assemble and express their First Amendment rights while watching from the perimeter of the area where the rally was held.

-- Angi Gonzalez

NYC Nurse Sandra Lindsay Takes Part in "Celebrating America" Inauguration Special

Sandra Lindsay, the director of critical care nursing at a Queens hospital, made headlines as the first person in the country to get the covid-19 vaccine. She was in the spotlight again, this time participating in a star-studded inauguration special on Wednesday night. 

Her message was pre-recorded and included in a presentation alongside the appearances of other Americans selected for going above and beyond in responding to the pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • Director of Critical Care at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, Sandra Lindsay was invited to address the nation in an Inauguration Special

  • She was the first American to get fully vaccinated for COVID-19

  • Lindsay said working on the frontlines the entire pandemic has been emotionally and physically draining, but she is proud to work with her colleagues and save lives

"Our nurses care for thousands of COVID-19 patients daily,” said Lindsay during the televised event. “We are often the last people to hold their hands. It has taken a toll on so many of us on the frontlines, but I am proud of our work and honored to represent millions of healthcare workers.”

Lindsay beamed describing the emotions she felt when she was asked to take part.

"Surreal, humbled, honored. Again, just proud and I'm really excited to be featured among these extraordinary every day Americans," Lindsay said.

She has been on the front lines of the pandemic since the first outbreak in the city last March. As the number of positive cases surge, she and her colleagues at Long Island Jewish Medical Center face the possibility of running out of vaccine, as Mayor de Blasio warned this week. 

Nevertheless, she is staying optimistic.

"I am hopeful that we will ramp up manufacturing and we will get vaccines to the people who need it. We need to get vaccines in the arms so we can get back to some degree of normalcy," Lindsay said.

Growing up in Jamaica, taking care of her ill grandmother, Lindsay said she always knew she wanted to be a nurse.  But she says in 25 years as a nurse, she's never experienced anything like the pandemic.

"It has been mentally and physically draining, very difficult, exhausting, but at the end of the day I still feel this sense of pride to be able to serve during this time and make a difference," Lindsay said.

Saving lives, and taking part in a historic Inauguration, it was quite a year for this New York nurse.

-- Justine Re

New Yorkers Stuck Without Loved Ones React to President Biden Removing Trump's Travel Ban

Zaid Nagi got to his store Bronx Mini Mall in Wakefield later than normal Wednesday so he could watch Joe Biden's inauguration as president.

"I watched every minute of it. American is back," he said.  

What You Need To Know

  • The lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the city hinge on the shift in immigration policies planned by President Biden

  • Store owner and American citizen Zaid Nagi counts himself among that group of people

  • Biden has said one of his first priorities would be reversing the so-called "Muslim Travel Ban"

After immigrating from Yemen, Nagi became a U.S. citizen. He has been waiting to bring his mother from Yemen to join him, but stopping her for nearly four years, he says, is the travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries imposed by former President Trump.

“For my kids, my kids are growing with an empty chair. They don’t know my mom’s cooking ... they don't know that love that grandma offered,” Nagi explained.

After protests and legal challenges, the Supreme Court allowed the ban on most people traveling from Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and North Korea. Trump later extended it to travel from more African countries.

“We have tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have not been able reunite with their families for the last four years," said Murad Awawdah, the interim co-executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "They have not been able to bring their wives, their grandmothers and their children to the U.S.," he said.

Biden said he would reverse the travel ban soon after taking office. Nagi is confident he’ll be able to get his mother here in the coming months.

“I’m very happy — very, very happy,” he said.

NY1 also spoke with an undocumented man who we'll call Mannie. He doesn’t want us to reveal his name or face because he fears deportation. He’s been in the U.S. illegally for 15 years.

He listened to President Biden take the oath of office while he was driving as an unlicensed cabbie. He sends some of his earnings to back to the Dominican Republic to support his wife and children.

“If you had one wish, what would it be?" NY1 reporter Michael Herzenberg asked him.

To "bring my family,” he said.

Biden has proposed legislation to create a path to citizenship for people like Mannie, who came here for a better life and haven’t broken any criminal laws.

”If everything changed, I think it would change for me too," he said.

"We haven’t seen the legislation yet, so we'll certainly look forward to reviewing it and seeing everything that’s in it,” said Bitta Mostofi, the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

She says she’s encouraged by Biden’s announcement of legislation to create that path to citizenship, explaining that roughly a half a million New Yorkers are undocumented.

Mannie says he’ll continue to keep his head down, but with a little more hope now.

“I feel a little excited because it's gonna be a new era," he said. "I just want to see the promise come true.”

-- Michael Herzenberg

Queens Residents React to Biden's Inauguration, Celebrate Push for Unity and Inclusion

Along a designated Open Street in Jackson Heights, a small but festive group gathered to welcome in number 46.

“When our days are through, our children and our children's children will say of us, ‘They gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land,’” said President Biden during his Inaugural Address.

Andrew and Lindsay Lange-Abramowitz say gathering with their neighbors to watch the speech was a moment they’ll tell their 15-month-old child Arthur about one day.

What You Need To Know

  • President Biden's themes of unity and inclusion resonate in parts of Queens, one of the most diverse counties in America

  • Along 34th Avenue, a small group gathered to welcome in President Biden

  • At La Jornada, a food pantry on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, a mariachi band offered a brief moment of celebration during their coronavirus relief efforts
  • Many in the borough hope Biden's administration will bring less restrictive immigration policies

“It’s about a kind of unity in a way that has been missing from this country for the last four years,” said Andrew.

“I think we have a lot of healing to do and hopefully this was the start of it,” said Lindsay.

The speech resonated with residents in Jackson Heights in particular, a community home to many immigrants hit hard by the coronavirus.

Jim Burke, who wore a Biden mask for the occasion, is hopeful better days are to come.

“It’s been a very tough four years in this neighborhood. We have a lot of immigrants...and we have a lot of people who lost family members or have suffered through COVID. So this is just wonderful,” said Burke.

And at La Jornada, a food pantry on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, a brief moment of celebration paused the coronavirus relief efforts. Staff and volunteers say they are hopeful President Biden will have less restrictive immigration policies.

“After four years of carrying a humongous amount of weight and fear and resentment and hate and everything that an immigrant that we should have in this country, now it changes! Finally we see that,” said Pedro Rodriguez, the executive director of La Jornada.

“I feel so happy and I think that this is the best thing that ever happened. And I’m very happy. And I pray to God that he will be able to do a good job,” said Esther Sanchez, a volunteer. 

Before the mariachi band was through with their tunes, the volunteers got back to work, preparing meals for hungry Queens residents.

They are currently feeding on average 10,000 people a week, an illustration of the challenges lying ahead for the new administration.

-- Clodagh McGowan

How Teachers Incorporated Biden's Inauguration into Their Virtual Lesson Plans

It was a presidential inauguration unlike any other for students across the five boroughs — one shadowed by a pandemic and a Capitol Hill riot, being taught in real time.

And thanks to the pandemic, 10th graders at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Mapleton, Brooklyn learned about this unusual American moment in an unusual way: virtually.

What You Need To Know

  • Tenth graders at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School learned about the inauguration virtually

  • Part of the lesson included a class discussion of presidential speeches

  • The class listened to Joe Biden speak after being sworn in as the 46th President of the United States

“I’m glad that we do have the technology today available for us all to participate in the lesson and in also witnessing it together with my students, despite not [being] physically together,” said Social Studies teacher Dongting Wei, adding, “but I feel very connected in terms of where I am with them. It’s a fortunate in an unfortunate situation. We actually do get to see it together.”

Wei wanted to provide historical context for the inauguration as her students watched the events unfold Wednesday. Many of the school's students are new to this country, recent immigrants to America.

“It was very moving for this particular inauguration to see the diversity of the participants of the inauguration," Wei said. "For my fifth period, to actually see that diversity, see faces that represent their faces.”

Part of the lesson included a class discussion after listening to past presidents' speeches. The question she asked was, “What do they have in common?”

"Something that I noticed about these claims is that they're all realizing the work that they have cut out for them and the amount of power they have in their hands," one student called out in the virtual class.

And then, together, the class listened to Joe Biden speak, after being sworn in as the 46th President.

"It was a good lesson,” said 10th grader Angelina Muniz. “Biden’s speech, I thought it was beautiful because he kind of gave reassurance to not just some Americans, but like all of them.”

Something Wei and teachers across the city aim to point out to their students is that despite efforts by rioters at the Capitol two weeks ago to thwart it, the peaceful transfer of power that high schoolers have learned about for many generations had happened once again.

-- Lindsay Tuchman