GANYC member Megan Marod spoke with the Associated Press about the experience of New York tour guides during the state of emergency.
Guides are the key storytellers of our city's history, and we will keep finding new ways to do so until we can fully return to work.
Video: NYC tour guide makes ends meet after layoff
GANYC member Megan Marod spoke with the Associated Press about the experience of New York tour guides during the state of emergency.
Based on my experience-- I am not a NYS Department of Labor expert of any kind-- the following seems to be the preferred process for filing for unemployment benefits for New York residents. It should be noted: nothing about your process is likely to go perfectly. We are in the midst of unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, and the NYS DOL is working overtime to keep up with the demand of applications. Many are still waiting weeks after filing. So please keep all that in mind.
With that said, for filing a new claim, these should be the basic steps:
1. First, you will need a log-in at NY.GOV
You may have one from past uses, whether past unemployment or maybe using the NY State of Health database. If you don't have a past log-in, you will need to create a new account and enter all your details. You can do so here: https://my.ny.gov
2. When you're all set there, go to the NYS site for filing unemployment claims: https://labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm
Here you will complete your application.
(If you are self-employed/gig worker/etc, enter Self-Employed as the name of your employer.)
3. Once your application is complete, it may tell you it is fully completed, or (most likely) it will tell you that you need to speak to a Department of Labor agent by phone to complete or confirm parts of the claim. Do not call them, they will call you, ideally within 72 hours, though sometimes more. This call may come from an unlisted number... have your phone on and with you at all times to avoid missing this call.
4. If you are self-employed, you will then also need to complete the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance form. This can be found under My Online Forms here: https://apps.labor.ny.gov/OnlineServices/Ext/onlineforms/?LOCALE=en_US
If the form does not show up on the menu on the left side of that page, check your NY.GOV Messages folder for a link in the next few days.
Have digital copies of your 1099s ready to upload at the end of this application.
5. Now is the annoying part. Now you wait (days? likely weeks?) for them to process your completed claim application.
6. In the meantime, even while you are waiting for the claim to be processed (ie. before you will start receiving your benefits), they will ask you each Sunday evening to certify for the past week. While receiving unemployment, you must do this every week. For that, click here -- https://applications.labor.ny.gov/Individual/ -- and click to the "Unemployment Services" link under the Unemployment Insurance section of that page. In addition to certifying each Sunday evening or Monday morning, that page will eventually allow to review your payment history and other items.
We hope this helps, and we wish everyone lots of luck and lots of patience.
GANYC Treasurer Jeremy Wilcox was featured on PIX11 News last night on a segment on how this crisis is impacting the tourism industry. You can read the full article, and watch video, at the link below.
PIX11: Canceled events hurt tourism, hospitality industries
We will have a deeper look and profile at GANYC members offering virtual tour experiences in upcoming issues of the Virgil, our weekly e-newsletter which goes out every Monday during this crisis. GANYC will also soon be offering a series of virtual PDPs on how to create and market these type of tours, one with a representative of Be A Better Guide, and another roundtable featuring some GANYC members. Stay tuned for more details on all that!
In the meantime, here is a quick roundup of members already offering such tours:
Matthew Baker is doing a series of virtual tours/discussions on his YouTube channel. These 5-7 minute videos cover a range of topics, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to Winnie the Pooh to the Flatiron to the saga of Jackie Onassis and Grand Central Terminal in brilliant depth as always. Matt has 22 videos so far, check them out!
Megan Marod is creating a similar series of videos, on her website: Experience The Big Apple. Megan has helped her followers virtually explore shopping in NYC, the history of Little Italy and the immigrant history of the Lower East Side, One World Observatory, and more! These videos use vibrant backgrounds and slides of historic photos.
Kevin Fitzpatrick is a guide, historian, and award-winning author of several New York-centric books. He is offering regular virtual tours for $10 each (you can look at upcoming dates on Eventbrite) of his favorite aspects of NYC's rich literary history. Upcoming events include an Algonquin Round Table Virtual Tour this Friday (April 17) at 2pm, and Dorothy Parker's New York Virtual Tour this Saturday (April 18) at 2pm.
Michael Morgenthal is partnering with the NY Adventure Club for a virtual tour/webinar this upcoming Tuesday (April 21) from 5:30-7pm. 'The Secrets of Brooklyn Heights' Webinar will cost $10. He will explore the deep history of America's first suburb, with tales of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Truman Capote, and others. There will also be a live Q&A with Michael following the webinar. Contact Michael for possible future webinars!
Jeremy Wilcox has been partnering with Untapped New York for a series of live, virtual tours for their Insiders members. You can use code STAYHOME to get a free month of access. These 30 minute videos allowed viewers to follow Jeremy virtually on his walks in real time, with live Q&A afterward. The first two tours offered were of Victorian Flatbush, and Prospect Park. Jeremy will be offering more through his own site.
Manuela Biondi is staying engaged with her Italian customers with a new YouTube channel. Topics she's covered so far include the Easter Parade, and the High Line!
John Semlak is offering a weekly virtual tour every Thursday. Tours will usually focus on New York's sports history. More details can be found on his Facebook page.
For Russian speakers, Slava Shpigel is doing slideshow tours, such as this one of Central Park.
Yue Wang is creating videos for Chinese speakers. An example can be found on their YouTube.
Linda Fisher is doing a virtual tour for NY Adventure Club scheduled for May 12 at 8pm. It’s an adaptation of my Summer of Love tour which covers hippie culture in NYC from March to October of 1967 and its lasting legacy. Tickets are $10 and available here.
- Art & Susan Zuckerman are doing a series of teleconference fam tours for GANYC members. They will occur weekly: Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00AM. If interested, email for the info. Each session will be approximately an hour long. The sign-in procedure is simple from any landline or cell phone. These cover a variety of topics related to New York and its history.
If you are a GANYC member who is offering similar experiences, please let us know!
- Matthew Baker is doing a series of virtual tours/discussions on his YouTube channel. These 5-7 minute videos cover a range of topics, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to Winnie the Pooh to the Flatiron to the saga of Jackie Onassis and Grand Central Terminal in brilliant depth as always. Matt has 22 videos so far, check them out!
Less than a mile off the coast of The Bronx, a melancholy sliver of land sits waiting.
In its nearly two centuries long history, it has served as a prison for Confederate soldiers, a psychiatric hospital, a homeless shelter, a tuberculosis sanatorium, an overflow jail, a drug rehabilitation center, and – most notably- a potter’s field. Approximately one third of the more than one million sets of remains interred here are those of infants. The others are the unclaimed, the unwanted, the imprisoned, and the victims of the various plagues which have been frequent, unwelcome visitors to the five boroughs of New York.
Hart Island has recently been thrust into the national spotlight as drone footage surfaced depicting the mass internments currently taking place there. At the time of this writing, more than 11,000 New Yorkers have died as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic and, as has been true in the past, city officials have been forced to cope. Hart Island, with its vast burial trenches and proximity to, yet separateness from, the city at large has once more proven the most suitable location to quickly bury the dead.
Melinda Hunt, founder of the Hart Island Project, told CNN, "This is where the majority of COVID-19 victims are going to be buried. It disproportionately affects the low-income community, who can't really isolate and avoid the subways. By the same token, those same people can't afford a funeral."
While the majority of Americans found these images disquieting, and while the grim mystique of Hart Island is no doubt compounded by the city’s continued reticence to allow the families of those interred there access to the graves of their loved ones, mass burials- particularly in times of public health crises- are hardly a new phenomenon in New York City.
Washington Square Park famously served as a Potter’s Field for over one hundred years becoming the final resting place of some 20,000 New Yorkers, many of whom fell victim to the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1795. That outbreak helped to spur the creation of the first NYC Board of Health.
Bryant Park, also, was once a burial ground. From 1823 to 1840 the city's unclaimed dead were laid to rest here. Even Madison Square Park was once a potter's field for the working poor of New York.
Indeed, epidemics of various degrees of severity have long been a fixture of city life. Over the years, New York has confronted diseases from small pox and cholera, to polio and AIDS.
In 1702, British governor of New York Lord Corbury noted that in less than three months a devastating outbreak of yellow fever had claimed the lives of "five hundred people of all ages and sexes" had perished. That number would have translated into approximately ten percent of the overall city population at the time. (Fun side note: Lord Cornbury may or may not have gotten his jollies by having his portrait painted while wearing women's clothing. No judgement!)
In the summer of 1832, cholera claimed the lives of some 5,000 New Yorkers. Particularly hard hit were those who lived in the rapidly expanding slums of the Five Points. And while the so-called miasma theory of infection had largely fallen out of favor, the public still did not fully grasp the connection between water quality and disease, thus perpetuating the unsanitary conditions which made cholera so prevalent. It was not until 1854 when English Dr. John Snow successfully articulated the link between water contamination and cholera that the situation began to improve. (Snow was eventually able to pinpoint the source of a recent outbreak to a contaminated well on Broad Street.)
The advent of germ theory that science and health finally intersected in such a way as to give officials reliable tools in their arsenal, notably sanitation policy and personal hygiene guidelines, which could help combat the spread of disease.
However, increased knowledge alone was not enough.
In 1918, influenza took the lives of roughly 33,000 city residents- this even after public health strategies such as aggressive education campaigns had been implemented. And the 1920s and 1930s continued to be haunted by the specter of polio.
Widespread vaccination programs and more stringent public health policies touching upon everything from housing to diet provided a greater degree security to the city's populous in the years following WW2. Gradually, fear of disease became less of a day-to-day concern for most residents.
While COVID-19 has thoroughly dispelled the illusion of security we have enjoyed for almost two generations, it is vital that we continue to view today's events through the lens of history.
New York will survive. It will go on. It will bury its dead and mourn them. And it will learn the lessons of today to better care for its citizenry tomorrow.
We have done it before. We will do it again.
GANYC is working to help its members improvise and think of new ways to reach the masses while things remain under lockdown. Many members have created ways to provide virtual tours and lectures, and unique online ways to stay in touch with their clients and supporters. We are doing the same in regards to our monthly meetings. Like many, we have become Zoom aficianados in the last 2 weeks. We held our April 1 meeting via this platform and video is below.
The meeting was hosted by GANYC President Emma Guest-Consales, with assists from Vice-Presidents Michael Morgenthal and Bob Gelber, as well as Secretary John Semlak. Our guest speakers were:
- Kate Post, President-Owner, & Gail Bloom, Senior Client Service Manager, Forrest Solutions: Forrest Solutions is the the nation’s first and leading onsite outsourcing and staffing firm. Kate and Gail will discuss how guides can look for alternative income streams, how they can update their resumes, and what types of jobs might become available, and when they will become available.
- Bill Caldwell, CEO & CPA, Caldwell CPAs: Bill Caldwell, who conducted a very well-received PDP for GANYC in January about taxes and tour guiding, will return to address the tax implications of the COVID-19 virus, including the tax implications of some of the government assistance programs that have been adopted.
- Von Harden, Founder, and Karen Yates, Community Coordinator, IATDG. Von and Karen will address overall trends related to COVID-19 as seen by tour operators, and what tour guides and directors can do during the crisis to work on their skills.
Additionally, VP Michael Morgenthal previewed GANYC's new Tour Your Own City initiative/website, which will launch later this Spring. This project will help members digitally launch back into touring, going after an initial market of local explorers from the tri-state area. More details will come later this month.
Thanks to all who virtually attended! Our May 6 membership meeting will also be held via Zoom.
The second issue of the GANYC Virgil is out: COVID-19 Update from GANYC - March 30, 2020
This issue begins with a note from our President, especially the sad news of the passing of member Judy Richheimer, who was a beloved friend and activist. We will be keeping her and her loved ones in our thoughts this week, as we do our medical professionals and first responders who are out there keeping us safe.
The issue also contains some economic updates, including information on the recently passed CARES Act, which will provide relief checks to most Americans, as well as an expansion of unemployments benefits to self-employed and gig workers. We thank all our members and colleagues who helped lobby for the latter, which is a game-changer for economic justice.
Finally, the newsletter as always has fun ideas for ways to pass your free time (including virtual tour summits, webinars, and more!), and some humor to lift your spirits.
Starting today, the GANYC Board will send an update each Monday during this crisis to give you the most current and useful information for tour guides and tour directors in New York City and the surrounding area.
Come for the unemployment benefits and tourism data info... stay for the martini and cookie recipes!
GANYC is curating a set of resources on how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Here is a link to the CDC page on COVID-19.
Here is a link to the CDC website on travel.
Here are statements from USTA (US Travel Association)
Here is the COVID-19 information page from NYC & Co.
Phone numbers to text for updates: 692-692 for NYC and NJCOVID to 898-211 for NJ.
Links on economic aid:
While many guides are independent contractors and/or small business owners, some who work for larger tour operators may be eligible for unemployment benefits -- we would urge anyone who is laid off because of the COVID-19 situation to explore eligibility for unemployment benefits that might ease a bit of the pain in the short future. Information: HERE.
If you’re a small business owner in NYC affected by COVID-19, visit nyc.gov/covid19biz or call 311 for info on grants, updates & more.
The U.S. Small Business Association is providing low-interest disaster loans for Businesses, Private Nonprofits, Homeowners, and Renters. Follow this link for more information.
Facebook also has a Small Business Grants Program.
The Hebrew Free Loan Society is making available interest-free loans of $2,000-$5,000 to residents of New York City’s five boroughs, Westchester, or Long Island who are facing financial challenges caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.
Thrive Learning Center has resources to deal with anxiety and depression.
Mercado Little Spain, at Hudson Yards, has a Community Kitchen with low cost meals, from 12-5pm.
The Freelancers Union has a crowdsourced list of resources - some of it may be relevant to GANYC members.
Tourpreneur’s Shane Whaley hosted a podcast with industry veteran Peter Syme. They shared actionable tips on what tour operators need to be doing in order to protect their business.
Peter Syme has written down his insights in this detailed blog. He advises the best course of action for tour operators and highlights the opportunities now available.
Chris Torres, travel marketing expert, posted this article and video about how to market your travel company against the effects of Coronavirus.
We are aware of the fast-moving changes affecting our industry related to COVID-19 (the coronavirus), with new updates coming every hour seemingly. Please know that the elected Board at GANYC is working hard to stay on top of this issue, and to keep tour guides in the public's eye as the economic hardships multiply.
We have issued a press release to highlight the millions of dollars in losses being experienced by NYC guides amidst this crisis. We estimate the total loss to guides will be around $30 million.
In regards to GANYC events, we are moving to an online meeting for April and postponing all scheduled fam tours. We will keep members updated as info on our events schedule progresses, and we have more details on how we will be meeting remotely in the coming month.
And as NYC attractions close and events get cancelled, GANYC is tracking them via a Google Sheet, so that members can have a 1-stop resource to find out this information. Members can log in to the site and find this document in our Announcements page.
And as a reminder, we are also compiling a separate registry of cancelled tours and revenue lost due to fears of the Coronavirus (also available in our Announcements section). We are doing this so we have statistics on hand should we need to ask for assistance as the downturn intensifies. We encourage our members to pass that form to all NYC guides they know, whether or not they are GANYC members.
We also, of course, want all of our members to follow all CDC-recommended protocols on hand-washing and other health measures, seeing a doctor and/or self-quarantining if feeling ill, and avoiding direct contacts (hand shaking, etc). We want you all to stay as healthy as possible!
NY1 News did a spotlight on March 11 on how the virus is impacting the tourism in the city. GANYC President Emma Guest-Consales was interviewed to highlight us, and you can watch the video below.
Article link: City Tourism Dips Due to Coronavirus Spread
And here is audio of GANYC Vice President Michael Morgenthal's on-air interview on WFUV radio on March 19, about the devastation & uncertainty that COVID-19 is causing to tour guides in New York City:
Link for related WFUV article: Bleak Times for NYC Tour Guides
Finally, here is a segment from the BBC News on March 13, featuring GANYC Treasurer Jeremy Wilcox discussing the US federal government's handling of this crisis.
And here is a Politico article which features quotes from President Emma Guest-Consales.
GANYC is working with more media outlets to ensure that our industry is spoken for as economic relief packages are planned.
We thank you all for your continuing support, and we promise to keep fighting for guides, who serve as ambassadors to our great city.