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  1. Keeping it in (Historical) Context

    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.

  2. GANYC April 1 Membership Meeting = Zoomtastic!

    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.

  3. COVID-19 Update from GANYC - March 30, 2020

    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.

  4. COVID-19 Resources & Information

    GANYC is curating a set of resources on how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

    Informational links:

    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 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.

    Other resources:

    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.

  5. GANYC Updates On COVID-19 and Tourism

    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.

  6. GANYC Discusses Tourism Dips on NY1

    ‪GANYC President Emma Guest-Consales was interviewed by NY1 for their story on how the dip in tourism related to COVID-19 is affecting our great city and its economy.‬ ‪

    We are also working to track the economic hardships and cancellations being experienced by our industry, and will be working to advocate for assistance for guides in the days and weeks ahead.

    You can watch the video of the segment at the following link:
    City Tourism Dips Due to Coronavirus Spread


  7. Statement from GANYC Board on COVID-19

    Monday, March 9, 2020

    To the GANYC Community:

    I would like to address your concerns regarding COVID-19 and its impact on NYC tour guides. Many of you have had clients and groups cancel their plans for travel to NYC and have experienced a major loss of income. Others are concerned about cancellations yet to come, and smaller numbers on regularly scheduled public tours. I sincerely hope you retain most of your groups and your work as we move into the busy student travel season. I have been in contact with Ellen Malasky, President of the NFTGA (National Federation of Tourist Guides Associations), and I will contact the US Travel Association. Both the NFTGA and USTA are following guidelines issued by the US government, namely domestic travel is still safe. In addition, the Industry Relations Committee has been in touch with NYC & Co., which continues to advocate for travelers to come to New York and has assured GANYC they will continue to advocate for the tourism industry with government agencies.


    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.

    We do not have any news about government assistance being offered to NYC tour guides who have lost income due to COVID-19. In order to be prepared for applying for potential government assistance we ask all guides who have had cancellations to fill in the form posted by GANYC to collect tour cancellation data. Please fill out this form as it relates to any and all travel in NYC. Please feel free to pass this form on to other guides and tour operators who have been affected – we want this to be as comprehensive as possible, so we are not limiting this just to GANYC guides. Over-the-road guides should also complete the form if their itineraries have been changed to avoid travel in NYC. We will use the collected data to ask for assistance should the situation get worse. It is very important to keep detailed records of your cancelled tours and lost income so you can apply and hopefully qualify for any government assistance that may be offered. We plan to update the results of this survey on a weekly basis.

    The Mayor’s office has announced that “businesses with less than 100 employees which can document a decrease in sales of up to 25 percent would be eligible for no-interest loans of as much $75,000. Those with under five employees could receive grants of up to $6,000 to help retain workers." As of now there are no details about how to apply for such grants.

    I have been closely following the news from the CDC, the states of New York and New Jersey, and from New York City. It is virtually guaranteed there will be an exponential spike in the number of reported cases of infection in our region as more testing takes place, and as the virus spreads through community transmission.

    Older (50+) people and those with compromised immune systems or severe chronic conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19. Younger patients and children appear to have milder forms of the illness. The best ways to protect yourself include frequent and careful hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when your cough or sneeze, cleaning surfaces often, no hand shaking, and avoiding touching your eyes, lips, and nose with unwashed hands. If you have a fever, cough and shortness of breath, please stay home and call your doctor ASAP.

    Here is a link to the CDC page on COVID-19.

    The GANYC Board is working hard to stay up to date with any new information or guidelines, and as we receive any news, we will pass it on to the guiding community. GANYC guides are a close group (albeit not too close these days...) and we are here for each other. We will get through this crisis the same way we have gotten through others—by continuing to be the same smart, generous, and caring New Yorkers we have always been. Our city is still open for business, we will still offer great tours and great customer service, and while we may not be shaking hands for a while, we will still welcome visitors with metaphorical open arms.

    As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any comments or questions.

    Warm regards,

    Emma and the GANYC Board

    Emma Guest-Consales, Ph.D.
    President, Guides Association of New York City

  8. GANYC Celebrated 6th-Annual Apple Awards!

    The Guides Association of New York City (GANYC) presented its 6th-annual Apple Awards at a festive ceremony on March 2 at the SVA Theater, in Chelsea. GANYC honored numerous organizations and people with Apple Awards for encouraging and promoting New York City tourism, culture and preservation while supporting the work and contributions of professional New York City tourist guides.

    The ceremony, hosted by the award-winning Bowery Boys, Gregory Young and Thomas Meyers, was a smashing success. Their humor and love of New York was contagious throughout the auditorium. Presenters included Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Joe Conzo, Nat Towsen and Joanna Leban, the Museum of the City of New York's Jerry Gallagher, among others. In addition to the entertainment by our host, presenters, and winners, guests also viewed videos like In Memoriam reel of New Yorkers and institutions that we lost in the past year.

    Images and videos of the GANYC Apple Awards will be posted on our website and social media channels throughout the next week.

    Here is the complete list of 2020 GANYC Apple Award Winners:

    Outstanding Achievement in Support of NYC Culture

    Black Gotham Experience

    Outstanding Achievement in Support of NYC Tourism

    For leading the fight for tour guides and their value on Liberty & Ellis Islands-- Michael Morgenthal

    Outstanding Achievement in Support of NYC Preservation

    Murray Hill Neighborhood Association

    Outstanding NYC Website


    Outstanding Achievement in NYC Photography

    Marc A. Hermann, Two “baaaaad boys” that wandered onto the N line tracks

    Outstanding Achievement in NYC Radio Program or Podcast (Audio/Spoken Word)

    Stuff You Missed in History Class, Fanny Brice Part 1 & 2

    Outstanding Achievement in Book Writing (Fiction)

    The Pearl Dagger (An Art Deco Mystery) by L.A. Chandlar

    Outstanding Achievement in Book Writing (Non-Fiction)

    111 Places in the Bronx That You Must Not Miss by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick

    Outstanding Achievement in Essay/Article/Series Writing

    For the New York Times: Everyone’s Welcome at the Statue of Liberty Except Tour Guides by Corey Kilgannon

    Outstanding Achievement in NYC Food

    Great seafood for over 100 years, Grand Central Oyster Bar

    Outstanding NYC Museum Exhibitions

    For Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, the Brooklyn Museum

    In addition, GANYC presented two legacy awards: The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Sean McKenna for his many years of advocacy for survivors of HIV and AIDS, and the Lee Gelber Award for Guiding Spirit was presented to Joe Svehlak!

    The dozens of nominees across 11 Outstanding Achievement categories were announced by the GANYC Awards Committee in December; visit to view the complete list of nominees. The GANYC membership voted on the nominees through mid-January, leading up to the awards ceremony on March 2, where the winners were announced.

  9. GANYC's Michael Kaback Spotlights the Garment District

    Manhattan's Garment District is a dynamic neighborhood whose history is oft-forgotten. One guide working to keep tellings its story is Michael Kaback. “You come back in a few months, they might not be here anymore,” he said of many of its historic businesses, “I don’t know what’s gonna be here in the future.” In many ways, that's the story of New York! Read about his unique tour here:

    The Garment District’s Lone Survivor


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GANYC is an association of independent tour guides. Each member is licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. GANYC provides a listing of all member guides to the public. GANYC is not liable, or responsible, for contractual obligations made between clients and tour guides. GANYC stands for Guides Association Of New York City.
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